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Guidelines for the Organization of Fully Online Meetings
RFC 9400

Document Type RFC - Informational (June 2023)
Authors Mirja Kühlewind , Martin Duke
Last updated 2023-06-12
Replaces draft-kuehlewind-shmoo-online-meeting
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state Submitted to IESG for Publication
Associated WG milestone
Aug 2022
Adopt draft for Meeting planning guidelines for replacement online meetings
Document shepherd Mallory Knodel
Shepherd write-up Show Last changed 2022-11-22
IESG IESG state RFC 9400 (Informational)
Action Holders
Consensus boilerplate Yes
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD Lars Eggert
Send notices to
IANA IANA review state IANA OK - No Actions Needed
IANA action state No IANA Actions
RFC 9400

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                      M. Kühlewind
Request for Comments: 9400                                      Ericsson
Category: Informational                                          M. Duke
ISSN: 2070-1721                                                   Google
                                                               June 2023

        Guidelines for the Organization of Fully Online Meetings


   This document provides guidelines for the planning and organization
   of fully online meetings, regarding the number, length, and
   composition of sessions on the meeting agenda.  These guidelines are
   based on the experience gained by holding online meetings during the
   COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Not all documents
   approved by the IESG are candidates for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2023 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Revised BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of the
   Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as described
   in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction
     1.1.  Requirements Language
   2.  Some History
   3.  Guidelines for Online Meeting Planning
     3.1.  Time Zone Selection
       3.1.1.  Guidelines for Selection
     3.2.  Number of Days and Total Hours per Day
     3.3.  Session/Break Length
     3.4.  Number of Parallel Tracks
   4.  Additional Considerations and Recommendations
     4.1.  Full vs. Limited Agenda (and Interim Meetings)
     4.2.  Flexibility of Time Usage
     4.3.  Inclusivity and Socializing
     4.4.  Experiments
     4.5.  IANA Considerations
     4.6.  Security Considerations
   5.  References
     5.1.  Normative References
     5.2.  Informative References
   Authors' Addresses

1.  Introduction

   In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the IETF to convert all its
   plenary meetings to online-only events.  This document records the
   experience gained by holding plenary meetings fully online and
   proposes guidelines based on this experience.  In general,
   participant surveys indicated satisfaction with the organization of
   these meetings.

   Although these guidelines reflect lessons learned in 2020 and 2021,
   the IETF is encouraged to continue to experiment with the format and
   agenda of fully online meetings, using this document as a baseline.

   Hybrid meetings (meaning meetings that have large remote
   participation but also onsite participation) are out of scope.
   However, some of the experience gained from fully online meetings
   might also provide input for decisions regarding the organization of
   hybrid meetings.

1.1.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
   BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

   This document uses the term "plenary meeting" for the whole IETF
   meeting that covers the IETF meeting week; this term is used to
   distinguish the plenary meeting from other IETF meetings like
   "interim meetings".  The term "administrative plenary" is used for
   the respective session during the IETF meeting week that is usually
   hosted on Wednesday.

2.  Some History

   When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a worldwide
   pandemic in March 2020, the IETF canceled its plenary meeting and
   organized an online replacement in less than 2 weeks.  For this first
   online-only meeting, the agenda was reduced to a set of sessions that
   benefited most from cross-area participation, like BoFs, first-time
   meetings of new working groups, and dispatch sessions.  It also
   included the administrative plenary to preserve the official handover
   procedures that occur at March IETF meetings, as described in

   With a reduced agenda, the meeting format was two sessions (about 4
   hours) per day with a maximum of two parallel tracks.  Other working
   group meetings were scheduled as interims over the following 6 weeks.
   The IESG published a purely advisory recommended schedule
   [INTERIM-SCHEDULE] to reduce conflicts among those interims.

