December 6, 2012

Become a Skype Pro in 9 Steps

 

I use Skype several times a week to communicate with the various pastors and leaders I provide ongoing coaching to. Once we work out the logistics, it is almost always a great way to meet together without the expense and extra time necessary for travel, food and lodging. I highly recommend it. In fact, in the past year I have successfully utilized Skype not only for one-on-one coaching, but also for team coaching (2-10 individuals) and workshops for as many as 15 people.

That said, I’ve also discovered a few things that new Skype users should consider and look into before setting up Skype appointments. Feel free to email me with any further questions you may have.

1. Make sure you have the latest version of Skype.

This is important. Skype works hard at fixing call difficulties with every upgrade. If you’re running an older version of Skype, you risk having more difficulties during your call. To check your version, select Help/Check for Update.

2. If possible, don’t use a laptop webcam.

Laptop webcams are traditionally difficult to use for a myriad of reasons. The main reason I don’t recommend laptop webcams is the mobility issue. It can be difficult to get your image centered properly for the other Skype caller, as well as have the picture on the screen where you want it so you can see well. Also, often the microphone on laptops can be difficult to work with and will sometimes create feedback for the other user.

Webcams are pretty cheap now ($30-$50), and it’s well worth the cost for even just a couple of Skype calls. Your standard webcam will come bundled with a microphone, so you’re getting a quality upgrade for both audio and video at the same time.

3. Check Audio/Video settings before your Skype call.

Go into Tools/Options before each Skype session and ensure your Audio Settings and Video Settings are set to the right webcam.

4. Make sure your computer isn’t doing stuff or using the Internet during your call.

Often, the reason a Skype call is interrupted is because your computer is trying to use the Internet or doing other tasks in the background. Make sure these background tasks have been paused during the call. For example, I have both Dropbox and Carbonite backup on my computer. I make sure they are both either paused or closed so they don’t try to sync during the Skype call. Common background tasks to look for include virus scans, Microsoft Security Essentials scans, security update downloads, online backups, and synchronization services like Dropbox, Outlook sync, etc.

Finally, close unnecessary programs and browser windows during your phone call. I use Microsoft Outlook a lot and will often close it down during the call so it doesn’t start looking for mail and downloading attachments during the call, taking up Internet bandwidth and computer capacity.

5. If possible, don’t use wireless Internet during the call.

You won’t always have this as an option, but if it’s easy to plug in a wired Internet connection during your Skype call, do so.

6. Check your Internet plan.

If you consistently have problems with Skype calls, it could be that your Internet plan with your service provider needs to be upgraded. Call your Internet provider and find out what your upload/download speeds are and ensure they are fast enough for video calls.

7. If you have echo problems, check the speaker settings.

Sometimes I’ll experience a problem with echos, where I can hear myself through the other user’s speakers or they can hear themselves through my speakers. Often, this is because there are several options for speakers and you must select the appropriate one for Skype to work, e.g. if you have laptop speakers but are also using separate speakers plugged into your laptop or connected to an external monitor. In these scenarios, go into Tools/Options and check Speakers in the Audio Settings.

Also, sound problems can be dealt with by ensuring you are in a quiet location. Additionally, the closer your microphone is to your mouth and the further your microphone is from the speakers the better.

8. Spend the first two minutes of your call checking voice/video.

When you first start the call, ask your caller if the can hear you and see you well. Check the quality on your end as well. If there are problems, check some of your settings on each end. You may want to quickly exchange phone numbers if there seems to be difficulties so you can call each other if the call gets dropped. On occasion, call problems can be fixed by dropping the call and making the call again.

9. Check out the short troubleshooting videos on the Skype website.

Skype is committed to helping its customers have a positive experience. Check out this page on their website to see if you can learn other tips to ensure your Skype calls work well.

Hope that helps. Happy Skyping!

Originally Published: December 6, 2012
Category: Technology
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