Author: Kevin Cobb

Best Tools for Distance Collaboration

When half your staff is here and the other half are scattered around the country on assignment, you’ve got to have ways to stay connected.

Dropbox

It’s simple, elegant, and very effective. Dropbox may not have as many features as other file-sharing programs, but it’s good at what it does. Dropbox is a cloud-based drive where you can store and share virtually any kind of file, music and movie clips included. If you’re looking for a simple and secure platform to keep documents, you really don’t need to look further. Since your files are stored in a cloud, you don’t need to be at a specific computer to access them. You can get to your documents from any computer (or smartphone) at any time. Dropbox also has desktop access capabilities – if you install the application onto your PC you can get to your files even if you’re offline. The drawback: it’s free, but only up to a certain point. When you reach the capacity of your free Dropbox account, you’ll either need to delete files or pay to get more storage space.

Google Drive

There’s a reason so many people use it. If you want a step up from the file-sharing capabilities of Dropbox, Google Drive is a free and easy way to collaborate in real time with everyone you’ve shared your project with. (And when we say real time, we mean real time. You can watch words and edits appear before your eyes as colleagues move through the documents.) Google Drive allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, slides, and more, making it a great tool to collaborate. It also has chat capabilities – you can chat with any and all people on the document with you, enabling faster communication. And if you can’t remember what’s been done or who’s edited what, you can go through the history of your project for up-to-the minute details.

Skype

Though Skype might be more readily associated with long-distance lovers and college study-abroad students calling home, Skype has no limit to its uses, and can be a great business tool for communicating with your staff.

Basecamp

Basecamp knows its users well – they’ve been in business for 15 years! Basecamp is project management software that has nearly everything you need and allows for real-time collaboration. It operates on the metaphor of a sheet of paper. You start with a blank page and build from there. You can invite people, create a calendar, create subprojects, upload and open nearly every type of file, and create threads for discussion. If you’re on-site and your staff is back at the office, you can upload pictures from your phone and communicate in real time. Since everything is in the cloud (what isn’t these days?) you can access the site from anywhere. These kind of capabilities don’t come cheap, but they are well-worth it.

Great Creative Programs

Great Creative Programs

Nothing spiffs up your website or event schedule like cool graphics and infographics. Read on to find the programs best for you.

Good – visual.ly

Visual.ly takes the hard work out of designing and produces beautiful infographics very quickly. Simply use its user-designed templates and input your data. Visual.ly also offers infographics based on your social media use. If you like your Facebook or Twitter to the site, it will create a fun graphical representation of your activity. Visual.ly is also a repository for public/government data and pre-made infographics on just about any subject you can think of. If you need to spice up a blog post or report quickly, infographics from Visual.ly can be incredibly helpful and aesthetically pleasing.

Better – GIMP

If you want the basic tools of Adobe Photoshop at no cost, you may want to check out GIMP, an image manipulation software compatible with almost every mainstream operating system. GIMP will help you to create simple graphics and edit photos using the same basic tools as Photoshop and more expensive programs. It allows for photo retouching and color correction. It takes up a lot less space on a hard drive than a professional program does, and is easier to learn. However, it’s color capabilities aren’t suited for print media, and its open-source platform mean less user support (you didn’t pay for it) and more bugs.

Best – Adobe Creative Suite

We’ll just say this right off the bat: the Adobe Suite is professional software, and it is pricey. But this high-end, versatile software is well worth the money if you know how to use it to your advantage. Once you and your team are trained to use it, you’ll be able to design page layouts, vector graphics, webpages, videos, and more. Use Adobe Illustrator to create infographics to your exact specifications. These files are vectors, which means that you can make the poster or images as large or small as you like without losing definition and clarity. For photos, use Adobe Photoshop to edit and manipulate images for online use and for printing. However, the programs have a fairly steep learning curve, and you’ll likely want to take a class or two to learn how to use them. Buying these programs will require a large investment, but the returns can be huge if you use it right. But if you aren’t a designer, and don’t want to be, purchasing these programs isn’t likely to benefit your business.

