Are You Communicating Synchronously in an Asynchronous World?

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We live in a world that prefers to receive information asynchronously. But we tend to focus on using live, synchronous delivery methods. This is a key source of high costs and low results in every area of a business. I cannot overstate the importance of this idea and distinction, as well as the implication for individuals and organizations.

First, some simple definitions.

Synchronous communications happen at the same time with all participants. Synchronous communications tend to be traditional voice-based conversations to deliver intended messages. They can be conducted in person or over the phone or web.

Asynchronous communications do not occur in the same time. Communications experienced asynchronously are consumed “on demand” at a time of choosing by the recipient. Asynchronous communication rely on content to package and deliver core messages — audio content such as voice mail, text content, or video.

Implications for Your Communications

As I consider the world of communications I am struck by the challenges and importance of aligning communication methods and timings with intended communication objectives and audience preferences.

I believe we live in an asynchronous communication world. People tend to overstate the use and importance of synchronous over asynchronous communications, in part because in-person conversations are so impactful.

But content-based, asynchronous communications, are more important for today’s marketing and selling activities — especially due to the impact of the internet. This implication puts the value of pre-produced content in a new and important perspective, far more important than typically considered.

According to Gerhard Gschwandtner from Selling Power magazine, only 17% of B2B sales conversations are conducted live and in person. Of course there are variations by industry and sales function. This information is also supported by other sales communication experts I have interviewed.

  • What percent of communications that you experience are conducted in the same time frame, what portion are asynchronous?
  • When do you think “same time” communication is the best method, and when are asynchronous methods preferred?
  • What distinctions in communication purposes do you make that might inform tool or delivery method selection?
  • How do you know what “tools” to use to accomplish your communication objectives: in person conversation, telephone call, third person delivery, text (all methods), graphics or images, recorded audio or video? When is a live meeting, text, recorded audio or a video best applied to specific communication objectives?
  • How do time factors impact the selection and use of synchronous and asynchronous tactics?
  • How well prepared are your people to appreciate these distinctions, to make these considerations, and to execute appropriately?

Whether you are in sales, marketing, customer service, or general business functions, or the executive ranks, these questions are critical. Modern communications, especially the internet and digital media, have greatly expanded our communication tool set. This also raises the risk of misuse of each tool.

As I raise this distinction between synchronous and asynchronous communication methods with customers, I find they help people re-consider their decisions for each communication situation. I hope it helps you as well.