Seven tips for organizing Skype conference calls
Media development expert Alaksiej Lavoncyk, who previously gave IJNet tips on how to use Google Calendar, offers this advice on making successful Skype conference calls.
Although tools like Skype, Google Talk and Google Documents are the most-widely used remote communication applications in the world, knowing about them doesn't necessarily make you an effective user. I frequently find that people are unable to organize online conference calls although they have Skype and know how to launch a conference.
The issue is either bad team organization or a participant's slow connection. Skype runs at the speed of the slowest user, so once someone fails to connect or contribute, the whole conference goes astray.
Here are my recommendations, bearing in mind that a lot of it is common sense.
When organizing remote communication for a team that is constantly on-the-go, ensure that you use the least broadband-consuming option. Mobile versions of Skype and other voice messengers overload unstable mobile channels and are frequently not optimized to work with weak mobile processors. If you have a long contact list, the phone may freeze when loading Skype or during the call - often a problem with iPhones and iPads. The solution is to avoid original versions of the voice messengers like Skype and use text-only substitutes like IM or Jabber instead - they support only text but they will never freeze.
If you're on a mobile device, synchronize it with just one email account. If you use more than one, enable it to redirect to an email account synched to your phone. iPads and Nokia phones can freeze up when synching more than two mail accounts - especially with a lot of email.
Avoid push technology, which delivers the message to your device the same minute it arrives (like Blackberry or iPads). Use a regular "check mail" option every 30 minutes or go manual - the last option is a hassle but saves a lot of data traffic and your battery.
From Android smartphones, create a Google Calendar appointment from your phone. All participants will receive this appointment or meeting as an email and can save it straight to their own calendars. Non-Android users can still log in to the mobile version of Google Calendar and create appointments from their phones. Everyone invited will receive email notifications.
If you need to send screenshots, try Jing - a free software that allows you to snap a screenshot with just a shortcut click. Once you've got the screenshot, send it with Skype's "send file" function.
To run a Skype conference, you obviously need the original Skype client on your laptop or phone. However, if you're working from a slow channel or have a limited data allowance, ask someone else with more bandwidth to host, since that person's computer acts as a server which runs all conference traffic. So if you as the conference member run just 1 MB per 2 minutes, the conference host will run this amount multiplied by the number of conference participants - which can also get expensive.
A final reminder: Never send files to a Skype group. It takes loads of time to transfer; use email or send it to each Skype member separately.