Best Blogs for Event Planners

Best Blogs for Event Planners

Event Manager Blog, BizBash, Cvent, Velvet  Chainsaw, and Pinterest

Event Manager Blog

One of the most popular and often-cited event blogs on the web, this fun blog calls itself “the first blog for event professionals.” Their biggest contribution to the industry is their annual report “10 Event Trends,” which is the most-viewed presentation within the events industry. They also offer free WordPress themes for download, and tons of resources for good event apps and software. Event Manager Blog prides itself on its Event Startup community, where the industry’s newest players can get some exposure.

BizBash

One of the most all-inclusive sites we’ve come across. BizBash has listings for venues, suppliers, and classes for professionals, as well as a comprehensive job board. If you have no idea where to start, chances are that BizBash can help you out. It has a more professional feel than the Event Manager Blog – BizBash takes events seriously. They host event conferences each year, and publish their own magazine. They tend to skew towards reporting rather than the fun list-making of Event Manager Blog, but they have a real knack for reporting trends in the industry.

Cvent

Fair warning – Cvent is an industry service provider, and you can expect a few sentences of self-promotion here and there. Cvent provides a suite of services to help planners automate certain tasks, but we prefer to do our own thing and stick to reading their blog. Cvent focuses more on the planner than the actual event, and it’s a good niche for them to stick to. They have an entire category devoted to “Planning How-To’s” and also provide lots of resources for using social media and website building tools. Their articles about budgeting and expense management are definitely worth a read.

Velvet Chainsaw

Velvet Chainsaw is definitely an “insider” blog, but don’t let that turn you off if you’re just getting into planning. Their client base relies on this firm mainly for conferences and meetings, but many of their ideas for client engagement can be translated to all kinds of events. They have a lot of experience under their belt, and they stay on trend in terms of social media. Read this blog to get tips on public speaking, tweeting, and energizing your audience.

Pinterest

It’s not exclusively an event planning blog, but by typing a few key words into the search bar, you’ll be able to find pages of inspiration! The Event Planning Inspiration board is always being updated, and it also provides a welcome break from working on your own event – sometimes you need to step away from your work for a few moments and relax to get a better perspective. We also like to use Pinterest to keep track of the things we love – if you’ve come across a color palette you love or a party favor idea you can’t part with, don’t save it to a forgotten corner of your bookmarks folder, pin it to your Pinterest board! The beautifully designed digital board is what you make of it, but seeing all your related pins at once can be incredibly helpful in getting your thoughts together.

My Fave Trip Planning Sites

My Fave Trip Planning Sites

A handy arsenal of trip-planning tools for family getaways and destination corporate retreats alike

Intern Aleksandra here! During the spring semester of 2013 I had the opportunity to study abroad in England and travel extensively all throughout Europe. As a result, I ended up with a handy arsenal of trip-planning tools. Listed below are a few of my most-used and most-loved. I hope they can help you as well, whether you’re planning a family getaway or trying to think of activities for a destination corporate retreat. 

Skyscanner.com

Skyscanner is a flight-finder site that provides quick, reliable, and cost-effective information. It’s simple to use and easy to navigate – you can be as specific or flexible as you like, and Skyscanner will find the best deals for you. My favorite part about the site is that they include all the extra fees in the price they display, so there aren’t any surprises when you check out. I also loved that I was able to look at a week or month view to see when my flight would be the cheapest. I used this site the most when searching for the best budget flights in Europe, but it displays the best deals in America and worldwide as well. To toot my own horn, I managed to get myself to Berlin from London for about $10, and Skyscanner made it very simple!

Lonely Planet

When I’m planning a trip, Lonely Planet is where I go first. It’s slightly less user-generated than sites like Trip Advisor, so you can expect long, detailed, and well-researched pages on your destination. A city’s Lonely Planet page will offer you information on history, local transit (and how exactly you’re supposed to use it), health and safety, what to do, and more. Lonely Planet also offers an excellent series of travel books, but I prefer the site for its up-to-date information.

