I hung up on Efficiency Coach...

...obviously not on purpose! Honest Coachie!  We were having one of our brilliant Skype video calls.  I was flitting between the video call and an IM with an associate who was answering a technical query for us, and whoops, instead of returning to the conversation I killed it!

This brings me to the subject of this week’s blog. Skype. What a fantastic product for business.  I am a true convert.  If I had to ever decide between Skype and Twitter I honestly don’t know which I would choose.

So what is Skype? Well in a way you could ask what do you want it to be? It has so many uses.

You can IM – this is like an Instant Message, the sort you would get on Messenger etc. but you can also create groups for group conversations. Some of you may have heard of the VA Support Group.  It’s a group of VA’s who are working together to help and support each other. We have a group conversation permanently on the go on Skype so we can drop in and out and ask each other questions, share work when needed, bounce ideas off each other, or just be allowed to rant about whatever has wound us up just now.  I suppose you could compare it to the office coffee machine in a way.

Why would you IM rather than call or email.

Well if you have an email conversation with someone other emails will arrive in your inbox, your replies go to sent items so you don’t really see the full thread of the conversation.  The beauty of Skype is that you can start a conversation, go off and do something else and the other person can reply in your absence. If you are both online at the same time you can have a live text conversation.

Did you know that your laptop, if it is pretty recent, probably has a microphone and speakers built into it.  I don’t bother with headphones and speakers for Skype calls if I am in my office at home as I don’t need them.  I can have a call using the built in kit and it is perfectly clear both ways.

Video calling is still something I am getting to grips with, purely from a comfort perspective, if you look at photo albums in our house I am always the one behind the camera not in front of it.  It can seem a little daunting at first but trust me, it really is a wonderful invention.  When Efficiency Coach and I are on our video calls it’s great to be able to see the expressions, the gestures etc, they make it so much more personal.  Saying that I hardly ever switch the main light on so poor Efficiency Coach probably only gets to see a shadow (trust me that is by far the best view of me!), and all my hand gestures appear to be below the eye level of the camera!  I do seem to try and explain things with my hands for some reason.  It is worth spending a few moments just setting up your webcam properly, you can see on Skype what the other person can see in a small box at the bottom of the screen so it is easy to adjust.

Skype also has a fantastic share feature.  In the VA support group we use this for sharing pdf’s, pictures etc all the time.  However, I was recently introduced to the share screen function, something I was able to then share with Efficiency Coach (nice to know she doesn’t know everything!).

The person who is going to share their screen needs to initiate the call. They then click on share screen and the other party to the call can see what you can see in front of you. They can’t control your machine but they can see your mouse moving and the changes you make on your screen.  My database developer has been using this to show me how my database works. I also think this would be ideal for designers etc. Why travel 200 miles to sit in an office with a Client and a laptop when you can share your screen on Skype and make instant changes dependent on their feedback.  It works for any type of design, in terms of print, why email proof after proof when perhaps a five or ten minute screen share would allow the Client to comment on what you’ve done, and allow you to make a couple of tweaks to get where they want to be. Then send the proof for sign off.

It works the other way as well. Get your Client to share their screen with you and talk them through how they access a particular service or software.  Most people learn more quickly by doing it themselves than watching someone else do it.

Skype isn’t just for business. Use it to connect with friends and family who have moved away.  We have used it for video calls to family down south and friends in Cyprus. It’s great when you have small children as relatives can see them growing and interact with them in a way you can’t on a phone call.

So what does this amazing piece of time saving software cost you? Nothing. The download is free, and as long as you are calling Skype to Skype there are no charges. So go on, give it a go today, and if you need to chat with me on Skype my user name is hstothard


  1. I'm also a huge Skype fan and I don't know if I would be able to choose one or the other regarding Twitter, they both have their powerful unique functionalities.

    I tried recording a video call the other day, that worked really well. The only challenge is how do I get to reduce the file now.

    I love the fact that you can pop in and out of conversations so freely with Skype, no one gets offended or upset if you don't respond immediately. I sometimes have 5 conversations going all at once which saves me lots of time.

    I also work with a team and just being available via Skype to shoot questions at each other or brainstorm etc. takes collaboration to a whole new level and getting a reply is so much quicker than email.

  2. Thanks for that comment Romany, I have now learned something else about Skype, I didn't realise you could record video calls! Being me I often have several conversations on the go at once, it is easy sometimes to post a message in the wrong conversation if you allow yourself to be distracted! I think the group conversation is fanastic for collaboration. The VA Support Group probably has upwards of thirty members who drop in and out of the conversation as they are able.

    Being virtual I have Clients that I have never spoken to on the phone, just via email and Skype, and its a fantastic way to keep in touch.

    I will ask around and see if I can find information on reducing the file size for you, I am sure there will be software available.

  3. Excellent, I first used skype when Living in SE Asia to save money on calling the family in the UK, must admit I do not use it as much, but as you said, with mic and speakers built in its a great little tool, I have from time to time had the HP laptop open chatting away on Skype whilst working on the Mac, its like having someone next to you, I wander off and make coffee sometimes, and keep yelling back to it, Perfect!

    Oh, and 'Video Condensing' brings up lots of free software for reducing video files!

  4. I'm using Skype to learn German! Yes, really. I couldn't find a tutor in my area but was following @german_tutor on Twitter. We gave it a try and that worked, so each week I get a German lesson from the comfort of my own desk :-) And the calls are free!

    A great tool for any business - so long as your clients/suppliers are prepared to use it.

  5. What a fantastic example of one of the alternative uses for Skype. That is such a good idea!


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