Sign up right now for email updates and get two free ebooks:

Tips for Better Skype Meetings

Since leaving the world of marketing agencies to work from home, my meetings have gone from mostly physical to mostly virtual. The vast majority of my clients over the last few years have been overseas. Whereas before I would hop on the train and go see clients, now I spend most of my time conversing using email and Skype.

While email allows a great deal of work flexibility, especially when it comes to scheduling, in many cases people like to deal with a human being directly rather than stare at text. Even for dyed in the wool internet geeks like me, holding voice meetings is a valuable skill to develop.

Here are some quick tips for better Skype conversations:

  • Add contacts as your first job – Rather than waiting till the last minute it is best to swap and add contact information before. Also share landline or mobile numbers in case Skype fails you. It does happen, bad lines, connection drops, service downtime, so best to be prepared.
  • Arrange a suitable time – Consider work schedules and timezones. Plan using a World clock service. Neither party will be on their best if the time is set too early, late, or in the middle of family time. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but it is best if participants are not yawning or distracted by kids jamming toast in the DVD player while trying to hold a conversation. Be aware also what time of day you are at your best so you can give 100%.
  • Consider Skype devices – If you do a lot of calls get a headset. They have come way down in price and the call quality does improve. Also think about being portable. My PDA and now my cell phone (Nokia n95) can also do Skype just in case I have to dash out I can still make the appointment.
  • Be there before and after – Do not come online right when the meeting is to start and stay a while afterwards. There have been many times I have been emailed 15mins beforehand to reschedule, or contacted 20mins later to correct some erroneous comment. This has saved me a lot of wasted time for the sake of extending the time you dedicate by a little.
  • Decide a duration – It is usually good to know the end time. You can go over but it means all parties are focused on making best use of the time alloted and means you do not make things drag on uncomfortably. I find when a duration is set the last 1/3 of the meeting achieves way more than with no end point.
  • Do your research – You might have arranged the call to be open ended but there is almost always some basic information you can gather before hand. Do not waste time finding out stuff you could have known already. Have key information to hand, especially costs and stats.
  • Know who you will be talking to – What does this person do? How knowledgeable are they? Discover the limits of their responsibility, are they in charge? Do not expect an entry level person to make decisions there and then. See if any other people will be joining or can be on hand.
  • Create a scope – Know what they want. Know what you want. Decide what the meeting is about and not about.
  • Listen – You know the saying, you were given one mouth and two ears – talk and listen in that ratio!
  • Turn off email and other distractions – If the other person hears you tappity-tappity they know you are not giving 100% to the call.
  • Decide actions – If there is to be any use to the meeting then you either need to share information or get something done. Create actions including who, what, where, when, how.
  • Make notes – Do not rely on your memory. Inevitably you will be distracted or delayed and forget. Some people record all their calls, I prefer to make notes. Either way, know exactly what was said and what you need to do.
  • Follow up – You do not have to share detailed notes but if you agree on something it is always good to send an email and get the other party to confirm. It’s very easy for everyone to go away happily ignorant that there were differing ideas of what was said until it is too late.
  • Follow through – Meetings are not a replacement for doing! If you agree to something, make sure you do it.

Those are my tips, I bet you have your own. Please do share how you make Skype and telephone calls work better ๐Ÿ™‚

Sign up right now for email updates and get these
two free ebooks

"Creating Killer
Flagship Content"

"Authority Alliances"

Just enter your primary email address in the form below and hit the button!

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!

Comments

  1. Oh boy, does this post ever come at a timely moment. We’re currently deciding what to do about telephone calls.

    Thing is, we *get* why people want to talk to us. What we don’t appreciate are the clients who abuse the privilege badly.

    Most of the clients who call me enjoy talking for over an hour – now, I’m all for socializing, but two or three calls in a day completely derails any other work I have to get out. Your tip on setting times BEFORE clients call is great – never thought of that.

    Another issue is availability and time zones. While I tell all my clients I’m located in EST and my availability for calls (like, specific office hours), I have people calling me at 11pm at night, waking me up, or calling at 6am, waking everyone else up in my household. Not cool, people. And these are people that *know* that I’m sleeping!

    Not asking if it’s a good time to call is another issue. Many people just pick up the phone and dial. I may be busy. I may be in a meeting. I may be on the road. They get upset when I’m not home, not available, or when they hit my answering machine. A quick, “Hey, can I call,” via email or IM would solve that problem. Sheesh.

    Unproductive calls get my back up. Many times, a five-minute phone call can spare someone typing an hour. But when the calls ramble, are unfocused, trip over too many unrelated topics or cover WAY too many topics in one call and then require a bullet point list email to summarize everything, there’s a problem.

    As for Skype – okay, Skype is cheap. I get that. But I’m sorry, I don’t enjoy talking to my computer speaking into a microphone. I like to pace when I talk (for some reason, when I sit down I can’t think), and I like the familiarity of a phone (I’m not AGED, but I’ve been using a phone for over 30 years). Landline calls really aren’t that expensive. My phone plan lets me talk to Australia from Canada for an hour for $15. So why do people get upset when I say I don’t Skype?

