Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Skype is a text, audio, and video chat program that allows you to connect with people online. With the right setup, it can be a great tool for private or professional video conferences. However, as with any tool, there are pitfalls that can be avoided by preparing properly. This article will walk you through the basic preparations that should precede any use of Skype and it will conclude with specific tips for video conferences.
Video chat requires quite significant resources from your computer. Not only does video consume memory, graphics, and CPU power, it also requires internet bandwidth. Hence, before you join a video conference, make sure sufficient resources are available for a smooth experience.
Tip 1: Close Programs that Consume Computer Resources
The most problematic resource here is the CPU, but also the RAM can slow down Skype and as a result cause lag and interferences in your connection. As a side effect of decreasing the load on your computer, your CPU won’t run so warm and your fan can relax a little. This will result in less background noise and better audio quality.
Tip 2: Quit Anything that Eats Up Internet Bandwidth
This includes other computers using the same network, videos buffering the the background, or programs downloading or uploading files.
Once your computer is ready, you can focus on your Skype setup. Be sure to test and optimize your audio and video settings to present yourself from your best side during a Skype video conference.
Tip 3: Test and Adjust Your Audio Settings
In a video conference, great video quality is worth nothing without matching audio. The audio quality is actually much more important. So test your microphone and speakers, and make a test call with Skype or a friend to ensure top performance and quality. You can find the audio settings in Skype under > Tools > General. The free test call option allows you to hear yourself and your background noise.
Tip 4: Use a Headset or Headphones to Avoid Echo
Even though Skype is doing a tremendous job with handling echo, the audio quality will be better if you use a headset or simply headphones. If you have in-ear headphones, you can hide the cord by draping it off the back of your ear and down your back. Using a headset will automatically reduce background noise from your computer. It will also allow you to be closer to the microphone, which further reduces interferences.
Tip 5: Test and Adjust your Camera
While the audio quality should be your foremost concern, you shouldn’t neglect video. Skype can be delicate with video, hence it is important to test it. As with the audio settings, you will find video settings under > Tools > General.
Click Webcam settings to play with the options. However, you don’t have to do it, as the default settings are pretty good. Just make sure Skype actually detects your webcam and shows a video.
If Skype is not detecting your webcam, have a look at this article: How To Troubleshoot When Skype Has No Video [Windows]
Tip 6: Optimize Your Room Lightening
Light is another important factor. Your chat partner will want to see you. Webcam settings can do only so much. They can hardly make up for bad light. So test your video settings under similar light conditions as you are expecting for the video conference. Then prepare light solutions that will literally allow you to present yourself in the best light.
Tip 7: Adjust Your Camera Angle
Now that you can see yourself, set up your camera so it shows you from a good angle. Or in other words: from your best side. Ideally, you will set up the camera so you can look straight at it while speaking and give your conversation partners the feeling as if you are looking them straight in the eyes. This can be a powerful way to maintain their attention while you are talking.
Tip 8: Prepare Your Room
Remember that your camera doesn’t just show you, it also shows whatever is behind you. You can take this into account while selecting the camera position. Or you could simply clean up your room or at least the part of the background that can be seen in your video.
Tip 9: Practice Your Speaking Speed and Volume
Speaking during a video conference isn’t necessarily easier than speaking to a real audience and you will probably be just as nervous. However, this situation is a lot easier to practice as you will be in a familiar surrounding. So take advantage of this benefit and record yourself to practice speaking speed and volume. A firm voice and an appropriate amount of words per minute can make all the difference in whether or not your listeners will actually comprehend what you are saying.
Tip 10: Mind Lag and Delays
Your counterparts may not have prepared as well for the conference call as you have. Or maybe your own internet connection is challenged despite your preparations. So keep in mind that there can be lag and delays. Try not to cut others off while they are speaking and give them the opportunity to ask questions without having to interrupt you.
If you want to record the video conference, you may find this article helpful: How To Use Skype To Record Calls or Conduct Interviews with HotRecorder (Windows)
Skype is available for Android or iOS, meaning you don’t have to stay home to take the call. Learn here How To Make Skype Video Calls On Your Android Honeycomb Tablet.
What did you find improved your Skype video conferences? Share your tips with us!