Brief Description:

It is difficult if not impossible to always meet face to face (F2F) with other people. Where we have access to the internet, we can use web based asynchronous meeting tools which are particularly useful when people are spread across many time zones or find challenges in scheduling same-time meetings. Web based meetings allow us to include people we might not otherwise be able to see at a F2F meeting. Web meetings allow us the ability to interact in a specific way as we might in a F2F meeting without the cost of time and travel of a F2F meeting. There are challenges meeting via the web, but these can be met with some consideration to both what technology and processes we use, as well as sound meeting design.


When online tools enabled ongoing distributed conversation, it was a natural next step to use the same tools to recreate meetings. Meetings are different from ongoing conversations in that they have a specific goal, usually reached through an explicit set of tasks or activities. They are time-delimited meaning they have a beginning and end as compared to ongoing conversations.
Web Meetings
Web Meetings

When to use:

  • Online consultations
  • Team meetings
  • To provide information about something
  • To brainstorm, prioritize or plan
  • To build relationships in a group
  • Whenever you have to have a meeting and you cannot do it in real time (synchronously) or face to face.

How to use:

Much like a face to face meeting, asynchronous meetings benefit from planning.
  1. Determine the goal or purpose of the meeting. It is often useful to do this in consultation with those involved.
  2. Identify what activities or tasks have to happen in the meeting to achieve the task and then develop your agenda.
  3. Identify who will participate and what their time and technological contexts are to enable you to reasonably determine the time periods and what tools to use.
  4. Time out your agenda into specific chunks. This helps people focus attention and not leave their participation to the "last minute."
    • A little "rule of thumb" is that one hour of F2F or synchronous interaction takes at least 24 hours for a distributed group to process IF they are regularly online. If they only are online once or twice a week, plan accordingly for longer time periods.
    • It is useful to break things out more explicitly than you might F2F. You can always adjust as you go, but this helps people plan.
  5. Identify your tools you will use (existing or new)
    • If you are just supporting discussion-like activities, an email list or web discussion space may be sufficient
    • Sometimes having a place to share files is useful
    • If the content requires more complex visualizations, consider where groups can create visuals together, like shared whiteboards which CAN be used asynchronously
    • Wikis are useful for creating shared texts.
  6. If participants are new to each other, include some time for introductions or activities that help people get to know each other if that is important for the rest of the agenda.
  7. If participants are new to the technology, prepare text, audio or video briefing materials and "how to" support.
  8. Run the meeting, facilitating individual and group interactions and appropriate note taking or capture of materials.
  9. Finish meeting and share all materials as appropriate. It is important to END an asynchronous meeting. It is easy to let it drag on, but experience shows that people loose interest and pretty soon nothing is happening.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

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Examples & Stories

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Related Methods / Tools / Practices



Photo or image credits

Cross Collaborate