How to schedule global meetings

Hello this is Deasun î Conchœir from Scatterwork to talk about an issue that should be simple but frequently causes a lot of effort and frustration, how to schedule meetings across time zones.

The first guideline is to recognize that scheduling is an iterative process. So that means messages that come over and back. It requires quite a lot of messages to find the exact time. This can’t be done instantaneously. People who sit in the same office they say yes, no, check that out and so on. But, when you’re working in a distributed environment it takes longer for the process to take place. In addition to that, we have to treat it as a process and not just something that happens in the background.

Guideline number two is to use a scheduling tool that converts time zones automatically to find possible meeting times. If this is done, then the individuals get suggestions and they can read them in their own time zone and so on. It really is not practicable to send things are you available in this time zone. And, of course, if there are errors, the meeting doesn’t take place.

The third guideline is to offer as many time options as possible. If a very limited number of options is sent out, we find that no solution emerges and then we have to repeat two or three days later. So, it saves time just do it in the beginning.

The fourth guideline is to broadcast the options as far in advance as possible. I’ve seen situations where people need three or four meetings over a period of a couple of weeks, maybe six weeks in advance. People always have their diaries full closer to the current time. So, by going out as far in advance as possible, it gives a better chance of finding workable times.

Guideline number five is to not allow individuals to dictate their preferences before starting. If they do, then that limits the choice that is setup and the process doesn’t start. It’s much better to try and recognize these but not to force it on the system and offer lots of options. It may turn out that most of the people are available for a particular time and we have to go back and negotiate. In fact, not even the boss should be allowed to dictate times at the beginning. It should really be done on an open basis and that we find works best.

When we send out requests for availability, we should have a time limit on the reply, for example, 24 hours. Otherwise, people will come back four or five days later and undo the effort that you were putting into the scheduling.

Guideline number seven has already been mentioned in passing. If we look at the feedback from this process and find most people are free for a particular time, we can go back and ask the other person are they really, really not free at the given time. It might have been a preference rather than an absolute. For example, people don’t like to work late at night. But, obviously if they are in an airplane they usually can’t talk.

Guideline number eight is to close the process and say this time was decided. Then, send out a separate invitation with that time. This will make sure that it will show up in everyone’s calendar with their time zone.

So, there you have it. Treat setting up meetings as a process. Do it over a longer period of time. Use a tool that converts time zones and insist on having a wide variety of options.

So, I hope that works for you. If I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.

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