Almost as quickly as the tools of social media have broadened our work and networking as event professionals, new sites and applications have popped up to facilitate remote collaboration in ways we never dreamed of 10 years ago.
No longer are we limited to finding partners who live nearby. We can choose to work with anyone from anywhere else in the world, as long as they have access to the Internet.
Here are five of the collaboration tools I now use on a regular basis. All are easy to use - and most are free of charge.
Skype. Why limit yourself to telephoning anyone when you can add video to your communication with Skype? It's free and easy to use and did I mention it's free? ALSO, did you know that if you have Skype Premium, which typically costs around $9 per month, you can Skype with 2 to 9 people at once? Skype allows you to communicate via instant message and share large files at the click of a button. In addition, you can use Skype to phone people who don't have the service at incredibly low rates as compared to most phone company rates.
Central Desktop and/or BaseCamp. I have used both and while I don't pretend to know ALL the features each of these tools provides, I have found both very useful for project management with teams of people in dispersed geographic locations. They both provide one place to house information you need to view with your team. Both are great for sharing documents and information; scheduling tasks, meetings and sharing comments or questions. Both also help keep everyone in the loop by notifying the team via email when things on the site are updated.
Google Docs/Google Drive. Google Docs allows several people to work on one document at the same time showing all edits (and the name of the person making them) in real time. It also allows collaborators to make comments about the document that can be "resolved" later as the document is edited. Google Docs is THE most effective tool I've seen for collaborating to create a document.
In April, Google added more value to their collaboration tools by releasing Google Drive to replace Google Docs. Google Drive includes all of Google Docs' features, but adds 5 GB of cloud storage at no charge, so that your documents can be accessed from anywhere. (Upgrading to a paid account will give you up to 1 TB of storage.) Google also allows you to search your documents by keyword and filter by file type.
Drop Box. Drop Box is a file hosting service that provides an excellent way to share large files among a group of people. A free account will get you 2 GB of storage. To get more storage you need to purchase a premium account. I have used it on several projects and even upgraded to a paid account so that I could store more. However, as I use Google Docs everyday and the newly released Google Drive seems to do all the things that Drop Box now does, I will probably switch to Google Drive for file sharing in the future.
Google Hangouts. Google Hangouts is another way to video chat with up to 10 people and it includes text chat and other collaboration features. In addition, you can now choose to record and broadcast your hangouts, if you want. Unlike Skype, this group video chatting tool costs nothing. However, also unlike Skype, Google Hangouts are not private unless you take specific steps to make them so.
Don't worry if you aren't familiar with these tools. Give them a try; they were developed to be very user-friendly.
I find it inspiring, fun and stimulating to collaborate with others. While working together, friendships are built, bonds are strengthened and amazing things are accomplished. And thanks to these tools, time and space are no longer obstacles.
For more productivity tips, read 5 Cool Apps to Power Up Event Planning and 3 Savvy Resources to Drive Conference Event Excellence.
(Photo by tilak bisht)