When and how long? | Timing, time zone(s), duration and digital fatigue considerations

Questions in this section

Timing and time zone(s) considerations

Is the timing right? Are there other events happening at the same time? See if you should avoid overlapping altogether and find a better timing for your event or if synergies can be found between events. Look for important holidays in regions where your participants are based, and make sure your event will not clash with them.

See who you would like to connect with and adjust the time of your event to them as much as you can. Here are some of our lessons when it comes to time zone considerations:

STORY BOX From APC Member convening 2020: Walk the talk, from privilege and power to solidarity - time zones

Time zones are an invention. Or a discovery. But certainly, in the way they defined the 00:00 in relation to the rest of the world -12 and +24 are a display of colonialism, power and privilege! How would things look like if the 00:00 was set along Kuala Lumpur or Quito? Experiencing this is when power and privilege give place to solidarity.

For the APC member Convening we thought that was important not only to acknowledge the way power and privilege are embedded in any acts or “general convention” about time, places, languages -  but to try to walk the talk and apply the logic of a dispersed network, where centres are not fixed and unmovable but are relative and can be changed and agreed upon.

During our five days of convening we rotated our plenaries in the APC member regional time zones that are based on the countries and places where APC member organisations and individual members, and also staff members, live and operate from. Our members have a time zone span from UTC -7 to +9. The two most distant regions, Asia/Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)/North America, are separated by a gap of 15 to 16 hours. So, during our 2020 Member convening everyone experienced, at least once, waking up very early and going to sleep very late.   

How long should your event be?

A mindful consideration of the digital reality and (oftentimes intensive!) interactions online might help you in deciding on the duration of your online event in a way that you care both for your team and your participants. 

In deciding how long your event should last - consider the following:

Depending on your content, this can be a two hour event with a central session (for example, a plenary) and several activities (opening, presentation of content, break, discussion on certain topics, group work, report back, closing). If your content load is extensive, you might consider distributing the overall material in several sessions and activities that make your event. This can be distributed within one day or even several days, weeks or months. This is especially applicable to planning a larger convening, or an event which will cover one issue extensively, or many different issues.

An important factor to take into account is the format of the event in terms of timeload and communication type. Event formats can vary from (a)synchronous one-hour real time event; to distributed (a)synchronous self-paced event(s) happening in a longer span of time, days, weeks, months. You can find more content around around advantages and challenges related to both in our section “How to choose the format that suits my online event best?”. Here is a general description for now:

Digital fatigue and hidden time

Different people engage and are affected differently during online events. For some, digital meetings might be more tiring than real-life meetings: the brain and eyes focusing harder to process input and material without body language, fewer breaks that depend on one’s own self-care routine and resources, being constantly on show, feeling vulnerable in one’s home, isolation after an intense engagement without a post-event exchange of impressions, and struggles with the technology itself. 

When combined with the total amount of time spent online and in front of our devices, the above elements make what we call digital fatigue, a mind/heart/body reaction of exhaustion, lack of concentration, headaches and physical pain or discomfort which is beyond one’s personal threshold of wellbeing. There is also hidden time that is required for us all to refresh from an intense online event participation and/or organisation of the event itself. Taking into account these elements might help you in your approach when deciding on the event duration and time structure around it.

The ‘hidden time’ to recharge is something to keep in mind for your participants, but it is also vital for you and your team. As you will be both in the back end (planning and designing behind the screen) and front end of your event (implementing and running the event on screen), there is a high risk of ‘digital fatigue’ and burnout. Take into consideration the balance of online and offline time and make sure you talk about each other’s thresholds, red flags and ways of mutual support. This might also imply reallocation of your resources (time, energy) based on your sense of power in the direction of your own or your group’s wellbeing.



For our APC Staff meetings we have a general recommendation for our staff which is part of APC institutional care practices. We recommend 1:1 pairing - one hour work - one hour break - for the duration of the meeting so that would mean - for a 3 hour session in a day – that everyone takes a 3 hour break also - and not attempt to do a full days work *around* the staff meeting time.



Check in

Taking care of yourself and each other throughout the process will connect you as a team, and make the experience of organising the event less stressful, more fun and meaningful on multiple levels. You can read more about this in our section “How do we nurture, rest and play?”.


APC’s lessons learned on time, care and content

Here are just some of our insights on planning around content distribution when we organise events, bearing in mind the event duration and amount of time spent online:

Timeline of the process

A timeline is a good resource to have during the design stage. Map out your planning activities and tasks and plan mindfully in terms of time allocation. Make sure to include session and documentation design, the overall communication, team meetings, event outreach, test runs, time for rehearsals, time for care, and everything that you will explore more indepth during the event (also called showtime). 

Revision #3
Created 28 October 2021 05:20:37 by Cathy
Updated 3 November 2021 02:22:33 by Cathy