I can still picture it. Me as a young boy, alone in my room, working by candlelight, our tiny shack buried under 20 feet of snow from the harsh Texas winter rendering me unable to get to the office, and only one bar of 3G service flickering on my iPad. Piercing the cold air through the hall came the shrill sound of my mother’s voice. “Layton, quit collaborating with yourself!”
Now, we can either take this ridiculous story as complete nonsense or we can take away one conclusion — Mom was wrong. While collaboration with others is best, it is something that can be safely practiced all by yourself.
By its shear definition, collaboration is at the very least a two-person task. From Wikipedia (the ultimate example of collaboration): “Collaboration is working together to achieve a goal.” So how can one person possibly work together with one’s self? Easy. How many people in the meetings industry only have one self? There is the office self, the home self, the airport self, site visit self, the Starbucks self and, of course, the second-glass-of-wine-hotel-lobby-bar self. All of these people will be needed if you want to hit that next deadline.
Play nice with yourself, and others
Let’s focus on the essentials: Dropbox and Evernote. Hopefully, everyone reading this just let out, in unison, a sarcastic “duh.” If you do not use these tools, it’s time to start. If you do, it’s time to start using them better. Both are cloud-based and available in native applications for just about every computer and device. They can also be accessed through a Web browser just in case you get stranded on a deserted island with nothing but an old Gateway Solo 2000 running Windows 95 and a dial-up connection. Both are free for basic accounts, which are fine for most, but offer premium versions if you need more storage or certain enhanced features.
Dropbox will seamlessly integrate on your computer, tablet and smartphone. Save any type of file to it just like it was another folder on your computer. If you know how to save to your documents folder, you know how to save to Dropbox. You will never say “I left it on my home computer” ever again.
How can you use it better? Sharing is caring. Dropbox lets you grant access to a specific folder to specific people. I share some folders with co-workers, some with friends, some with family, but some are just for me.
Evernote is a note-taking application. There are dozens of note-taking apps, but the biggest competition is the kind that comes with a spiral binding. What sets it apart from one that comes from your phone, tablet, computer or local office supply store is the anywhere, anytime accessibility.
How can I use it better? Use the little buttons in the tool bar. Those who are still stuck note-taking with ink on dead trees all have the same excuse. “I can write faster than I can type.” Can you write faster than you can speak? Can you write faster than you can snap a photo? Evernote allows you to take pictures, Web clips and voice memo directly into any note. But wait, it gets better. Text in pictures and Web clips is searchable! No more paper cuts from rifling through a notebook. Simply type what you are looking for into the search bar. Notebooks can be shared in the same fashion as Dropbox folders, but it does require an upgrade.
Be collaborative, not vulnerable
Now that you’ve become comfortable with your own collaboration and have invited others to join the party, you may start feeling a little vulnerable. Letting others edit your accounts can be a little scary, but that is where hojoki.com can help. Think of it like a personal news feed for all of your cloud apps. Get notified when someone updates a shared account and send notifications to those using your accounts.
These are just a few of my favorite tools. The very best tech tool that you can have for managing meetings or events is the one that you will actually use. At the core of any good collaborative software is the ability for anyone to work with it, anywhere, anytime, regardless of operating system or device preference, but this task is harder than it sounds. If the ones mentioned here don’t work exactly as you had hoped, try a competitor’s solution and let us know. We promise not to take the rejection personally.