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6 examples of synchronous communication and when to use them
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6 examples of synchronous communication and when to use them

Find out when, why, and how to use synchronous communication effectively to make your teams more productive.

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For product teams, every sprint and new release is a carefully orchestrated symphony from a well-tuned group of developers, engineers, and product managers. Everyone has a part to play and it’s your job to keep them all in harmony so nobody misses a note. 

To do this, you need to combine synchronous communication with async—and know when to do each. 

Effective communication can reduce costs, improve brand reputation, and help you win more deals.* Ineffective communication, however, can negatively affect costs and productivity and lead to burnout. When employees don’t know which communication method to use–sync or async–it can cause misunderstandings or delays.  

The trick lies in knowing when to use synchronous communication and when async. You also need to know how to combine them to improve synchronous work. Sure, meeting-filled days eat into focus time, but that doesn’t mean you should ditch synchronous communication altogether.

In this post, you’ll get some examples of synchronous communication and see how to effectively use them to hit the right note every time. We’ll also cover how to create a balance between async and synchronous communication to maximize productivity and employee engagement. 

Communicate effectively wherever–whenever–you are. 
Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you work side by side in real time or async—so you’re always in tune with your team. 
Learn more

What is synchronous communication?

Synchronous communication involves interacting in real time, whether it’s face-to-face in person, through a phone call or video meeting, or via instant messaging apps like Slack. It’s dynamic, instant, assumes an immediate response. It’s also great for getting alignment, reaching consensus, brainstorming, or just touching base.  

Here are a few examples of synchronous communication in action. 

5 examples of synchronous communication

There are lots of ways you can communicate in real time. Let’s take a look at them now. 

1. In-person meetings

Sometimes, you need to get everyone literally in the room to make decisions, share news, or hash things out. At these times, the team’s collective energy and real time interactions can help you move things forward or brainstorm new ideas. 

2. Phone or video calls

In the age of instant messaging it seems somehow invasive to call someone without warning. However, a quick phone or a video call on Switchboard, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc. can often cut through the notification noise and provide clarity, fast. 

According to Forbes, these examples of synchronous communication are more popular than others in all settings: on-site, remote, and hybrid. 

3. Instant messaging 

Quick, casual, and to the point, instant messaging via Slack or the chat function of your video conferencing platform is the digital equivalent of a hallway conversation

67% of respondents to an Expert Market survey preferred it over other forms of workplace communication. Forbes also found it was significantly more popular among remote (38%) and hybrid (33%) teams than on-site (12%). 

Instant messaging can cause a lot of notifications but, used wisely, it lets you interact in real time and get answers fast. It’s also good for light relief, like sharing funny GIFs or workplace banter.

Pets channel in Slack
Connecting through shared interest Slack channels is a great way to get to know your coworkers. Source: Flying Cat

4. Live webinars or classes

Whether in person or online, real-time learning allows for spontaneous interactions and for people to ask and answer questions. If people are engaged, it’s an effective way to learn and a good way to address a large group. Communication tools you can use to host webinars  include Switchboard (which makes everything multiplayer so people can interact with content), GoToWebinar, or Zoom, among many others. 

5. Socializing or team building 

Team bonds are the glue that holds your orchestra together. Whether it's an in-person coffee break, a Donut chat online, or holding your all hands or games night in Switchboard, informal synchronous interactions are vital for team cohesion.

When should you use synchronous communication? 

Now you know what synchronous communication involves, let’s take a look at when to use it.  

Planning or strategizing 

Real-time communication is extremely effective anytime you need people’s input. For example, when setting goals, planning, or strategizing. 

“When it comes to getting aligned, sharing goals, learning, setting plans for the coming year, etc. that's great to do synchronously because you want to get all the big ideas out there,” says Elliott Brown, a startup marketing consultant for companies like Cache Financial

“You need everyone bought in, and it's helpful to have them in the same place where they can make their wishes known and see the thought process in real time, so things aren't just being handed up or down. Also, you can go back and forth and hash things out.” 

For example, if your software team is debating the merits of different system architectures, a synchronous discussion can speed up decision-making.


