Timing is everything. But it shouldn’t have to be when it comes to communicating information clearly. The business world currently has three types of communication for synchronous communications—in-person, video meetings, and phone calls—but only two very similar, copy-driven options for “of record” and asynchronous versions: email and messaging. Something missed in the famed “Bezos memo” format is that a lot can be lost in translation in writing, including empathy, body and facial language, and often the attention of the reader when it’s a long note. We need a more engaging, “of record” option for asynchronous communication that captures the human connection and will motivate people to come together in the face of big challenges.
Enter asynchronous video meetings, which are essentially a recorded talking-head video of the participant that can be viewed anytime (as well as multiple times), and which I believe will be the fastest-growing type of communication type as the COVID-19 crisis drags on.
Here’s why: We should look at async meetings as containing key benefits of video meetings, phone calls, and emails. They give you the clarity and engagement of video meetings, the duration, flexibility and ease of phone calls, and the memorialization of emails for referring back.
I am the CEO of Prezi, a presentation company whose community has built the world’s largest public database of presentations, and we’ve spent the last five years building a video product and looking at what users hope to get out of the different types of communication.
Async videos accomplish a number of things that emails cannot. They create more of a human connection, which makes it easier to understand each other and makes it clear to the recipient that the ideas being shared aren’t just words on a page. Async meetings are ideal for giving feedback, because empathy comes through much more clearly when you can see face-to-face. Perhaps most importantly they are effective: We talk faster then we type and we retain more information when delivery is via video. Plus people can review recorded videos at their own convenience.
Finally, they give a voice to those who are quieter. Where contributing to live meetings can often rely on speaking skills of speed and volume, async videos let people share their thoughts at their own pace.
Here are five examples where async meetings are more effective than live discussions:
When your remote colleagues are distributed geographically
Async meetings are all about optimizing your team’s time, and they are a great way to get information in front of people who don’t have availability for a meeting, or who are working remotely across multiple time zones. Instead of coordinating schedules, opt to send a quick async video with key info that your remote colleagues can view during normal work hours.
When there are too many cooks in the kitchen
Async meetings are optimal for managers or teachers who oversee large groups and for situations where you want to get feedback in parallel from a large number of team members. While some people prefer reacting spontaneously and others need time to think, video recordings accommodate both approaches, and produce a clear “leave-behind” that allows everyone to review the feedback at their own speed. Added bonus: Async helps employees and students get breaks between assignments—an issue facing many of us who are having too much screen time these days.
When ideation needs a jumping-off point
A key benefit of async meetings is preparing people to have a more informed discussion, such as for meeting prep for a brainstorm. By walking attendees through the briefing asynchronously in advance, you save time you would’ve spent presenting at the top of the meeting.
For status updates
Status updates and meeting recaps can be shared in their most effective form via async videos, because people tend to include more context when doing a “talking head,” and it saves time by cutting out the formal meeting run-of-show. I’d hazard to say that two-thirds of status meetings don’t need to be synchronous.
For all-hands meetings
The term “nearly live updates” has been taking off in the tech community, and it’s clear that async videos will increasingly be created by leadership to share information in a timely manner. Since some staffers can not attend all-hands meetings, this levels the playing field, showing you’re conscious of peoples’ schedules and are giving them the flexibility to revisit information. After, you can gather asynchronously for follow-up questions in a Slack channel.
Peter Arvai is CEO and cofounder of Prezi, a leading visual communications company with offices in Budapest, San Francisco, and Riga, Latvia. His career has been spent creating products that combine ancient storytelling techniques with new technologies to help people make better decisions.