Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

Tips to help you ace a Skype meeting

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Many agencies are cutting their travel budgets to accommodate cuts in their annual budgets. Because of this trend, more meetings that would require travel will likely be replaced with Skype meetings.

To impress your colleagues and managers on Skype:

  • Be serious. Treat Skype meetings just as seriously as you treat in-person meetings, and primp just as professionally for them as you would for in-person meetings.
  • Know your fellow Skypers. When your Skype meeting is planned, collect the name, title and contact info of each participant.
  • Check your technology. A few days before your meeting, check that your Skype technology works and that you have all necessary codes for your impending Skype connection. Obtain a backup telephone number for reaching your fellow Skypers in case your Skype connection fails.
  • Be punctual. Check the time zone of your scheduled meeting, and “show up” on time. Log onto your Skype call early enough to troubleshoot any technical glitches and to participate in pre-meeting chit-chat, just as you might before an in-person meeting. Plan your schedule for the possibility that your meeting will run overtime.
  • Be aware of Skype’s constraints. Most movie cameras, including Skype cameras, flatten the appearance of their subjects. Also, it may be difficult to make eye contact with fellow Skypers because your eyes will probably be drawn to the images of your fellow Skypers appearing on your computer screen, but you will be filmed by your Skype camera that probably is positioned above your screen. So unless you make adjustments for this, your fellow Skypers will only see you looking down or sideways.
  • Practice so that you learn how to conquer these and other Skype constraints. Skype in advance with a trusted adviser, and solicit feedback about how you come across. Also, tape and review your practice Skype sessions.

Such practice should help teach you how to convey an appropriate level of animation and speak at an appropriate volume; strategically position your Skype camera and effectively illuminate your Skype area; pose yourself so that you look natural and professional; maintain enough distance from your Skype camera so that you do not appear to your fellow Skypers as a giant talking head; and make effective eye contact with your fellow Skypers by looking straight into your Skype camera whenever you speak. (But you may watch the images of your fellow Skypers on your computer screen as they speak.) Also, if you are planning to take notes or refer to notes during the meeting, practice occasionally lifting your head and looking into your camera for prolonged periods so that your fellow Skypers will see more than the top of your head during the meeting.

  • Prepare your meeting room. Clean up your Skype workspace. Except for a backup telephone, unplug noisy devices, such as clocks, TVs, radios and unnecessary electronic communication devices. Remove people and pets from the room and prominently post a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
  • Don’t blather on. Because you and the other participants will be deprived of some of the telling physical cues of face-to-face interactions, occasionally ask your fellow Skypers if they would like further clarification or more information about particular issues.
  • Check in during silences. If you must pause before answering a question, say, “Excuse me, but I must think about this for a moment.” That way, your fellow Skypers won’t think that your Skype camera has frozen.
  • Follow up. Send each new colleague or manager you “met” during the Skype meeting an email to let them know you enjoyed meeting them and to pass on your contact info and any appropriate follow-up materials or updates.