Tips from T.Marie is happy to offer the following guest post by Kathy Finsterle.
Like most innovations, Skype is constantly adapting to fit the needs of its users. Recently, Skype revealed a new application aptly named “Skype for Business” that is designed to connect businesses and their members not just socially but in ways that are especially useful for work collaborations. With the new features in Skype for business, you can share your screen with other members of your office, organize video, audio, and chat meetings with up to 250 people at a time, and share different media files easily without having to use email. In addition to all of that, Skype for business has powerful authentication and encryption features that can protect any information that is being transmitted over the app.
We are currently using Skype for business in my office and I cannot say enough about its benefits. If you’ve never used it before you may we wondering how you could integrate it into your work life.
The first thing that you need to know is that Skype for business is compatible with other Skypes users and also people that aren’t using the app via phone and free web app. If they have a phone or a computer, then they can connect with you via Skype for business although you may have to do some explaining. If whomever you’re communicating with does not want to download the app, then you can direct them to the Skype Meetings App where they can get the plug-in. Once they have the plug-in, they can search your name and request to “Join the meeting,” or vice-versa.
Next, you should understand how Skype for Business and Microsoft Outlook work in tandem. If you are using an Outlook calendar, then your meetings and appointments will automatically update your status in Skype for business from “Available,” to “Busy,” or “In a Meeting.” I suggest overriding this default s by clicking the drop-down menu under your name where it says “Available” and selecting a different status. It will remain manually set until you change it or return to the default settings.
While we’re on the subject of Outlook, there is another useful communication feature that has not always been available with chat (especially if you remember the days of AOL chat many, many years ago). With Skype for business you can revisit your conversation history. If you need to access an old conversation, you can simply open up Outlook and in the sidebar under your “Inbox,” scroll down to “Conversation History,” and there you have it.
You can also send files within a conversation effectively doing away with email. You can just drag and drop files into the text window (where you would type) and send them instantly. Within the text window, you can select your preferred means of communication. In our office it’s chat because when you’re working in cubicles it creates the least amount of disturbance. Depending on the personal preference of the people that you work with, it could be the phone icon which is second in the lower taskbar followed by the video preview feature.
A video camera, like the app itself, is not a requirement to participate in video calls and online meetings. If you do not have a camera set up you will appear as a generic blue icon. If you do have a camera, then you will need to set it up within the app. Do so by clicking “Options,” on the right hand side of the upper taskbar and selecting “Tools,” then “Video Device Settings.” If your camera is connected properly then the app should automatically detect it and display your video.
Video conferences are best planned beforehand. Most people don’t want to be surprised with a face-to-face meeting. As a courtesy to others, choose your video calls carefully. Is it absolutely necessary that you see them face-to-face? Or is it possible that you can present by video and not require others to do the same?
If you want to record a meeting, then within the window select “Options” and “Start recording.” It will store your video or audio under the “Tools,” menu in the “Recording Manager.” Using this feature you can send recordings of meetings to people who couldn’t be in attendance which can be played using Windows Media Player.
Now let’s talk about my personal favorite, the share feature. The present icon is the fourth in the lower taskbar of your chat window and looks expectedly like a computer screen. You can share your computer screen (both of them) and also allow the person on the other end to gain control. Once they accept the presentation, a taskbar will appear at the top of the screen you’re sharing and you should select “Give Control.” Again, this does away with email since you can share your work without ever having to send a file. You can also elect to share only certain things. If you’ve got a spreadsheet you need feedback on but don’t want to share your entire desktop, click the present feature and select “Programs,” and share from specific applications. Now, I don’t personally use the Powerpoint, Whiteboard, Poll, or Q&A features that are also presentable so there isn’t much I can say without experience, only that those features are available and might be useful to you.
Skype for business is changing workplace communication for the better by allowing us to streamline our collaborations into one application, manage our past work and history, and most importantly to interact in “real time,” and get close to instantaneous feedback and responses. Consider it the future of the digital workplace.