   While satisfaction was high right after the meeting
   [IETF107-FEEDBACK], some participants later indicated in mailing list
   discussions that the period of intensive interims had a greater
   impact on their calendar than a single plenary meeting week, and in
   some meetings participation was reduced.  Those interims tended to
   occur at times convenient for the bulk of participants, which was
   convenient for most but could exclude those in less common time

   For the remainder of 2020 and 2021, the online schedule was switched
   back to be similar to an in-person meeting (1- to 2-hour slots and
   eight or nine parallel tracks).  However, each day was limited to 5-6
   hours in recognition that remote participation is more tiring.

   All fully online meetings followed the time zone of the planned in-
   person meeting location.  As a 6-hour agenda has some flexibility
   regarding the start time while still fitting within a previously used
   8-hour in-person agenda, the start time was approximately noon, with
   adjustments of an hour or so to mitigate the impact of early morning
   hours in time zones with many participants.  As selection of in-
   person meeting sites was consistent with the 1-1-1 guideline as
   documented in [RFC8719], this approach was intended to share the
   burden across all common geographies roughly equally.

3.  Guidelines for Online Meeting Planning

3.1.  Time Zone Selection

   The following algorithm was not used in 2020 or 2021, but it enables
   most participants to avoid late-night sessions in two out of every
   three fully online IETF plenary meetings.  Basically, every fully
   online meeting is for two regions of the three regions described in
   [RFC8719], with one being roughly after sunrise and the other around
   sundown.  This has the trade-off that the third region is in the
   middle of night.

   The times are also seasonally adjusted to leverage differentials in
   Daylight Saving Time.  These time slots are as follows, in UTC, based
   on the Daylight Saving Practices at the time of publication:

   | Name          | Times (Northern Summer) | Times (Northern         |
   |               |                         | Winter)                 |
   | North America | 0500-1100 UTC           | 0600-1200 UTC           |
   | Night         |                         |                         |
   | Asia Night    | 1300-1900 UTC           | 1400-2000 UTC           |
   | Europe Night  | 2200-0400 UTC           | 2200-0400 UTC           |

                                  Table 1

   Note that the "Europe Night" slot covers the "early morning" slot for
   Asia where most countries do not have Daylight Saving Time.

   If Daylight Saving Practices change -- this change is under
   consideration in multiple countries at the time of publication --
   this table may need adjustment.

   The intent of rotating between these three slots is to scatter
   meetings throughout the course of the global day, to maximize the
   ease of participants so that no attendee has to be consistently
   inconvenienced, regardless of their location and what time of day is
   optimal for their schedule.  However, as participation is distributed
   globally, it needs to be acknowledged that restricting the scheme to
   three regions observes the intent of [RFC8719] but does not achieve
   the goal of two non-late-night sessions for all participants equally.

3.1.1.  Guidelines for Selection

   The IETF SHOULD select a start time from these three choices based on
   the prior three meetings.  The following table covers all
   permutations of previous meetings held in person in Region A, B, or C
   or remotely in the nights of one of those regions.

   | Three Meetings Ago | Two Meetings Ago | Last Meeting | Online    |
   |                    |                  |              | Selection |
   | Any                | Any              | In-Person A  | A Night   |
   | Any                | Online A Night   | Online B     | C Night   |
   |                    |                  | Night        |           |
   | Online A Night     | In-Person B      | Online B     | C Night   |
   |                    |                  | Night        |           |
   | In-Person A        | In-Person B      | Online B     | A Night   |
   |                    |                  | Night        |           |
   | In-Person A        | In-Person A      | Online A     | See below |
   |                    |                  | Night        |           |
   | Online A Night     | Online B Night   | Online C     | A Night   |
   |                    |                  | Night        |           |

                                 Table 2

   This table follows two basic guidelines:

   1)  Whenever a fully online meeting follows an in-person meeting, the
       online meeting time is used that most disadvantages the
       participants in the time zone where the in-person meeting was

   2)  If multiple fully online meetings follow each other, the time
       zone selection should be rotated based on the most recent time
       zones in which the in-person meetings were held.

