Best Ways to Collaborate Online in 2021

 

Collaboration is a messy word. Everyone seems to call everything collaboration these days. After 18 months of pandemic and never-ending lockdowns, we have all been forced to adapt and survive. But, as we move into the new normal of constant hybrid and remote meetings, what works and what doesn’t?

col·lab·o·ra·tion

/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/

Noun: the action of working with someone to produce or create something.

By this definition, everything is a form of collaboration! Phone calls, emails, text messages, slack messages and everything in between can be considered as collaboration. But our world changed, and now remote meetings require a new definition for collaboration.

What is Remote Collaboration?

Re-mote col·lab·o·ra·tion

/rəˈmōt/ /kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/

noun: the action of engaging with our remote audience to make them feel like something was done.

How many of us really engage with our meeting participants and make them feel like they had a memorable experience? How many meetings do you remember from last month? If you are like me, everything is a gray blur, and you rarely remember anything that was said or done in a remote meeting. In fact, most of us forget 90% of what was said within 48 hours.

What are the best practices to change this? Let’s break it down.

What is the best video conferencing app?

A great meeting starts with a great video conferencing app. What is ideal for you? Here are my personal experiences. At the end of the day, every platform will give you the same basic features. Great screen sharing experience, good camera quality and audio. But there are differences to their user experience.

Zoom

Zoom is a leader (and arguably the most high-profile of the pack) in the VU\UC industry, tackling unified communications with their cloud platform for video, audio conferencing, collaboration, chat, and webinars across all endpoints.

Advantages:

  • Free version available
  • Can easily join a meeting, don’t even have to sign in
  • Really fast to open the app and get started
  • Easy to share meeting details using meeting ID and password
  • Easy to use interface
  • Options for hardware GPU acceleration for enhanced performance

Disadvantages:

  • Second screen support is not strong
  • Whiteboard is weak and very basic; very hard and frustrating to use
  • No presentation mode at all
  • No integration with Outlook to create and distribute meetings – need to do it from the zoom app

Zoom’s strength is the simplicity of the software. You can launch and join a meeting within a few seconds. Everyone distributes the ID and password, and you don’t even need to login and authenticate to join if you have the relevant information.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is Microsoft’s all-encompassing workstream collaboration plus unified communications platform – combining meetings, chats, calls, and file sharing with the Office 365 application stack to bring everyone together in a shared workspace.

Advantages:

  • Tight integration with Microsoft products – can easily click one button in the calendar to create and invite participants to meetings
  • Included with O365 subscription
  • Amazing support for second monitor, just drag the Teams window and create an audience view

Disadvantages:

  • Painfully slow to login and get started
  • No meeting ID to just join – must be authenticated to launch a meeting
  • No whiteboard mode at all
  • Presenter mode is downright awful
  • Takes up a lot of CPU\GPU resources even for simple screen sharing
  • Does not give you an option to default audio sharing – always have to turn it on manually for every meeting causing issues
  • Bad user interface as most users are confused when they first start using the software

Microsoft’s strength is their integration into Office 365. If you are already a Microsoft based organization, this becomes an easy choice.

Google Meet

Advantages:

  • No app to install, just start a meeting using your browser
  • Free for any gmail and google user
  • Easy to use interface
  • High quality audio and video all through the browser

Disadvantages:

  • Not integrated into Outlook and other Microsoft products
  • Limited features like background subtraction and beautification filters
  • Limited options for breakout rooms and larger scale meetings
  • No presenter mode
  • No whiteboard or markup mode

Google Meet is a great entry level product that offers high performance and simplicity.

The best presentation app

Once you are connected with your audience, what do you present and how do you present? At the end of the day, the presentation is what makes the meeting memorable.

Just sharing your screen and showing a PowerPoint slide is no longer enough. Most people turn off their camera and tune out. You need to make sure that your remote meetings have impact, and you create memorable experiences for your audiences.

Pin your camera and stand out

Pin, position and scale your camera image to make it as prominent as your pitch. Customers need to build trust with you and not just with your content. Reactiv SUITE allows your customers to feel like they are having a conversation with you – not watching you present. This makes it much easier to interact with you during a screen sharing session.

Be Visual

Add ink to any type of document and be interactive during your presentation. Highlight, underline and draw attention to the topics and concepts you want your customers to focus on. Just the simple task of circling a number or underlining a point will instantly snap your customers back to attention. Eliminate all the restrictions of screen sharing and make your customers feel like they’re in the same room as you.

Be Dynamic and Interactive

Open, display and manipulate any file: PDF, URL, DOCX, PPTX, XLSX, videos and images, without interrupting your pitch. Be non-linear in your interactions with your audience. Save prep time as you no longer have to create PowerPoint content for every client. Dynamically pull up any type up content based on the direction of conversation. This allows you to use PowerPoint as a visual aid and not take over your presentation.

Leverage an infinite whiteboard to express yourself

Documents, pictures, videos and a myriad of files can be placed on an infinite canvas and layered with natural writing. Never run out of space!

The best messaging app

A tool that requires no introduction. Slack is without doubt a mighty collaboration tool, with millions of users around the globe. It’s an incredibly smart platform, and you can get it on mobile and desktop devices. It allows for the sending of direct messages (DMs) and files to a single person or a group of employees, and you can organize conversations into different channels (specific projects, technical support, general chat, customer related, etc.).

Slack also integrates video calling, but this is not a feature that I use regularly. A lot of my customers might not be on Slack, and this doesn’t integrate into my meeting eco-system. I think that Slack is best for internal chat and communication, and I use one of the standard video collaboration apps for connecting to my customer and share my presentation.

The best online whiteboard

Online whiteboards are great for asynchronous meetings where multiple people have to design and sketch out a concept over time. Once your team has access, they can access the online whiteboard at any time to update, add information and organize the data.

Miro

Miro is all about templates. To get started, choose from a long list of templates (e.g., UX design, customer mapping, and retrospective), or just start with a standard blank whiteboard. And you’re not limited to one template: you can add as many as you want to a board, using zoom and scroll to navigate through the various templates on the board. Then add shapes, text, and sticky notes (drag-and-drop) as needed.

Mural

The Mural canvas can house multiple whiteboard areas, similar to Photoshop artboards, that you can rearrange and resize as needed. On each whiteboard, you can go with the standard blank white background, or choose from a variety of templates to add pre-built grids and content boxes for some additional structure.

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