You might ask what is online collaboration? It sounds pretty sophisticated, difficult and expensive. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. If you are a consultant, a solopreneur or even a business owner with employees, once you are tuned into the possibilities of collaborating online, it will literally change how you do business. Then, all you need to know is where to get the best web tool and what are all the ways you can make this work for you.

What Is Online Collaboration?

Online collaboration is a virtual meeting on the Internet. Just like a face-to-face event, you can:

  1. Hear every word that is being said in the conference call portion of the session
  2. See and share the documents being used, and best of all
  3. Make changes on the spot — so that everyone agrees

Is online collaboration the same thing as a teleseminar or a web conference?

Not really. In the first place, teleseminars are voice only. Everyone calls into a conference call number and listens to a speaker talk about a specific topic. There may, or may not be, a time where attendees can ask questions.

A web conference is a teleseminar with visuals. In this case, not only do you call in, you also log onto the Internet to see a presentation (typically PowerPoint) that supports what the speaker is saying. The interaction in these cases is usually limited to asking the presenter questions in a chat box. There is no real back and forth interaction.

Is Online Collaboration Only For Large Groups?

With online collaboration you can meet with just one other person or an entire group. You can schedule a meeting ahead of time or start one instantaneously when you need it. You can use this software to meet with someone in the other room, across town or in another country. The big advantage is that both parties can see what is being talked about, see the changes that are being made, and see how much more quickly you can reach agreement. All you need to get started is two things: 1) online collaboration software (usually a monthly subscription fee), and 2) a new mind set about how to conduct meetings.

The Industry Leader Web Tool: GoToMeeting

The software we use is GoToMeeting and costs $49 a month. This entitles us to unlimited use with up to eleven people at one time in a session. (Licenses for more attendees is possible and equally affordable.) There are many applications available for online collaboration with similar features. We like the award-winning GoToMeeting because it is developed by Citrix. This means the price is reasonable, the feature-set is high, and the ease of use is extraordinary. Plus, you get phone support whenever you want it – which you don’t need very often! Also, when anyone in your meeting first signs on, the small bit of software that gets downloaded does not mess up the computer nor does it take up a lot of space. Because of the way it is built, it is readily accepted in high-security sites including most Federal agencies.

Changing How We See Meetings

One of the biggest challenges is changing our mind-set about meetings. Instead of rushing off to an appointment across town, we now realize that we can call up a client, link them into GoToMeeting and have an extremely fruitful session – saving time and dollars – and working more efficiently by taking real-time action. Gone are the days of taking notes, going back to write-up what was said and sending the document for approval through email. Now, we jot down what is being said, everyone sees it, we make instant changes, gain concurrence and move on.

More Benefits

When you are using GoToMeeting, another benefit is that you can have others actually participate in the session. You’re able to take turns being the presenter – which means anybody can show his or her desktop to the rest of the attendees. Plus you can make it possible for one person, or anyone, to use the mouse and keyboard. Imagine how much more interesting a meeting is when everyone shares typing the notes and driving the discussion.

Here’s another idea! What if you want to demonstrate something in a software package that not everyone else has, such as Visual Thesaurus, CAD-CAM, or QuickBooks? You can’t send them the document, because they won’t be able to open it. But, you can show them what you’re talking about and how it works, while you’re in the collaborative online session. Will they see it? Yes! Anything on your screen will appear on theirs. It’s a powerful, awesome tool and productivity enabler. There is no doubt that you will save time and make money once you jump on the online collaboration bandwagon!