   The final case occurs in the rare event that back-to-back in-person
   plenary meetings occur in the same region.  In this case, find the
   most recent meeting that was in neither 'A' (if in person) nor 'A
   Night' (if fully online).  If this meeting was in person in region
   'B', then the next meeting should be in 'B Night'.  If it was remote
   in 'B Night', the next meeting should be in 'C Night'.

3.2.  Number of Days and Total Hours per Day

   By 2021, fully online meetings were consistently held over 5 days
   with roughly 6-hour meeting days.  The day with the administrative
   plenary, which concludes with multiple open mic sessions, sometimes
   exceeded this limit.

   Six hours of online meetings, with two 30-minute breaks, was a
   compromise between the physical limits of attending an online meeting
   in an inconvenient time zone and the demand for many sessions with a
   manageable number of conflicts.  The IETF 109 feedback
   [IETF109-SURVEY] indicated broad satisfaction with a 5-day meeting
   but only medium satisfaction with the overall length of each day.

   The IETF did not seriously consider extending sessions into the
   weekend before or after the main meeting week, although at IETF 108
   and subsequent meetings the Hackathon occupied the entire week before
   (see [RFC9311]).

3.3.  Session/Break Length

   For fully online meetings, there are typically fewer sessions per day
   than for in-person meetings, to keep the overall meeting day to
   roughly 6 hours.  With fewer sessions, chairs were offered only two
   options for session length (instead of three).

   IETF 108, based on an indicated preference of the community,
   scheduled 50- and 100-minute slots, with 10-minute breaks, in order
   to keep the overall day length at 5 hours.  This resulted in many
   sessions going over time, which indicated that 10 minutes for breaks
   is not practical.

   The survey after IETF 109 [IETF109-SURVEY] showed high satisfaction
   with 60/120-minute session lengths and 30-minute breaks, and a
   significant improvement in satisfaction over IETF 108.

   The longer breaks, while extending the day, provided adequate time
   for meals, exercise, and "hallway" conversations using online tools.

3.4.  Number of Parallel Tracks

   In-person meetings are limited in the number of parallel tracks by
   the number of meeting rooms, but online meetings are not.  However,
   more parallel tracks would increase the number of possible agenda

   If the total number of requested sessions exceeds the capacity of the
   usual eight parallel tracks, it is possible for a fully online
   meeting to simply use more tracks.  If the number and length of
   meeting days are seen as fixed, this decision is implicitly made by
   the working group chairs requesting a certain number of sessions and

   IETF 111 used nine parallel tracks for some of the sessions and
   experienced slightly more conflicts in the agenda-scheduling process,
   though there was no statistically significant increase in
   dissatisfaction about conflicts in the survey [IETF111-SURVEY].

   The IESG encouraged working group chairs to limit their session
   requests and use interim meetings aggressively for focused work.

4.  Additional Considerations and Recommendations

4.1.  Full vs. Limited Agenda (and Interim Meetings)

   The IETF 108 meeting survey [IETF108-SURVEY] asked about the
   structure of that meeting (full meeting) compared to that of IETF
   107, which hosted only a limited set of sessions followed by interims
   in the weeks after.  The structure of IETF 108 was preferred by 82%.
   Respondents valued cross-participation and an intensive meeting week
   for maintaining project momentum.

   Furthermore, a well-defined meeting time, rather than spreading many
   interims over the whole year, can make deconflicting with other non-
   IETF meetings easier.

   However, interim meetings can also help to reduce scheduling
   conflicts during an IETF week and allow for a more optimal time slot
   for the key participants.  While interim meetings are less likely to
   attract people with casual interest, they provide a good opportunity
   for the most active participants of a group to have detailed
   technical discussions and solve recorded issues efficiently.

4.2.  Flexibility of Time Usage

   This document recommends further experiments with reducing conflicts
   by leveraging the increased flexibility of the online format.

