Async Meetings For Product Teams
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8 Types of Remote Meetings Ranked By How Hard They Are To Cancel

If going remote means you have more meetings, you’re doing it wrong. The value of remote work is that people have more control over their time, not less. That’s where asynchronous communication (“async”) comes in. But it’s not just about cancelling all meetings. What’s needed is better facilitation techniques, not switching one dogma (in-office meetings) for another (no meetings, async only).

In this guide, we’re ranking 8 types of meetings based on how difficult each is to cancel and make asynchronous. Under each, we’re sharing facilitation techniques for running successful async meetings (and, in some cases, when you need to get everyone together). 

First we start with the easy meetings. The ones that people lament going to and wish they didn’t have to, but at the same time have value that needs to be captured.

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8. Standups

Regular meetings (usually daily) where you share what you’re working on, blockers, and concerns you may have. These are typically short meetings anyway - about 15 minutes - but can be done asynchronously without any value loss.

How to make it async: Instead of having a meeting and talking about it, share your updates in a Slack thread or Yac channel. Handle any blockers as you normally would.

7. Status updates

Simple outward communication where someone (usually a leader) needs to let the team know something. These often take the form of “quick” 15-30 minute meetings booked on the fly.

How to make it async: Instead of a meeting, send an email (for easy things) or a group voice message (for more complex updates that require context).

6. “FYI” meetings

Similar to status updates, FYI meetings are when someone (again, usually a leader) wants to let the team in on relevant, but not critical information. They are helpful for overall team context but can easily become a time suck of multiple “quick” meetings a week.

How to make it async: Same process as status updates - send an email for simple updates or a Yac message for more complex updates requiring context.

This next set of meetings are a bit more complicated as back and forth conversation might be necessary.

5. Recurring meetings you’ve had for more than 6 months

Sometimes, teams have meetings simply because they’ve had meetings at that time and date for a while. This becomes as much about culture building as it does about getting work done.

How to make it async: Start by making certain elements async, namely the planning and agenda setting portion. Have the team vote on the agenda if you usually would discuss it collaboratively. Then have people provide any necessary details ahead of time so the synchronous element of the meeting (if you still have it) focuses only on discussion.

4. Information sharing meetings with a training or Q&A element

If you’re sharing information and expect to train people or have questions, it suddenly becomes more challenging to make async.

How to make it async: If you want a fully async meeting, break it down into three steps.

  • Step 1: Send out information and ask for all questions or concerns ahead of time.
  • Step 2: Create and send out additional documentation (voice notes or screen recordings) answering every question.
  • Step 3: Repeat until all questions are satisfied. Keep all records in a central spot for any future questions on those topics.

Note: If you want “semi-sync,” then replace Step 2 with a live meeting.

3. Problem solving meetings

Problem solving meetings are challenging because you need the back and forth.

How to make them async: Async brainstorming is possible when time allows. In this case, document the problem, any attempted solutions, and any parameters or blockers. Then allow the team to provide solutions in a time-boxed window. After that, open a window for async feedback and discussion on ideas.

The important thing is to do one thing at a time. Step 1 is collection, Step 2 is ideation, and Step 3 is discussion. If people start discussing too early, it can get unruly.

This third section is the two types of meetings that are nearly impossible to make async.

2. Innovation meetings

Innovation is all about creating something new. That naturally requires a lot of brains coming together with unique and diverse experiences.

How to make them async: Start with a voice note thinking through or talking about an idea. From there, write a short note encapsulating the idea, and post the bullet point in a relevant Slack channel (or other project management platform) with a link to your voice note.

Teams can then get the gist of your idea quickly from the bullet point and listen to your ideas via voice note for more context. After that’s exhausted, book a meeting to hash out the rest if you need to.

1. Team building

You can’t build lasting deep relationships without live interaction at some point. Instead of trying to make the whole thing async, the best path is to use async as a bridge between synchronous hangouts.

How to make them async: Plan team gatherings (happy hours, game nights, etc.) asynchronously so you save time. Host the events themselves synchronously. Then in between these events use async methods like a social Slack channel or encouraging casual voice messaging between team members.

Async is a mindset

Asynchronous communication is part of a broader outcome-orientation mindset. In cases like innovation and team building, clear synchronous elements are necessary to reach your outcome. So as you go along with your journey toward more async communication, know that you don’t have to do it 100% of the time. These suggestions are simply tools to help you find the balance that works best for you, your team, and your business’ goals and needs.