    Phone calls are a problem. They’re time wasters and money wasters when the opportunity is abused. We’ve been considering turning calls into a billable service – one hour free, every other minute charged – to reduce the problems they create.

    [end rant – thank you for listening. Feel free to chip in and comment.]

  2. Oh boy, does this post ever come at a timely moment. We’re currently deciding what to do about telephone calls.

    Thing is, we *get* why people want to talk to us. What we don’t appreciate are the clients who abuse the privilege badly.

    Most of the clients who call me enjoy talking for over an hour – now, I’m all for socializing, but two or three calls in a day completely derails any other work I have to get out. Your tip on setting times BEFORE clients call is great – never thought of that.

    Another issue is availability and time zones. While I tell all my clients I’m located in EST and my availability for calls (like, specific office hours), I have people calling me at 11pm at night, waking me up, or calling at 6am, waking everyone else up in my household. Not cool, people. And these are people that *know* that I’m sleeping!

    Not asking if it’s a good time to call is another issue. Many people just pick up the phone and dial. I may be busy. I may be in a meeting. I may be on the road. They get upset when I’m not home, not available, or when they hit my answering machine. A quick, “Hey, can I call,” via email or IM would solve that problem. Sheesh.

    Unproductive calls get my back up. Many times, a five-minute phone call can spare someone typing an hour. But when the calls ramble, are unfocused, trip over too many unrelated topics or cover WAY too many topics in one call and then require a bullet point list email to summarize everything, there’s a problem.

    As for Skype – okay, Skype is cheap. I get that. But I’m sorry, I don’t enjoy talking to my computer speaking into a microphone. I like to pace when I talk (for some reason, when I sit down I can’t think), and I like the familiarity of a phone (I’m not AGED, but I’ve been using a phone for over 30 years). Landline calls really aren’t that expensive. My phone plan lets me talk to Australia from Canada for an hour for $15. So why do people get upset when I say I don’t Skype?

    Phone calls are a problem. They’re time wasters and money wasters when the opportunity is abused. We’ve been considering turning calls into a billable service – one hour free, every other minute charged – to reduce the problems they create.

    [end rant – thank you for listening. Feel free to chip in and comment.]

  3. You can get wireless headsets and even dedicated Skype phones for the walking around thing ๐Ÿ™‚ I have had those late night calls too, not cool, especially with young kids in the house.

    My calls are charged for similar reasons but mostly because a number of people grilled me for ideas and advice without considering that I charge for consultancy.

    I also get a lot of people emailing me asking me to call just giving me their local numbers, sometimes not even saying why or who or where they are. Skype solves those issues because if it is not on you can’t be contacted and there are no telephone number hurdles ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. You can get wireless headsets and even dedicated Skype phones for the walking around thing ๐Ÿ™‚ I have had those late night calls too, not cool, especially with young kids in the house.

    My calls are charged for similar reasons but mostly because a number of people grilled me for ideas and advice without considering that I charge for consultancy.

    I also get a lot of people emailing me asking me to call just giving me their local numbers, sometimes not even saying why or who or where they are. Skype solves those issues because if it is not on you can’t be contacted and there are no telephone number hurdles ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I hear you on the consultation charges – that’s another reason we’re considering billing calls.

    Hands-free headsets sound good. I guess the issue isn’t really about phone calls per se, but getting the *most* out of phone calls and a show of respect and common courtesy for those who do prefer voice over text. Funny how people forget manners.

    Thanks for listening, honestly. It’s been one of those topics simmering in my head lol

  6. I hear you on the consultation charges – that’s another reason we’re considering billing calls.

    Hands-free headsets sound good. I guess the issue isn’t really about phone calls per se, but getting the *most* out of phone calls and a show of respect and common courtesy for those who do prefer voice over text. Funny how people forget manners.

    Thanks for listening, honestly. It’s been one of those topics simmering in my head lol

  7. Interesting to read James’ take on this. It certainly doesn’t seem like his issue is with Skype, because you rightly point out, Chris, that there are ways around his objections.

    James, getting the most out of phone calls would make for an interesting blog post. At a quick glance I didn’t notice one like that on your blog.

    I hope you both have a great 2008.

  8. Interesting to read James’ take on this. It certainly doesn’t seem like his issue is with Skype, because you rightly point out, Chris, that there are ways around his objections.

    James, getting the most out of phone calls would make for an interesting blog post. At a quick glance I didn’t notice one like that on your blog.

    I hope you both have a great 2008.

  9. Chris,

    Great tips. I use a USB headset for my Skype meetings but I have to admit that I also prefer to be on a wireless so that I can walk around.

    I have found that webinars can be extremely effective as well, when applicable of course.

    By the way, are you back in Canada now? I’m in Toronto, born and raised.

  10. Chris,

    Great tips. I use a USB headset for my Skype meetings but I have to admit that I also prefer to be on a wireless so that I can walk around.

