10 meeting alternatives to get your team’s focus time back

Reduce your meeting load with these new approaches

Robin Johnson, August 23, 2022Yellow Squiggle
meeting alternatives Range

Does your team over-rely on meetings?

At the heart of it, meetings are meant to help us communicate and collaborate. They provide space to gain alignment, share information, problem-solve, and connect—but they’re not the only option when it comes to achieving these purposes, even though we tend to treat them that way.

Most teams over-rely on meetings and develop Zoom fatigue because they simply don’t have a better alternative.

We’re here to show you that you’ve actually got plenty of alternatives at your disposal to keep your meeting load to a minimum. Using the benefits of async communication, your team can stay aligned, informed, and connected—all without having to meet.

What’s async communication?

Asynchronous communication is any form of communication that doesn't require both people to be available at the same time. It simply means the person you are “talking” to isn't consuming the information at the same time you're producing it.

In the following sections, we’ll explore 10 async alternatives to meetings and share some examples of how your team can put them to use.

1. Send an email

“It could have been an email” is true in too many cases—especially for meetings focused around status reports and updates. If what you're communicating is primarily one-way communication, where no discussion or collaboration will be required, email just might be your best bet.

The most effective teams use email sparingly though—especially since the average team member in the U.S. receives around 120 emails per day—and only for non-urgent matters. The last thing you want to do is force folks to jump back and forth between work and their inbox just to keep tabs on what’s going on at that moment.

Tips for mastering email

  • Use it sparingly and only for non-urgent matters
  • Make it easier to parse with bullet points and highlighted calls to action
  • If you’re sending a weekly update, standardize the format so it’s easier (both to read and to write)
  • Avoid unnecessary commentary and replies—if the topic warrants back-and-forth, consider a different format

2. Share a check-in

Rote recurring meetings like standups and status updates cut into your team’s deep work time. Instead of pulling folks out of focus, try shifting them to an async check-in format instead.

Check-ins are a great meeting alternative because they keep teams in sync but give folks the flexibility to share updates on their own time.

Using a tool like Range for check-ins can actually make them more effective than meetings too—because they streamline information access and are easily referenceable later on.

check-in Range

When you have a written record of everything going on, it’s easy to track team trends and accomplishments, see what everyone’s up to, and refer to learnings from the past—all without having to schedule a meeting.

3. Record a video

Instead of a video meeting, use an async video tool.

Loom and CloudApp have made video messages a more common team communication channel in recent years. They work well for topics that require more elaboration or context than a quick Slack ping.

Video messages have the benefit of non-verbal cues too. Research suggests that facial expressions and tone of voice play a significant role in how we determine whether information (and the person presenting it) is trustworthy and valuable. So if there’s any chance a message might be misinterpreted, sending a video can be a good solution.

Some examples of where a video message makes sense as a meeting alternative include walking through a new process or tool for the team or giving an overview of research findings with some explanation added in.

Video messages also work well when you’re sharing a doc or Figma with a teammate to collaborate, and want to share a little more context without having to create a formal write-up.

4. Create a task in your project management system

There isn’t much value in going through individual tickets or updating a scrum board together, so if you’re spending meeting time on these things: look to an alternative.

In this case, your team’s existing project management system is a simple solution. Tools like Trello, Jira, or Asana make it easy for folks to share updates on progress and communicate directly within the task. You can ask questions, share context, update status, and more—no meeting required.

5. Start a thread in Slack

If your team uses Slack to communicate already, why not use it to its full advantage? Used properly, Slack can be a great alternative to many different types of meetings.

You can use Slack to run your standups, share updates, get feedback, and collaborate across project and functional teams. It’s also a great way to build connections and culture, and stay in touch when you work remotely.

We have clear, good practices on how to use Slack. One simple example, you don't go to Slack and say hi and wait. Have a question, you say hi, then you ask your question and then you hit enter, and this answer may come within minutes, it may come within hours, it's okay.” — Fred Plais, CEO of Platform.sh

Tips to improve communication across Slack

  • Create channels specific for connection and chit chat so team and project channels can stay focused on the important updates
  • Use automatic reminders, prompts, and message threading to stay aligned and organized — these are all built into the Range App for Slack

6. Create a shared doc, wiki, or FAQ

Many meetings on the calendar are meant to help teams game alignment and share knowledge with one another. Shared docs and wikis can often achieve the same purpose—providing space for teams to collaborate and build a lasting, referenceable source of truth.

As a meeting alternative, shared docs and wikis work well for collaborating on project specs, co-creating team plans and charters, and ensuring an individual or group knowledge lives on among the larger team.

Google Docs, Notion, and Confluence are all great examples of Wiki and documentation tools teams use to pass down information outside of meetings.

7. Jam together in a whiteboard

Group collaboration can happen without a meeting too—thanks to whiteboarding and co-creation tools like Figma and Miro.

As a meeting alternative, these tools work great for things like team brainstorm sessions, visual process mapping, and design critiques.

To run an effective async whiteboard session, share out your goal ahead of time and give folks clear guidelines in terms of how much time they should spend on each task.

It can be helpful to run your first one on video to get the hang of it, and then move to a completely async model from there. Be sure to follow up afterwards with clear next steps so folks know their time was well-spent.

8. Do a walk and talk

If you absolutely must chat live, challenge whether you need a video or in-person meeting.

If video or presenting isn’t absolutely crucial to the discussion, consider moving to a different format, like a simple phone call or a walking meeting.

At Range, we like to do our 1:1s as walking meetings. Even if we’re not physically together, it’s nice to get outside, stretch our legs, and get a break from the mental fatigue that comes with being in front of a video screen.

Plus, research suggests that walking leads to more creative thinking both during the walk and immediately after.

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9. Get creative with culture-building

If the purpose of your meeting is focused around team connection or culture, there are alternatives geared towards that too. Async connection moments can be great because they’re more inclusive of different time zones, energy levels, and personality types.

Culture-building ideas that don’t require a meeting

  • Connect over common interests with a daily or weekly team question —let folks respond and read other’s answers in their own time
  • Learn about what make each other tick through a monthly team zine or photo show and tell
  • Create a specific Slack channel for casual conversation, GIF-sharing, and all the rest

“Every few months we’ll do a team zine—it’s an async way to learn about each other. For our most recent one, everyone shared 5 pictures from their life and we had an opportunity to learn about things that are important to people. We change the prompts each time and people get really creative—write songs, make art, etc.” — Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range

When to use an async meeting vs. a regular meeting?

You’re ready to hit the races with your new alternative meeting ideas—but how do you decide where they’ll work best? We recommend considering these 3 factors.

  1. Direction of communication: Is the conversation one-way or multi-way? If it’s just one person sharing with minimal back-and-forth, an asynchronous meeting or alternative is definitely a good fit.
  2. Current level of alignment: Does your team already hold a shared vision around the topic? If you’re trying to build consensus or make a big decision together, a meeting may be the way to go.
  3. Amount of engagement required: Is it important that everyone be actively participating? Depending on the level of involvement you’re looking for, and urgency of the work, a meeting might be your best bet.

Run fewer, better meetings with Range

Async meeting alternatives and meetings both have benefits. Range was built to help teams run fewer meetings—and make the ones that stick around even better.

Run effective, inclusive meetings when you need to collaborate live, and check in asynchronously when you don’t. Your team will know what’s going on and stay connected—with more time to get things done.

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10 Meeting Alternatives: Get Your Time Back
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