Finding a meeting time that suits every team member has never been an easy task. Even worse, making sure every single person is engaged during the meeting is no small feat either. Global companies with staff from different parts of the world have to grapple with different time zones.
In today’s world, this has become even more difficult. The pandemic has led to a sharp increase in remote work. Hybrid workplaces have also become more common.
Now, it is more likely than ever that a single meeting includes team members from three, four, five, or even more countries. Everyone operates in a different time zone. On top of that, each person has their own schedule filled to the brim with other meetinmeegs and events.
So how do you organize a meeting across different time zones?
Maybe you’re located in Sydney and video calling someone from New York. Or you might be part of a global team that spans across four continents.
Here are five simple tips that will help you coordinate meetings across time zones.
Schedule the meeting at an appropriate time.
First thing’s first: to organize a meeting, you need to set a time.
This is difficult enough even with every team member working in the same time zone. Some people might be ending off their day, while others are just getting up.
But there are many useful tools that help you find common meeting times.
If your team uses Google Calendar, then you are in luck! This popular scheduling app allows you to access your teammates’ schedules. Simply go to the ‘More options’ tab of your event and select the ‘Find a Time’ function. Then, add up to 20 people as guests to view their calendars.
Google Calendar users also have the option of viewing agendas side by side. After the other party shares their calendar with you, go to ‘View options’ under your own calendar. Then activate the ‘View calendars side by side in day view’ option. Open up your calendar again, and you can see the new one right next to yours. This split-screen view makes for easy schedule coordination.
Take advantage of time zone tools.
It is no longer uncommon to be holding meetings across different time zones. This is why there are many digital tools that target this problem. For example, Timezone.io allows teams to keep track of where different people are. More importantly, it displays when they are. The app clearly shows each member’s location and what time it is there. The visual interface makes it much easier to plan meetings with a global, remote team.
Another option is directly integrated with team communication app Slack. For the 8 million people who use Slack every day, the bot Spacetime.am is very useful. With this app, team members can set their location and indicate their work hours. This makes it easier to see exactly who is online at what time. Spacetime.am can also be used to schedule meetings, and the time will automatically change to each team member’s time zone.
Other apps for managing time zone differences include tools like Boomerang, which lets you schedule emails to send at specific times. Straightforward apps like Timefinder and Time Zone Converter may come in handy too. With these digital tools, organizing a meeting across time zones will become much less of a chore.
Create an agenda and stick to it.
Once you have picked a meeting time, you have to prepare for the meeting. This begins with an agenda.
A meeting agenda is a list of checkpoints that your team wants to hit during the meeting. This ensures that the discussion stays on track and your team makes full use of precious time.
Preparing an agenda before the meeting also ensures that team members know what will be discussed. There are few things more difficult than going into a meeting blind and confused. Setting an agenda makes sure that everyone is on the same page. This agenda can also be referred to during the meeting itself, so that attendees stay focused on the topic.
An agenda usually includes details like date, time, and attendees. It also covers meeting objectives, decisions to be made, and any prep work that attendees should do beforehand.
Having an agenda also makes it much easier to take minutes. During the meeting itself, you can easily refer to the agenda to decide what discussion points are worth noting down.
Take advantage of useful tools like Meetric, a must-have note-taking app specially designed with meetings in mind. This 100% free app even works as an add-on for Google Calendar. After installing Meetric, simply click on your event in the Calendar and type in your agenda. This allows any attendee to view the agenda from their Calendar instead of opening up a new window.
Ask for questions in advance.
One of the struggles that come with a global, distributed team is that everyone is running on different energy levels. While some are taking the call during their lunch break, others might have just rolled out of bed, and yet others might be coming off a full day of meetings.
This is why it is important to ask attendees for any questions in advance. During the meeting itself, people might be groggy and tired. If it is 11pm at night or 7am in the morning, for instance, they might not be able to think of potential issues and questions.
Instead of fielding the barrage of questions after the meeting, why not tackle them before?
Here is where the agenda you prepared earlier comes in handy. After sending the agenda out to your attendees, they can already start thinking of and sending in questions. This process is streamlined with the use of collaborative agendas. Other users can edit or add details to the agenda.
This is possible with apps like Loom. Loom is a video messaging app that allows guests to record their updates and questions in advance, as opposed to writing them down. You can also use tools like Google Docs, or even meeting-specific ones like Meetric.