TripAdvisor.com

When planning what to see at a destination, I narrowed down my choices quickly and easily with Trip Advisor. The site has a review for almost any attraction you can think of, and I’ve found the users to be fairly unbiased. The most helpful reviews are sorted to the top, and all reviews are averaged into a rating of 1-5 stars. Trip Advisor’s staff also create great posts that have full trips planned out, if you so choose to follow them. If you have no idea where to start at your destination, you can simply go to the destination page and click through the categories, including (but not limited to) culture, museums, landmarks, and outdoors. It’s a fantastic way to figure out exactly what you want to do.

TripIt

If you’re anything like me, you need to have all your travel stuff in one place, or you’ll completely lose your mind. I just can’t stand digging through my emails to find each and every itinerary and confirmation. Luckily, I discovered TripIt, which helped put my mind at ease and made it much more simple to communicate my travel plans to others (read: my perpetually worried parents). After you make an account, you simply forward every trip-related email you get to your TripIt account. It organizes your info and creates one handy document for you.

Rick Steve

Okay, this isn’t exactly a site…more like not a site at all. It’s a book (or rather, a series of books) and I can honestly say that if I had the money, I’d buy a Rick Steve book for any country I was going to. His travel guides provide you with a level of authenticity and comfort that websites generally can’t offer. The books detail nearly every street of the city, give fun facts, and dispense excellent tried-and-true travel advice for each destination. They’re well-written and very fun to read, especially if you’re stuck in a hostel with no Wi-Fi, or on a plane.

Events We Love

Events We Love

Winter Olympics, Burning Man, Oktoberfest, Fifa World Cup

Winter Olympics

We can’t wait for the opening ceremony! This year’s Olympics are proving to be controversial, but we hope that organization of the event and the athleticism of the competitors take center stage. The Winter Olympics, first hosted in Chamonix, France in 1924, evolved from the Nordic Games, held in Sweden in 1901. In the 90 years that followed, the games have undergone plenty of change, but the games continue to showcase the best in winter sport. Though the event organizers have been known to have lips sealed shut on rumors about the opening ceremony, there’s still plenty of gossip. National team uniforms continue to be revealed (check out Team USA’s here) and it’s rumored that famous Russian composers Valery Gergiev and Denis Matsuev will be performing. Needless to say, we’ll be watching – not to mention that it’s the first Olympic games held in Russia since the end of the Russian Federation in the 90s.

Burning Man

It’s possibly the world’s strangest party, but it’s been attended by more than 653,000 people since its inception in 1968, including Mark Zuckerberg, P.Diddy, and Major Lazer. It takes place every year over Labor Day weekend in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, in a makeshift town called Black Rock City. Fun fact: during Burning Man, Black Rock City becomes Nevada’s third-most populous city. It’s a difficult event to explain, but according to Burning Man’s website, “attendees…dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, leaving no trace.” The climax of the event is setting fire to a large wooden effigy – the burning man.

Oktoberfest

We know, we know…it seems like a cop-out. Of course the world’s biggest beer festival is going to be fun! But there’s more to it than you’d think. It’s been held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany since 1810 and it’s as much a part of their culture as it is an opportunity for tourist dollars. All beer served at Oktoberfest has to adhere to a specific set of qualifications – the “Reinheitsgebot,” a German beer purity law that dates back to 1487. Oktoberfest is actually free to attend, but a liter of beer will cost you around $12. As a celebration of Bavarian culture, Oktoberfest also includes delicious traditional food, like pretzels, dumplings, sausage, and strudel. You’ll also find the typical Bavarian waitress carrying what seems like an impossible amount of beer at once – the world record is 19 steins, or 90 pounds of beer!

FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is one of the most popular sporting events in the world – this year’s cup will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, five-time winners of the international title. There’s been some speculation as to whether the venues will be ready in time. Around half of the 12 stadiums being built or renovated are not yet completed, and the Brazilian government is rushing to complete the vital infrastructure linking the stadiums. But with world-class attractions like Christ the Redeemer, Tijuca National Park, and Ipanema Beach, Rio is sure to impress regardless. We hope you’ll join us in our commentary on the beautiful game in June and July!