How to Schedule a Meeting Across Different Time Zones

By Andy Mowat | Updated: 28 Jul, 2014

Scheduling a meeting at a time that is convenient for your team is challenging even when everyone works in the same city. However, if you’re collaborating with members of your team or with clients that work remotely in different countries and time zones, scheduling a meeting can become a complicated lesson in time zones and geography.

What to Consider When Scheduling Meetings Across Different Time Zones

International meetings can be challenging to schedule when you factor in things like Daylight Savings Time because different countries perform their seasonal clock adjustments on different dates.

Other things to consider when scheduling through various time zones include:

  • When does their workday begin and end?
  • What time do they typically eat lunch?
  • You or your scheduling assistant need to be aware of local holidays and other regional factors that affect the schedule.

In addition, it’s best to avoid scheduling during commute times because attendees who use cell phones in transit may reduce the listening quality for everyone on the call.

Best Practices to Schedule Meetings Across Locations and Time Zones

Below, you’ll find a few more time management best practices for scheduling meetings across various locations.

Align Schedules

In a corporate setting, it is easy to compare availability across your invitation list when you’re all using the same desktop calendar tool such as Microsoft Office or Google Calendar. Here, you can utilize the blocking features to indicate busy and non-working hours and easily see the availability of others.

However, this convenience is lost when you begin to schedule with remote workers, prospects, customers, vendors, and other shareholders outside of your office.

Make It Clear

When meeting with people who are new to scheduling across time zones, help bring them up to speed by communicating the zone clearly. Omitting time zone detail is a common error among schedulers. Often, it’s assumed that the meeting will be set in the scheduler’s time zone or some have a practice of always scheduling in the client’s time zone. However, setting a conference call for “9 a.m.” in our global marketplace is no longer acceptable.

When attendees are all located within the U.S., always include the time standard (such as 9 a.m. Pacific). For international meetings, you may want to state the time in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and allow each participant to convert it to his or her local standard time. For example, 9 a.m. PST is 17:00 UTC.

Survey Attendees

Ask meeting attendees what time slots they prefer and how to minimize any inconvenience. Respecting individual scheduling concerns builds rapport and results in increased cooperation, making scheduling less of a hassle.

Decide on a Common Vernacular

One of the most common sentences you’ll overhear when listening to two far-apart people trying to schedule is, “Do you mean such-and-such time, my time or your time?” At Prialto, we avoid this time-wasting exchange by having our assistants always speak in terms of the customer’s time zone. We may be speaking from Portland, Guatemala, or Manila, but if we are scheduling with someone in New York, we’ll be expressing that time in EST!

Utilize Tools

There are a number of cloud-based meeting scheduling tools and scheduling apps that can help meeting coordinators schedule across multiple time zones.

  • World Time Buddy offers a visual comparison of time zones and helps with meeting scheduling.
  • Doodle is an online scheduling survey that allows participants to select a few times, in their own time zone, that work best for them.
  • World Clock helps meeting organizers gain a global snapshot of comparative times and survey for attendee preferences. You can link to that detailed listing using its URL, as well as generate a .ics file to send to participants’ calendars. There’s also a World Clock add-on for Google Calendar under “Settings > Labs.”
  • Every Time Zone is a visual reference for the current time in major cities around the world. A URL captures the time you've selected, allowing you to share the meeting time in various time zones with all participants.

Use a Scheduling Assistant

If you schedule a lot, it probably makes the most sense to delegate the scheduling headache. Hiring a virtual assistant who understands the different time zones and will take on the burden of the back and forth will free you up to focus on the things that you do best.