Nothing beats a live brainstorming session where ideas are flowing thick and fast from all sides. Your team’s creative energy is critical to move things forward, so synchronous communication is preferred here. 

Pro tip: Switchboard’s visual collaboration platform comes with a built-in whiteboard for brainstorming, so you can all pitch in with ideas for innovative new features. All browser-based apps work in Switchboard without integrations, so you can also pull up ideas in Mural, Lucidchart, or your favorite visual collaboration tool.

Switchboard’s AI assistant can also help you when you’re blocked: just ask it questions to get inspiration fast. It can also summarize all your ideas in sticky notes, chat, and materials in the room to save time.
Menu showing commands for AI assistant
Now you don’t need to toggle out of Switchboard to ask ChatGPT: AI is right there in the room with you. Source: Switchboard  

Complex discussions or sensitive topics 

Delicate or complex topics are best handled face to face. For example, tough feedback, major shake-ups or changes of direction, mental health issues, etc. Asynchronous communication carries the risk of ambiguity and misunderstandings as it’s harder to judge tone. 

“Having a conversation is a really undervalued tool,” says Brown. “When something is nuanced, maybe there's disagreement, or you feel like you're not understood or not understanding someone else… a real-time conversation is good. It's excellent for getting to consensus fast when, for one reason or another, there's a barrier.” 

Face-to-face meetings or video calls also let you read the room, judge people’s responses based on body language and facial expressions, and adjust your tone, body language, and messaging. 

Relationship building 

Whether you collaborate async, in real time, or a mix of both, you need to build strong bonds between team members. Consider hosting a fun icebreaker to open the team meeting, a games night, or a quick check-in, to help bring people together. 

Getting to know each other and finding common ground humanizes co-workers–especially if they rarely or never get to interact in person. This helps build trust, empathy, and accountability, all of which are essential for great teamwork. 

For example, a new engineer joining your team might sign up for Donut to get randomly connected with different team members to establish rapport.

Pro tip: Set up a persistent games room in Switchboard so you can play in real time or async, participating through voice and video calls, chat, polls, voting, and sticky notes. 

Performance reviews

One-on-one check-ins with your direct reports let you see where they need support and how you can help them grow. Topics can be complex or sensitive, so real-time communication lets you express empathy, and read their voice, tone, and facial expressions or body language

For example, a lead engineer might hold a video call to provide direct, personalized feedback to a team member and chat about projects, concerns, or roadblocks. 

These reviews also let you build relationships, trust, and psychological safety, which are essential for people to feel comfortable contributing ideas and raising concerns. 

Emergencies or situations that require people’s full attention

Time-sensitive issues mean you can’t leave people hanging on for an async response. For example, if your engineering team needs you to help fix a bug that’s blocking user sign-ups or your server is down and you need to get your webpage back up ASAP. 

In these situations, there’s no substitute for instant messaging or a voice or video call. 

Conflict resolution 

Disagreements and misunderstandings can escalate fast and ineffective communication can fan the flames. 

For example, if there’s a disagreement between engineers during code review, an impromptu meeting lets you de-escalate things and reach a place of mutual understanding faster than continuing to trade heated comments on Slack.  

When you can resolve something faster by talking

Ever had a Google Doc comment thread turn into a novel? For example, if your product manager and a UX designer aren’t aligned on the vision for a new user interface. In these situations, a quick call lets each share their vision and reach a consensus faster. 

How can you balance synchronous vs asynchronous communication? 

There’s a time and a place for synchronous communication, but defaulting to it can create a time sink that affects your ability to focus and make progress. That’s why you should combine it with an asynchronous work culture to maximize productivity—whichever method you’re using. Here’s how.  

Know when it’s the right time for each—and when to switch 

Knowing when to use real-time communication vs async is all about judgment and timing. 

Synchronous communication is best for immediate input or resolution, essential discussions, or alignment. Asynchronous communication is better for mass communications and non-urgent matters. Audit your communication practices to see where you can stop defaulting to real-time meetings, communicate more async, and give people back more time for focus work. 

Here’s how you can use both async and sync communication during a sprint. Hold a synchronous team huddle to kick off your sprint. Then, continue async using project management tools to check off tasks, sharing updates in Slack or your dedicated Switchboard room. This keeps everyone aligned and updated without constant meetings. 

