San Luis Obispo Technical & Business Communicators

June 25, 2012 Event Summary

“Three Ways to Use Virtual Collaboration to Grow Your Business and Optimize Productivity”

At this engaging and highly informative event, productivity expert Erin Hoffman, president of Optimum Productivity, explained and demonstrated a variety of ways we can collaborate online today.

Many of the attendees had wanted a quick and easy way to hold a meeting online instead of having to do the following: make paper handouts for all of their materials; leave their office, school, or home; drive to a physical location; find parking; lug their stuff into the building; and then wait patiently — while their productive time is ticking away — to rendezvous with the other party. (Oh yes, and then "lather, rinse, and repeat" in reverse for the trip back!)

This event provided plenty of tips for scheduling and holding online meetings, and also collaborating online using shared documents and files, as explained below!

Topic 1: Tools and tips for scheduling and holding meetings online

While face-to-face encounters are valuable and there are many important reasons to have them, Erin's real-time GoToMeeting demonstration showed that online meetings can offer unparalleled, time-saving benefits. These include the ability to stay at our desks, plan a meeting in advance or start it on a moment's notice, clearly display the items we'll be discussing on the screen, and capture all of the meeting audio and visuals so that we and others can have access to the playback recording for future reference. (No more "selective-memory meeting syndrome"!)

GoToMeeting is a $49 a month subscription service, but some of its features are available through free online meeting tools. Those include JoinMe, which lets you host meetings with shared desktop viewing; and Skype and Google Talk, which focus mainly on Internet audio communications with optional Web cam visuals.

Because planning a meeting with conflicting schedules can be like herding cats, Erin demonstrated a tool called Doodle that makes scheduling a breeze. Doodle automates the process of comparing the available dates and times of unlimited people, and instantly displays the exact matches. (Gone are the days of endless e-mail exchanges trying to pinpoint a date that works!)

Topic 2: Co-creating and maintaining documents online

Nothing is more frustrating than sending countless versions of draft documents back and forth using e-mail. Not only is it redundant and easy to lose track of the latest version, but we risk missing something critical in the flurry of exchanges.

Erin demonstrated a comprehensive, all-online, document-sharing alternative — Google Docs, which actually includes Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, and Forms. These free applications use smart access controls to allow multiple authors to create and maintain documents together. You can create documents from scratch or upload them from your hard drive and work with them online. You can also download and save any document from Google Docs in multiple formats. Authors can easily edit a document simultaneously during a meeting, and enable others to view and comment without altering the content.

Topic 3: Free tools for exchanging files and storing information

To avoid the redundant and error-prone process of e-mailing in-progress draft documents back and forth between team members, our goal was to learn about collaborative tools for document sharing and file storage that work perfectly with virtual meetings.

One way to eliminate the e-mailing hassle (especially for large attachments that won't make it through the e-mail gateways) is to use online file exchange services such as DropBox and Google Docs' own online repository. These options accept almost any file type and size, making it simple and straightforward to share information in a protected, permission-controlled manner.

See below to access Erin's presentation materials and handouts...

Downloads & Resources

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Download the presentation and handout:

Event Facilitator:

Erin Hoffman is the president of Optimum Productivity, a firm dedicated to improving office efficiency and productivity. Erin makes use of the latest office software technology to help individuals get more done and companies streamline how information is stored and retrieved. Erin has received praise from her clients for helping them eliminate wasted time and lost data. Optimum Productivity is based in San Luis Obispo and offers one-on-one coaching and training seminars all over the United States.

SLO TBC usually holds its events on the 4th Monday of the month from October through June. We generally take a break over the summer and resume in the fall. For more information, please contact us.