How to Effectively Schedule Meetings with International Teams

Read Time: 5 minutes

Franchesca Tan

Franchesca Tan

Updated: Mar 6, 2024

two-women-smiling-international

Imagine it's your first project presentation at a global company and you're tasked with organizing a team meeting. Your team is spread from San Francisco to Singapore. You realize the challenge isn't just about aligning schedules but also navigating through time zones, cultural nuances, and virtual communication protocols. This scenario is not uncommon in today's interconnected world, where effective communication across international teams is vital for success.

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The challenges of international team meetings

Coordinating meetings across different time zones can feel like solving a complex puzzle. This process involves not just time zone management but also understanding and accommodating the diverse work hours and cultural contexts of team members.

When orchestrating international team meetings, the hurdles extend far beyond simple calendar invites. The complexity of coordinating across multiple time zones is just the tip of the iceberg. Teams face the challenge of juggling varying work hours, which can range from the early hours in one region to late nights in another. This logistical nightmare can lead to reduced attendance, engagement, and, ultimately, productivity.

Moreover, the challenge isn't solely logistical but also interpersonal. Language barriers can impede clear communication, while cultural differences in communication styles and meeting etiquettes can lead to misunderstandings or even conflict. For instance, the expectation of punctuality can vary significantly between cultures, where being on time in one country might mean logging in 10 minutes early, whereas, in another, it might be acceptable to join 10 minutes late.

Another often overlooked challenge is the "time zone bias" where meetings are consistently scheduled according to the convenience of one region, usually where the company's headquarters are located. This can lead to feelings of isolation or undervaluation among team members in less favored time zones.

Best practices for setting common meeting times

Addressing these challenges requires a strategic approach rooted in empathy, flexibility, and innovative use of technology. These best practices can significantly mitigate the challenges of scheduling meetings with international teams, leading to more effective communication and a more inclusive workplace culture.

Golden hours

One strategy is to identify "golden hours" that are workable for everyone, though this may mean compromising on ideal times. Alternating meeting times can distribute the inconvenience equitably among team members.

Time zone rotation

To combat time zone bias, implement a rotation system for meeting times. This ensures that no single team member consistently bears the burden of attending meetings outside of their regular work hours. While not every meeting time will be perfect for everyone, this strategy promotes fairness and inclusivity.

Democratic decision-making

Implement a transparent and inclusive process that encourages participation from all levels of the organization. This can be achieved by establishing open forums for discussion, utilizing collaborative tools to gather input, and ensuring that decision-making criteria are clear and accessible to everyone involved. Tools like Doodle's Group Polls become indispensable by allowing team members to vote on their preferred meeting times. 

Core hours concept 

Establish "core hours" where team members are expected to be available for meetings. These hours should overlap across time zones to the greatest extent possible, creating a window where real-time collaboration can occur. Outside of these core hours, respect team members' local work schedules and personal time.

Asynchronous communication

Not all team interactions need to happen in real-time. Encourage the use of asynchronous communication tools for updates or discussions that don't require immediate feedback. This can alleviate the pressure to find common meeting times for every single discussion and allows team members to contribute according to their own schedules.

Cultural considerations

Understanding cross-cultural etiquette is crucial when scheduling international meetings. This includes being mindful of national holidays, typical working hours, and the general cultural attitude towards work-life balance in different countries. A considerate approach respects team members' time and promotes an inclusive, respectful virtual communication culture.

Cultural sensitivity training

Equip team leaders and members with training on cross-cultural communication and meeting etiquettes. Understanding and respecting cultural differences in communication can significantly enhance the effectiveness of virtual meetings and reduce potential friction.

Tools for working across international time zones

To manage time zones effectively, leveraging technology is key. Tools like World Time Buddy, Every Time Zone, and the integrated time zone features in Google Calendar allow for a visual representation of overlapping work hours across the globe. 

These platforms are indispensable for planning and ensuring that meeting times are reasonable for all participants, thus enhancing virtual communication and scheduling efficiency.

Doodle also emerges as a solution uniquely positioned to tackle the nuances of international meeting scheduling. With features like group polls, sign-up sheets, booking pages and 1:1s, Doodle simplifies finding common meeting times without the endless back-and-forth messaging chains. Doodle automatically detects the user’s time zones, which minimizes confusion between organizers and participants.

With a Doodle account you can arrange events quickly and completely free

Challenges as opportunities

The initial challenge of scheduling a meeting with your international team can transform into an opportunity to showcase efficiency, cultural sensitivity, and technological adeptness. By leveraging tools like Doodle, adopting best practices for setting meeting times, and respecting cultural nuances, you can navigate the complexities of international scheduling with ease.

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