During COVID, people have quickly learned how helpful remote work is. In the process, it has become clear that some of the benefits of remote work only really come into play when colleagues do not have to constantly arrange synchronous meetings, around which they have to build their daily schedules.
New syndromes, such as zoom fatigue, have emerged, brought about when people sit in synchronous video meetings too frequently. They can’t take bio breaks, they’re constantly staring at the monitor, and they always feel like everyone else is watching. They have to adopt a specific posture that is very uncomfortable for long periods.
For students and children in particular, this is unnatural and unhealthy and goes against their natural instinct to move. But adults also get tired and are fundamentally exhausted after a day full of video meetings.
That’s why many people now realize the benefits of asynchronous communication. Start-ups around the world have begun to develop a new type of asynchronous video conferencing that avoids the problems described. Here we’ll give a brief overview of the most important differences, use cases, and who benefits from them.
What Is the Difference Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Video Conferencing?
The 3 most important differences at a glance:
Synchronous Video Conferencing
- Live video—videotelephony
- All participants share the same time slot, no matter where they are
- With multiple participants, scheduling is necessary
Asynchronous Video Conferencing
- Asynchronous video conferencing is based on the recording and sending of video messages
- Everyone reacts when they find the time
- Alerts and notifications inform participants about new contributions
Pros and Cons of Synchronous Video Conferencing
- Immediate real-time reactions, facial expressions and vocal sounds (clearing throat, catching breath, laughing)
- Like a real conversation
Synchronous video conferences are good for urgent decisions that need to be made immediately. And they are also good when participants are looking for social closeness that they don’t get via text communication.
The authority factor should also not be underestimated. The host or moderator can directly ask participants to behave in a certain way, to perform a certain task, or to report on the status quo of an achievement.
- Participants in different time zones may have very different biorhythms and be forced to participate at very inconvenient times (in the middle of the night, during lunch time, very early in the morning)
- Synchronous video conferences are linear, thus uninteresting sequences cannot be fast-forwarded or skipped and must be consumed in real time
- Danger of back-to-back meetings; some participants are sitting for many hours in meetings every day
- Danger of zoom fatigue, a syndrome where people get deeply and dangerously exhausted, like burnout
- In many cases, participants have to focus fully on the conference and neglect important other activities—no bio breaks, no eating, no conversation, no side work
- Participants have to plan their day around the synchronous meetings
- Participants often interrupt each other’s flow of thoughts
- Often the meeting’s host dominates the meeting with their perspective and agenda
- Shy people find no speaking time; not all perspectives are heard
- Limited time frame for deep dives into the topic
- No time to reflect before speaking; the statement quality suffers
- The quality of streamed video is often very poor. Background noise and stuttering video stresses the participants
Synchronous video conferences are not so good when it comes to getting diverse perspectives to thoroughly discuss a topic. The limited time window of an average video meeting prevents participants from discussing many aspects. Often the host or moderator dominates the agenda and other points of view are rarely discussed. Shy people don’t dare interrupt the flow of thought of the extroverted, and their perspective is often not heard.
In video conferences with many participants, the interaction rate drops on average. Participants become more passive listeners. They can split up into breakout rooms. However, this has the disadvantage that larger parts of the meeting and information are simply lost—participants cannot hear them directly, and the usual short summaries from breakout-room hosts cannot reflect the meeting’s real processes and outcomes.
Pros and Cons of Asynchronous Video Conferencing
- No scheduling necessary
- Participants can skip and fast-forward sequences; they can review the meetings quicker
- Participants can think before they speak, raising the quality of statements
- Participants can combine participation with other activities (e.g. walking, household chores, deep work)
- Participants can avoid long screen times or distribute them better—no zoom fatigue
- Meetings can be more effective and efficient
- You can integrate external expertise afterwards, as the experts can watch the entire asynchronous video conference and then enrich the meeting with their expertise
- Different perspectives can be integrated more easily
- The interaction rate of participants is higher; they actively research the meeting and the context of each statement
A further benefit is that participants of asynchronous meetings can arrange their day more easily—organising their private lives more freely and pursuing their work with more concentration.
The quality of the conversation is improved in asynchronous meetings because participants can take the time to think about what they want to say beforehand, maybe even do relevant research. This also saves time for the audience.
Listeners can skip unimportant statements. Since it is possible in asynchronous meetings to label individual contributions, they can jump directly to the most important parts. The reactions of other participants to the statements also help to quickly find the most important contributions.
In addition, artificial intelligence can help facilitate asynchronous video conferences and direct participants to specific statements.
An important tool is the forwarding of particularly important statements to external stakeholders, who can then react to them in a targeted manner. Thus asynchronous video conferences have a higher permeability. External experts can be invited more easily because they do not have to be present at a specific time slot or listen to the entire meeting. That’s why asynchronous video conferences are very cost efficient. Sometimes it is enough for experts to comment only on a very specific aspect.
You can easily inject external knowledge into asynchronous video conferences. You can link YouTube videos or any URL. The asynchronous conference becomes a permanent information center for a project. Participants visit it again and again to add or receive new information.
- No spontaneous, real-time reactions to statements
- Activation of participants is sometimes a challenge
Asynchronous video conferences are less authoritarian than synchronous ones because participants can respond when they want. This has the disadvantage that some participants do not react at all, and sometimes, with certain team compositions, no conference can be established at all.
This is because asynchronous video conferences require a higher level of intrinsic motivation. We have noticed that in asynchronous video conferences, the team composition suddenly changes—all those with a high level of motivation meet there. As external stakeholders are easily integrated, the team changes slowly. The lack of authority that comes from such meetings results in highly motivated teams forming by themselves as users with a higher remote readiness gather there.
Synchronous and asynchronous video conferencing have different focuses and different strengths and weaknesses. A well-managed group will use both types of video conferencing, depending on the use case.
For example, asynchronous video conferences can be used as deep preparation or follow-up for synchronous ones. This works by simply using a recording of the synchronous conference as a starting point for an asynchronous video conference. The participants can then simply continue to confer asynchronously. Such sessions are sometimes referred to as Q&A.
These Q&A sessions can then prepare the next synchronous video conference. For example, the agenda topics can be prediscussed in this way.
The interaction of synchronous and asynchronous video conferences has enormous advantages for the team.
- More perspectives are put forward
- Participants are not distracted as often
- They can better organize their daily routine and in-depth work
- There are fewer stressful synchronous video conferences; zoom fatigue is reduced or avoided
- The synchronous video conferences are better prepared
- Team efficiency and effectiveness increases
- All results are immediately documented
Asynchronous video conferences have the advantage that the statements of the participants are atomized. This means you can easily forward them individually to other stakeholders who can then respond to them in a straightforward manner. In this way, the team forms helpful know-how clusters.
By integrating asynchronous video conferences, knowledge spreads and grows much faster in the team process. Asynchronous meetings have a positive effect on the success of the team.
Our recommendation: use both types of video conferences in combination to achieve ideal team success.