My work as a trainer and facilitator has brought me to many places in the world. Often, the training on-site is the beginning of project which includes facilitating sessions remotely across time zones. Other times,the workshop, keynote presentation, or master class might be part of a conference or a single session for an organization, but planning the event requires meeting across time zones virtually. I know many nonprofits that work globally, either with affiliate offices or partners in different countries, sometimes with a time zone difference of 6-12 hours.
Here’s my best tips for scheduling virtual meetings for your nonprofit across time zones:
1. Find the Overlap Times: Overlap times are when all participants are available during business hours or bumper time slots (early morning or evening). The World Clock Meeting Planner is a terrific tool that allows you type in the locations for participants and a date and it generates a timezone chart for that day. It is color coded – red is when participants would be normally be sleeping, green is normal business hours, and yellow is bumper time. You can easily identify the overlap windows. This chart easily allows you to find the best time for a meeting.
2. Establish Meeting Norms Around Time Zones: If you have a regular team meeting with participants who are in different time zones from east to west, no doubt someone might have to participate in a meeting at an inconvenient time. One option is to rotate the time of the recurring meeting so participants take turns participating at odd times. Rotating the time of the meeting might even become one of your meeting norms.
3. Record Meetings: Sometimes it might just be impossible for everyone to attend the meeting during normal business hours or bumper times and unrealistic to ask a person to participate at 3:00 am. Sending notes and documents post meeting should be done regardless. Recording the meeting is another option. Most web and video conferencing platforms have the ability of recording the meetings for others to view later.If you are recording a meeting for the first, practice it a few times to make sure that it is recording when you hit that button.
4. Use Shared Calendar To Automate Time Zone Conversions: If your team or meeting participants use Outlook or Google calendar, the time zones will be automatically converter when they accept the invitation.If you automate the conversation, there is less of change of having “time zone dyslexia.” I remember working with a cohort of grantees in Pakistan which is 12 hour time zone. I put the meeting in my calendar for 12 hours ahead of their time instead of 12 hours before. I was just settling into a relaxing evening routine when I got a frantic call, “Where are you?” If helpful, you can also show other time zones on your Google Calendar by following these directions.
5. Increase Awareness of Participants’ Time Zones: This is especially helpful if you are meeting regularly with a remote team. There are some terrific tools for this, including Timezone.io which lets you display everyone time zones and photo in a visual way or the handy tool, EverytimeZone
These tips work well if you don’t travel. But frequently, I’m on-site in a far flung location and timezone, but I need to have a meeting with people for a different time zone or plan a meeting. I keep my laptop on my home timezone and always set meetings up using my home base timezone. There are other tools, tips, and ways to handle this in this post.
There are many more tools to manage work across time zones.
What are your best tips for working across time zones for virtual meetings? Leave a comment or share a link to your favorite tool.