Have you ever coordinated a fairly large event that required collaboration with stakeholders in another country?

This was my most recent challenge getting the first Hong Kong Moodle Moot off the ground and in this post I’d like to share with you my top  tips for effective use of cloud-based services to get the job done!

Establish a (Collaborative) Flow

Without a doubt GoogleDocs is a great tool for getting all of your event stakeholders on the same page, literally.  Before diving in head first and inviting everyone in to collaborate I recommend you reserve the first page for your title page and then write down general section headings for the document using the built-in styles found in the web editor. This helps immensely with workflow and lets you rapidly build a hyperlinked TOC for easier document navigation.

TIP: On a mac use <Option + Command + M> to quickly comment section headings and
let others know the sections of the document they are responsible for.

Consolidate Your Correspondence

Big events call for big dependencies particularly on external stakeholders and today this typically involves conversations via Skype and email. Enter Evernote.

Setup a dedicated shared notebook for your project and make this your default one. Next, make sure you have created a contact in your mail client using your Evernote email address. Then ensure all of your email correspondence is forwarded and/or BCC’d to this address.

I minuted all of my meetings in the project notebook which automatically time stamped and geolocated them! Because the notebook was shared publicly the action items were transparent to all.

TIP: Convert office file formats to PDF where possible as they are rendered better
in Evernote. Take snap shots of business cards and use install the Web Clipper
browser extension to quickly capture online quotations and resources.

Manage Things

With so much to remember it can be challenging to prioritize what needs to be done and when.

This is where Things for Mac excels.

There is really no easier way to keep track of your to-do’s and quickly capture those epiphanies you get when allowing the mind to wander.  Things allowed me to use any of my devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac) at anytime (on the commute home, by the bedside, or at the cafe…) to record and more importantly prioritize tasks.

TIP: Set up a Project in Things for your event and use tags to rate priority of tasks.

Drop Your Files

In organizing event signage and t-shirts I found Dropbox to really come into its own. You’re typically dealing with large files, I designed the signs, badges and t-shirts using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and InDesign organized into a well labelled folder. The folder was then shared and the link sent to the printer.

The beauty of this workflow is when changes need to be made. Working directly from the DropBox (often at home) I could make the requested changes and simply instruct the printer to download the same file with the same name from the same location.

TIP: Lose the Browser-based interface and install the Dropbox application. This will
give your collaborators real-time notifications when your working on files. Use a wired
connection for more reliable throughput when working directly on large files.

Final Thoughts

Online collaboration is often a messy process. In organizing the inaugural Hong Kong Moodle Moot with folks across campus, around the city and as far away as Australia, I was able to optimize the experience using a basket of free cloud-based tools.  What tools do you use for collaborative project management? Do you have any tips I’ve missed? Appreciate your comments.