   An in-person meeting must fit all sessions into an acceptable length
   for international travel (usually roughly a week), but online
   meetings do not have that constraint.

   Therefore, it would be possible to keep most regular working group
   sessions within the usual 5 main meeting days but have some of the
   more conflicted sessions in other dedicated time slots.  As the
   Hackathon for fully online meetings is usually held in the week
   before the online plenary meeting [RFC9311], that week is already a
   highly active week for many IETF participants and might provide an
   opportunity to schedule a few selected sessions.

   This might work especially well for sessions that are of high
   interest to a large part of the community, such as BoFs and dispatch
   meetings, and therefore hard to schedule during the main IETF week.

   At IETF 112, the IESG ran an experiment where the administrative
   plenary was scheduled on the Wednesday before the official session
   week.  The experiment report [IETF112-EXPERIMENT] found that it led
   to a reduction in scheduling conflicts but also a slight drop in
   attendance of the administrative plenary, partly due to insufficient

4.3.  Inclusivity and Socializing

   Participation in the fully online meetings in 2021 was high and had a
   stable per-country distribution, even though time zones were rotated.
   This indicates that online meetings support a more consistent
   geographic distribution of participants than in-person meetings,
   where participation often fluctuates based on the location.

   However, online meetings do not provide an equivalent opportunity to
   socialize.  Despite significant investment in tools to foster hallway
   conversations, many did not use those tools, whether due to ignorance
   of them, dislike of the tools, or a preference for other activities
   at home (including sleep and food) over hallway interactions.

   There was a decrease in submissions of new (-00) Internet-Drafts
   during 2020 and 2021, although the overall number of draft
   submissions remained stable; this decrease in new submissions might
   have resulted from the loss of these interactions.  Informal
   conversations might be important to inspire new work.

4.4.  Experiments

   This document recommends further experiments with the meeting
   structure.  Often, only practical experience can answer open
   questions.  A given meeting SHOULD only experiment with one major
   change at a time in order to be able to assess the outcome correctly.
   Furthermore, the IESG SHOULD announce any such experiment well in
   advance, so people can adjust to changes and potentially provide

4.5.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

4.6.  Security Considerations

   This document has no security considerations.

5.  References

5.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

   [RFC8719]  Krishnan, S., "High-Level Guidance for the Meeting Policy
              of the IETF", BCP 226, RFC 8719, DOI 10.17487/RFC8719,
              February 2020, <>.

5.2.  Informative References

              Daley, J., "IETF 107 Virtual Meeting Survey", 17 April
              2020, <

              Daley, J., "IETF 108 Meeting Survey", 13 August 2020,

              Daley, J., "IETF 109 Post-Meeting Survey", 7 December

              Daley, J., "IETF 111 post-meeting survey", 23 August 2021,

              IESG, "IETF 112 Plenary Experiment Evaluation", 4 February
              2022, <

              Cooper, A., "Subject: Post-IETF-107 Recommended Virtual
              Interim Schedule", message to the Working Group Chairs
              mailing list, 13 March 2020,

   [RFC8713]  Kucherawy, M., Ed., Hinden, R., Ed., and J. Livingood,
              Ed., "IAB, IESG, IETF Trust, and IETF LLC Selection,
              Confirmation, and Recall Process: Operation of the IETF
              Nominating and Recall Committees", BCP 10, RFC 8713,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8713, February 2020,

   [RFC9311]  Eckel, C., "Running an IETF Hackathon", RFC 9311,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9311, September 2022,


   Thanks to Brian Carpenter, Lars Eggert, Toerless Eckert, Charles
   Eckel, Jason Livingood, Sanjeev Gupta, Dale Worley, and Mark
   Nottingham for their reviews, and thanks to the many other people who
   provided input and suggestions on the time zone discussion!

Authors' Addresses

   Mirja Kühlewind

   Martin Duke