Tools for Remote Collaboration
You are in the process of setting up your home office, home based business, or home collaboration. Now you urgently need to know what tools to use and you don’t have time to test and research!
These suggestions below come from illuminart and collaborators… many who started out new to remote collaboration.
Remote meetings lets you have one on one, or group meetings, without being physically in the same room.
To start with, the basic necessities:
- Internet access or a mobile plan that allows for data hotspotting so you can work from anywhere
- Mobile phone or Landline for dialing in. Not essential, but it helps in low bandwidth environments!
- Ergonomic work environment in a private workspace where you won’t get distracted
- A computer or mobile device with software tools to enable you to work remotely
- Essential accessories including web cam, headphones
BASIC SET UP
Install the relevant app! Zoom is our recommendation but there are truckloads of others… See our list below.
Don’t know how to install an app? Web search for “how to install an app on <insert your device name here> and follow the instructions.
You need to have internet at home or a cellphone plan that can cope with the increased usage.
If you are on low bandwidth, look for meeting options that let you dial in.
Get someone to walk you through this and run a test meeting with you.
WHAT WE USE AND WHY
Having explored many options, our tool of choice is currently Zoom. There are many you can use – scroll down to see others we have used and recommend.
Zoom provides good quality conferencing and it has a phone dial in option if you are looking to separate the data stream of your audio, from your video. It allows screen sharing, file sharing, chat and is free for basic meeting needs. We subscribe monthly on a low cost plan which lets us have meetings more than 45 mins long without having to redial. The meeting organiser can record the meetings which can be helpful.
This web and app software can be used for one on one training, small group training sessions, group meetings, and consultations. It works on MacOS, Windows, and phones and mobile devices with cameras.
We recommend Zoom for groups on low bandwidth connections, such as regional artists. It seems to still hold its connection on low speed connections, and you can turn off the video camera if needed.
Zoom has a heap of HOW TO tutorial videos and tips on their blog posts, check them out below.
HOW TO RUN A MEETING WELL
The meeting links can be the same each time, which makes it easy for people to join as they can bookmark the meeting room. Otherwise you need to send it out by email or put the link somewhere people can find it.
Preparing for meetings involves:
- one or two people might work together to plan, set an agenda for the meeting and to send this out
- the meeting planners might also set tasks for people who are attending the meeting, to present information or to complete and share a document so it can be reviewed and discussed
- the meeting planners will decide who will take notes and follow up on getting decisions implemented afterwards.
One person is the ‘host’ and starts the meeting, which other people join (they usually go to a waiting room area if they are earlier than a host, sometimes they can chat to each other while they wait).
The host, or another designated person, takes the role of chairing the meeting and working through the agenda items. The most successful meetings ensure that each person doesn’t dominate the conversation, and has a chance to have input. The comments should be short and allow for input. Meetings should be under 45 minutes, so break big topics into chunks.
As each agenda item is covered, it is good to track this and make notes using a collaborative writing tool. This lets all meeting attendees help see what is being decided and add details. We use dropbox paper but you can also use Google docs or other tools which are low cost and allow for multiple people viewing and writing in them.
Individual attendees have to take responsibility for ensuring the meeting audio is clear. This requires each person:
- choosing a quiet space to attend the meeting from – ideally where they can close the door
- preferably using a headset with earphones and microphone, that connects to the computer audio
- if bandwidth is low, the attendee should call in using their phone instead
- All people at the meeting should make sure they turn off their microphone if they are making any noise (rustling, eating, etc) because these sounds pervade to all members of the meeting and it can be very distracting
- It is best if each person sites themselves somewhere that they are not back lit (dont sit in front of a window) and try to have good light and positioning so people can see them through their web cam.
Some other tips, which require good awareness by all and a bit of practice from the meeting planner.
- If its the first time everyone is meeting, do introductions
- Prepare for the meeting by giving each person an area of responsibility to present, and to run an area of consultation
- Things that involve a detailed discussion between two people while several others others wait, should be conducted separately at another time, or in a ‘side room’ of the meeting software
- If someone is talking for more than 2 minutes, the convenor needs to wrap it up to maintain engagement
A good reminder of these and other tips are here: https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2019/11/27/video-meeting-etiquette-tips/
and techniques for managing the zoom meetings are on their youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsy2Ph6kSf8&list=PLKpRxBfeD1kEM_I1lId3N_Xl77fKDzSXe
SOFTWARE AND APPS LIST
There are dozens of tools, including these very popular options:
Zoom.us: a recent arrival, is avhttps://www.skype.com/en/ailable free for meetings of up to 45 minute duration. This is what we use and we recommend it for its simplicity and a cost effective way to get started.
Skype: this basic online video phone app has been around since year dot and most people have it installed. Great for meetings with 2 people if they already have it.
Jitsi.org: Another free video conferencing app, has all tools, doesn’t require registration.
Gotomeeting: one of the first professional platforms so has been around a while. Zoom is cheaper which makes it more accessible for artists.
Microsoft teams: works for companies that are already microsoft focused.
Workplace by facebook: Facebook’s collaboration platform includes meeting support, so if you all are on facebook, it can be an easy way in.
Whatsapp: free, easy alternative to phone calls.
Messenger: free, easy alternative to phone calls and video calls.
If you want to explore other options, especially commercial apps and tools, visit https://www.capterra.com.au/directory/30075/web-conferencing/software or browse everything at https://www.capterra.com/
What Remote Collaboration offers:
Remote collaboration lets you work from your own home without needing to be physically in contact with other people. Its perfect for people who live in regional communities who are too far to commute for a project, and its also perfect for distancing.
Depending on what tools and computer you have, you will be able to do some or all of the following work remotely and we will cover some of these below adding in links to information over coming months.
- Remote meetings with one person or small to large groups
- Real time Collaboration on text documents and spreadsheets – enabling you to write scripts, budgets, project plans, SWMS, and so much more, “virtually alongside” other people if you need to work together.
- Real time project conversations using chat windows and activity logs
- Managing and reporting on projects using planning tools and visualisation systems that can be shared with groups
- Coordinating digital files using cloud storage systems
- Creating, Designing and Editing digital files on your local computer using different types of software then sharing them for review and approval
- Using online and social media to distribute and share your digital files informally or for online viewing
- Booking people into virtual viewing rooms and teleconferences using ticketing systems you set up
- Selling your projects and products online