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 🙂