Brown also recommends switching from async to sync “when you see similar mistakes happening over and over again or changes aren’t being made… [For example] files are constantly delivered in the wrong format, you have process-oriented mistakes, or norms or standards are consistently being violated… anytime you hear a complaint like ‘I always have to…’ that's when you need an intervention.” It might be that async forms of communication are causing the problem: the what is being communicated but not the why.

You also need to know individual team members’ working and communication styles. Some people don’t shine in face-to-face meetings or big groups and prefer to have time to consider things. Others lack good written communication, so picking up the phone can save a lot of back and forth. 

Train your teams in the differences between synchronous vs asynchronous collaboration, when and how to use each, when to switch, and how to do them right. For example, how to write clear emails or actively listen on calls. 

Use the right tools for each type of communication 

It’s about matching the medium to the message here. Quick catch-up? Hop on a Slack huddle. Non-urgent question about a task? Ask it on your project management platform. 

Your needs will vary depending on your business, but some of the best asynchronous communication tools include: 

  • Switchboard for async project work 
  • Trello, Asana, or Jira for project management
  • Notion and Google Workspace for knowledge management and document collaboration 
  • Figma, Mural, Lucidchart, etc. for visual collaboration
  • Zapier to share async updates and transfer information between tools 

For real-time communication, you’ll want:

  • Switchboard, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc. for video conferencing 
  • Slack for instant messaging, file sharing, and voice notes 
  • A screen recording tool to leave video notes 

Aim for a lean tech stack of tools that integrate with each other to cut down on time spent toggling between tools and tabs. Better yet, use Switchboard to create persistent rooms and open up all the apps, documents, and files you need for your project. That way, everything is saved in one place so you never need to toggle between apps or dig through endless threads to find what you need. 

With Switchboard you get the best of both worlds: communicate in real time and make video calls more interactive with polls, chat, and voting. Multiplayer browsers also let you work side by side on anything. You can also enjoy the benefits of async work by leaving voice recordings, sticky notes, and materials in the room for people to get up to speed async. When you do need to meet, share materials in the room before the call so people can get up to speed async and are ready to work when the meeting starts.

Switchboard room with various apps open and people’s icons
Switchboard lets you communicate in context, whether it’s real time or async. Source: Switchboard  

Synchronous communication: get everyone singing in tune  

As the curtain falls on our symphony of synchronous communication, let's have each of our six players take a bow: in-person meetings, phone and video calls, instant messaging, live training, and team building. 

As conductor, your job is to get your team members using these examples of synchronous communication alongside async methods. This lets you cancel more meetings, get back more time for focus work, and make the meetings you do have more effective. 

When you use Switchboard as the stage on which your orchestra plays, you can organize everything–and everyone–in persistent rooms that save your work and make everything multiplayer. Sing harmonies in real time or hop into the room for a solo session on your own schedule–the choice is yours.  

Communicate effectively wherever you are. 
Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you work side by side in real time or async—so you’re always in tune with your team. 
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about examples of synchronous communication and when to use them  

What is an example of synchronous and asynchronous communication?

Some examples of synchronous communication include 1:1s, team meetings, video conferencing, hallway chats, and instant messaging apps like Slack. 

Examples of asynchronous communication include comments in Google Docs, emails, and messages left on tasks in project management tools like Asana. Async communication can also involve hopping into a persistent room in your Switchboard workspace to catch up with room recordings of meetings or AI summaries of room activity and materials.  

What are some advantages of synchronous communication?

Some of the advantages of synchronous communication include immediacy–being able to resolve something or get answers now. Also, the personal connection and nuances you get with real-time communication that help avoid misunderstandings and build relationships. 

Is texting synchronous communication? 

Text messaging can be both a synchronous and asynchronous communication method. If you're exchanging time-sensitive messages in real time that require someone’s immediate attention, it’s synchronous. If you're leaving them for the recipient to check and reply later, it's asynchronous.

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Communicate effectively wherever–whenever–you are.

Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you work side by side in real time or async—so you’re always in tune with your team.