One of our industry's superpowers is the ability to bring people together virtually anywhere in the world. And thanks to the nature of our jobs, we’re also good at doing all of that from virtually anywhere in the world: behind the desks in our offices, post-workday on the living room couch, squeezed into an airplane seat or heading to another meeting in the back of a cab.
As a teleworker, whether full- or part-time, it’s essential to have the right technology tools in your arsenal to be successful. Some tech offerings keep you organized or help you collaborate with coworkers and clients. Others ensure the safety and security of your intellectual property.
Here are a few tips and suggestions for working and planning remotely from experts in the technology and events industries.
Darren Buckner has created a nifty app for locating a workspace outside of the home or work office called Workfrom. Through the app, you can type in your city or zip code and filter the results by public or private spaces, Wi-Fi speed and the location’s noise level.
Buckner also has some recommendations for other virtual tools you should use when working remotely.
“Slack, Asana and Google Drive each make it easy to collaborate, plan and produce content,” says Buckner. “These tools are quite popular with remote workers and are often present in their daily workflow.”
Buckner also suggests Workfrom’s recently launched Homebase (workfrom.co/homebase), a pay-as-you-go coworking space booking service with no memberships or recurring fees.
To access Buckner’s suggestions and other tools, you’ll need some basic equipment. Assuming you have a desktop computer and/ or a laptop, Corbin Ball, owner of Corbin Ball and Company—an events technology, speaking and writing firm located in Bellingham, Washington—suggests dual monitors for the computer in your home office.
“Two monitors can increase efficiency by 30 percent because you can go back and forth,” says Ball, whose daily commute is from his bedroom, past the coffeepot and into his home office.
You also need reliable high-speed internet access, he says. And Ball can’t stress enough the importance of backing up your work. He recommends saving each day’s work every night on a USB 3.0 external hard drive. A cloud-based backup system is also advised.
“Up-to-date virus protection is also essential,” Ball says. “And if you’ll be working in coffee shops, you should consider a virtual private network (VPN).” A VPN encrypts your connection over the internet making it safe to send sensitive data. With a VPN, you can work remotely and not worry about eavesdroppers—virtual or otherwise.
Working as a Team from Afar
When working on a project with colleagues, Dropbox, a cloud-based file-hosting service, can be used to share files back and forth. In addition, Dropbox is handy for sharing too-large-to-email PowerPoint presentations, documents and high-resolution photos.
And a good quality, high-definition video camera for conference calls is a smart investment, as well. Denise Ker Waldron, president and CEO of Viva! Events in Portland, Oregon, also asks the telecommuters on her team to have quality headsets at their disposal.
At Viva! Events, all five planners work remotely on Fridays. To stay efficient and organized, they use Google Drive to share files, Toggl for tracking client hours, DocuSign to obtain virtual signatures, SmartSheets for collaboration and work management, and Dropbox. Zoom and Instant Messaging connect them to the Viva! Events’ office.
“Keep things simple and streamlined,” recommends Waldron.
Ball notes he uses Microsoft Office Outlook quite extensively and that the program has helpful tools most people don’t use because they aren’t aware of Outlook’s full capabilities. He recommends planners take some online training to realize the email program’s full features. Taking the time to learn the software makes you more efficient, he explains.
“There’s so much out there that addresses every aspect of the planning process,” says Ball. “You have to make the best choices for what you’re doing.”