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I am scheduling an online event that will be happening from 4-6pm Eastern Standard Time on a certain day. However, this online event will involve people from many different timezones, not just Eastern (I myself am in Central Time). And it's not just in America, it will involve people from Europe as well.

For the online invitations and other notifications (pretty much all digital) that I'm creating, I would like to make it as easy as possible for potential attendees to figure out what time the event will happen according to their local time. In other words, I'd prefer they not be forced to do the math or have to track down a converter website if they don't know how to figure out the start time in their local time zone.

Because of a wide range of time zones, I can't very well list them all. I had hoped there might be some way I can link to a website that would say "I detect that you're in X time zone, so the time 4-6pm EST is at Y time for you", but I can't find anything quite like that.

What is the best way to display the time of an international event in a way that is as easy for the user's experience as possible?

EDIT: I'm mostly talking about displaying a time in e-mail and online newsletters. I realize that on a website, I can just use some coding to detect the local time.

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Sounds like a programming question. Represent the date on the backend in UTC time zone, and display it on the client in their local time zone. –  hasenj May 23 '13 at 3:01
    
Actually, e-mail is going to be the primary means of communication, although your solution could be done on a website. –  Thunderforge May 23 '13 at 3:06
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2 Answers 2

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If it's an international event, you should show two times: The time and timezone where the event will take place, and the time in UTC (Not GMT, which may include daylight savings). Those are the easiest for anyone to relate to, and any minimally educated person should be able to convert from UTC to their local time zone.

If you really need to show only one time and zone, show the timezone with a +/- UTC. Something like: 12h00 CET (UTC + 1).

Additionally, I would provide a link to an iCalendar file wherever the time is shown, whether that is on a website, or in an email. That way, the person can easily add the event to their calendar application as well as easily work it out.
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Since an online event doesn't have a location for an event, would you put the timezone of the organizer or the timezone of the greatest concentration of potential attendees? (I've also heard the suggestion that for countries spanning multiple time zones, put the time zone of the capital; E.g. Eastern time zone for the United States) –  Thunderforge May 23 '13 at 4:15
    
I disagree that UTC will be understandable to 'any minimally educated person'; it's a technical standard rarely encountered by the majority of people. Most people will be more familiar with converting between a known other timezone (e.g. EST) and their own. –  vincebowdren May 23 '13 at 10:13
    
@vincebowdren EST isn't a 'known timezone'. Most of the world never use it, and if you were to set your time on any modern operating system, you will see that it is shown in UTC +/- X. –  JohnGB May 23 '13 at 11:59
    
But the OP's users aren't assumed to be technical enough to be familiar with setting their PC's time; nor are they most people in the world. What we do know is that they are americans and europeans familiar with travelling between timezones - so for that audience, I suggest something like EST. –  vincebowdren May 23 '13 at 12:06
    
@vincebowdren Time zones and converting from GMT or UTC were covered as part of grade 5 education in South Africa, so I presume they were covered in compulsory education in the USA. However, based on your reasoning, CET should be used as more people live in and use CET than EST. But that is still assuming people know how to convert between a named time zone rather than a numerically defined one - which I don't think is the case. –  JohnGB May 23 '13 at 13:25
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Send an email with a properly formatted .ics file attached. Any reasonably good email client (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) will read the file and turn it into a calendar entry for the recipients time zone.

Attached is an example generated by creating a Google Calendar event, and sending an invite to an email account on an Exchange server. The sender and recipient were set to different time zones, and the meeting time is correctly displayed for each person.

screenshot of Outlook Calendar Entry

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