I asked Rich Jarrott of The Watch Hut to share tips on Skype Video Conferencing in this guest post. This short (just over 2 minutes) entertaining video covers features even those using it daily may have missed:
Skype is now seen on a daily basis around the world. Its quality is even sufficient to be used by TV networks when the nature of the report makes immediacy more important than picture fidelity.
Skype for Business
Skype is certainly of high enough definition to use for largely static business meetings. However, like all great ideas, it’s not quite that simple. Skype doesn’t allow for screen sharing with participants like other services do.
Here at The Watch Hut we operate over multiple sites over a hundred miles apart. Let’s take a look at how you can get the best results.
Skype Video Conferencing Do’s
Get a Good Microphone
Everyone loves HD don’t they? Great pictures with stunning colours are all the rage. It’s amazing. But, try turning off the sound. How does that work? Are you still following the programme? No?
I think I have proved the point.
Sound is the basis of communication (unless you are a mime artiste), so make sure you get hold of a good microphone with noise cancellation. Don’t turn up the sound so high that you induce the ear splitting whistling sound of feedback or create an echo.
THINK about using a good microphone instead of a headset.
When you plug in your headsets your speakers will be muted.
Crawling under the desk to plug and unplug headsets gets old fast.
If you want to easily switch between speakers and headsets,
you need one of these to easily mute and switch to headset.
If, like the team at The Watch Hut, you are using a headset, make sure there is good isolation between the speakers and the microphone.
Get a Good Internet Connection
Voice can be transmitted in a tiny amount of data, but it will sound as though you are calling from the far end of a drain pipe. Video on the other hand will either not work at all, or look like something you will find hanging on the wall of an art gallery with the name Picasso underneath it.
Video requires faster, better Internet connections than voice or chat.
Skype recommends bandwidth of at least 300kb/s for its most basic video services with 1.5 Mb/s for HD quality. Remember that this is both the upstream and downstream connection.
Also, be aware that if you are calling someone who is using a satellite based system, there will be a noticeable delay.
Get Good Speakers
It should go without saying given the point above about good microphones, that the other end of the system is important, too. You will probably not be working in an audio optimised environment that is acoustically dead. You won’t have sound mixers like TV productions do, so make sure that you have decent audio reproduction.
Those speakers that are in your laptop that sound tinny with Netflix, will not do a very good job at all with Skype audio – particularly if you hope more than one person will be listening.
Make Sure you Have an Agenda
We’ve all been to meetings that ramble on and on, pointlessly covering old ground. Avoid this. Have an agenda and stick to it. Bring in new business at the end of the meeting once all the points have been addressed.
This is especially important in your first few meetings over Skype. Without adequate chairing, people will talk amongst themselves in their room and will not address the entire group assembled over the Internet.
At the first Skype meeting there will also be a tendency for everyone in the room to say how amazing the picture is. This will dissipate over time and you will actually start to get some work done.
Share Screens If You Have a Point
Screen shares are a great way of letting people collaborate on live documents. Don’t use them to show the PowerPoint files you had prepared. Email them first and let people view them at a proper resolution.
Skype Don’ts for Business
Don’t Worry Too Much About Video Quality
The picture quality is required to show a semblance of human interaction; it is not there to drive the meeting. People are listening to your words, and reading from papers you have prepared.
Don’t worry too much about the video quality.
Similarly, don’t worry too much about how the background to your office looks. Most webcams feature autofocus that will lock on to the person speaking so the background will not be pin sharp.
Use Flip Charts
Seriously, unless you have multiple camera set up’s (in which case you are way past a beginners guide) don’t use flip charts. No one will be able to read them on the webcam.
If by some miracle the office strip lights are not glaring on the white paper, then the auto focus system will make reading them difficult as it compensates for the movement of the speaker and varying light levels in the room.
Don’t SHOUT (or mumble)
People tend to shout. The people on the other end, provided they have a good set up, will hear you. If anything, shouting will make the sound capturing system “clip” your voice and your shouts will turn into a roar of noise with no actual content.
Whilst this is a great way of expressing your anger, it won’t help the listener understand your crucial point. Likewise, mumbling, talking into your hand, etc., will also cause people to have difficulty in following you. Try to find a balanced, even tone that is not a monotone.
Don’t do anything disgusting
People can still see you even when they are not talking. If you need to pick your nose, go and find the nearest bathroom, or just don’t do it at all.
Skype provides a valuable service to The Watch Hut and it can benefit you and your business. Hopefully these tips will get you started.
NOTE from Gail at GrowMap:
Skype is what I use every day to collaborate with and mentor other bloggers. I use it to train clients and their employees and keep in touch around the world. If you haven’t started using it, you should really consider it.
If you would like assistance setting up your Skype accounts, groups, or conferencing, contact Skype expert Julie Wolf.