    I have found that webinars can be extremely effective as well, when applicable of course.

    By the way, are you back in Canada now? I’m in Toronto, born and raised.

  11. Does anyone else have connection speed issues? Here in Sleepy Hollow, I mean South Africa, our fastest connection is around 1 mbps and really unreliable.

    I’ve tried Skype video a couple of times, and have quickly given up and gone back to typing messages.

  12. Does anyone else have connection speed issues? Here in Sleepy Hollow, I mean South Africa, our fastest connection is around 1 mbps and really unreliable.

    I’ve tried Skype video a couple of times, and have quickly given up and gone back to typing messages.

  13. Funny, all this sounds like good advice for regular conference calls. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, these are all great points. I’ve been doing most of these already without thinking about it too much, it just seems like the right thing to do in order to be courteous and professional.

    Thanks for that link to the clock service. That’s very handy.

    SkypeOut is cheap enough for me to offer to call clients. It’s a nice touch that they don’t have to make the call for an initial consultation or subsequent calls.

  14. Funny, all this sounds like good advice for regular conference calls. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, these are all great points. I’ve been doing most of these already without thinking about it too much, it just seems like the right thing to do in order to be courteous and professional.

    Thanks for that link to the clock service. That’s very handy.

    SkypeOut is cheap enough for me to offer to call clients. It’s a nice touch that they don’t have to make the call for an initial consultation or subsequent calls.

  15. David, the minute I finished my rant I realized I had a great topic for some blogging. I should have some up by Monday and I’ll drop a link in here. Thanks for reading, too!

    As far as sketchy connections, I’m often facing dialup at 26.4kbps – I live in the rural backwoods of Quebec, so high speed connections are considered luxury items around here. I’m good at home and can rip along, but when I’m elsewhere… drraaaggg…

  16. David, the minute I finished my rant I realized I had a great topic for some blogging. I should have some up by Monday and I’ll drop a link in here. Thanks for reading, too!

    As far as sketchy connections, I’m often facing dialup at 26.4kbps – I live in the rural backwoods of Quebec, so high speed connections are considered luxury items around here. I’m good at home and can rip along, but when I’m elsewhere… drraaaggg…

  17. These are great tips for web conferencing of any kind.

  18. These are great tips for web conferencing of any kind.

  19. Something to add on the non-geek side of things would be to spend some time each call building rapport with you client…and especially on that first call. It may seem elementary but for a non-geek who spends quite a bit of time talking to the more technically minded around the world it’s such a time saver to feel comfortable with whom you’re speaking.

  20. Something to add on the non-geek side of things would be to spend some time each call building rapport with you client…and especially on that first call. It may seem elementary but for a non-geek who spends quite a bit of time talking to the more technically minded around the world it’s such a time saver to feel comfortable with whom you’re speaking.

  21. Hi,

    My clients are spread across the +0200 to -0700 timezones. I reside in +0000 (Canary Islands) and I like my personal time-off not being interrupted. Some bullets from my humble wisdom:

    * I only take calls on appointment and on agenda. I usually call
    the client by dialing directly or RebTel.com or Skype Out (with a
    wireless phoneset)
    * The incoming line goes directly to an answering machine.
    * If a project requires 24/7 support, I arrange that someone takes
    care of this (not me). I might be available during a ‘hot’ project phase, though.
    * No free consultancy. All calls are being paid for my time (directly within the deal or indirectly, because it will lead to
    some sort of sale (I wouldn’t discuss other matters)).
    * I usually got all my clients to stick to written communication for the most part, since I produce ‘top material’, there are not much questions left. And I benefited from long term clients.

    ** Anyway I’ll changing towards more standardized products away from ‘custom consulting’ in 2008. I used to travel to see my clients in person at least twice a year. But I don’t want to travel for business so much anymore. Want to travel more with my wife.

    ** I really should and will get into Webinars.

    John.
    Successful 2008 for everybody.

  22. Hi,

    My clients are spread across the +0200 to -0700 timezones. I reside in +0000 (Canary Islands) and I like my personal time-off not being interrupted. Some bullets from my humble wisdom:

    * I only take calls on appointment and on agenda. I usually call
    the client by dialing directly or RebTel.com or Skype Out (with a
    wireless phoneset)
    * The incoming line goes directly to an answering machine.
    * If a project requires 24/7 support, I arrange that someone takes
    care of this (not me). I might be available during a ‘hot’ project phase, though.
    * No free consultancy. All calls are being paid for my time (directly within the deal or indirectly, because it will lead to
    some sort of sale (I wouldn’t discuss other matters)).
    * I usually got all my clients to stick to written communication for the most part, since I produce ‘top material’, there are not much questions left. And I benefited from long term clients.

    ** Anyway I’ll changing towards more standardized products away from ‘custom consulting’ in 2008. I used to travel to see my clients in person at least twice a year. But I don’t want to travel for business so much anymore. Want to travel more with my wife.

    ** I really should and will get into Webinars.

    John.
    Successful 2008 for everybody.