Tips for Using Skype for Meetings or Interviews

This week, my blog post about Relationship Dramas can be seen over at Coaching Confidence (click here)

So, instead this guest post was provided by Erin Palmer – a writer and editor with Bisk Education. Erin works with the online programs for prestigious universities such as Villanova University. Erin can be reached on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.


With much of the public sector facing spending cuts, alternatives need to be explored to remain productive and efficient while staying under the bottom line. Once such tool, video conferencing, is changing the way we do business by reducing travel and training-related expenses. Instead of dealing with mileage reimbursement and hotel bills, video conferencing helps to efficiently use time and energy within a lower budget.

One of the most popular video conferencing services being used is Skype. The software application provides a lot of services including free phone calls to landlines, but its video conferencing feature has grown in popularity. As is with any new endeavor, there are some tips to follow that will make your first (or next) meeting run a little smoother.

Make your environment distraction-free

With so many gadgets and devices floating around your workspace, something is bound to make a noise, light up or pull your attention away from the meeting. Remember that the other individuals participating in the meeting can see you. Remove clutter from your desk, make sure unnecessary electronics are turned off and keep people from coming into the office while conferencing. Be respectful of other’s time.

Dress appropriately

Don’t forget to look professional. Just because you’re not meeting in person doesn’t mean you aren’t making an impression. Dress as if you were actually going into a face-to-face meeting and make sure to do a spot check before you go live. Having a ketchup stain on your shirt or being dressed in pajamas is not appropriate.

Choose the right meeting time

Give careful consideration to the time you schedule the meeting. Too early or too late in the day both have their downfalls (both lend to less interaction from the group as they wake up or are winding down). If you’re working across different time zones, remember to account for the time difference and try to accommodate everyone.

Create specific parameters for the meeting duration

Letting everyone know how long a meeting is going to last will help keep everyone focused and moving forward on the meeting objectives. Be clear on a start time and sign in early, especially if you are running the show. It’s okay if the meeting runs a little long, but don’t keep everyone on if you’re only having a discussion with one individual.

Prepare materials and add contacts beforehand

Being organized before the meeting is very important. Have key statistics or data nearby that you can reference when needed. It is a waste of everyone’s time if you are trying to search for an important number or file while everyone is waiting on you. Moreover, sending an outline or other specific data to attendees beforehand will help to keep the meeting on point. This allows the other participates to generate questions beforehand and makes it easier to get lively participation.

Equally important is getting contact information, ideally before the meeting starts. Include alternative phone numbers should there be a problem with Skype or the connection. Being able to quickly reach other participants in the event of a problem will help salvage meetings and relationships.

Make sure that your speakers/microphones are in working order

It is vital to make sure everything you need for the video conference is working before it starts. Test everything with someone at the office so you know everything sounds and looks good. If you’ll be video conferencing on a regular basis, consider upgrading your microphone, getting a better camera, or buying a headset.

Listen intently

Remember that you’re on camera, so you should be paying close attention and listening to everything happening in the meeting. Be aware of your facial expressions and always be engaged. You’re on camera, so some physical cues like nodding and smiling will let the others know that you’re listening.

Skype and other video conferencing programs can really help the public sector cut down on costs without sacrificing productivity. Using proper meeting etiquette will help make video conferences just as effective and successful as in-house meetings.

These interview tips were provided by Villanova University’s online HR programs. Villanova offers human resources courses in addition to a Master’s Degree in Human Resources that is available 100% online. For more information please visit


How to ruin staff side relationships

FlipChary Fairy Tales had an intersting blog post last week on the CIPD’s position to ban union strikes.  The blog makes reference to a CIPD comment that staff side relationships in the public sector are the worst they have ever been.

This got me thinking, as I have to work with a lot of local and regional representatives on a day to day basis around the country.  What I have observed is that the staff side relationships depend on the culture and philosophy of the leaders in the organisation, and primarily the HRD.

This is my list of things that I consider are behaviours or actions that ruin or sustain poor relationship with the unions.

1.  Refuse to compromise, ever.   And avoid all use of pragmatism.

2. View all TUs with suspicion and let this impact your behaviours with them

3. Being unable to justify the business reason for an organisational change, particularly the radical ones.

4. Use language that is too subtle for the message to be heard.  When the change is then announced, it comes as a surprise!

5. Don’t listen to staff.

6. Listen to staff and don’t take action.

7. Listen to staff, make promises and then break them by making a U-turn decision.

8. Take an aggressive approach to policy negotiation, the management of sickness absence or disciplinary issues.

9.  Fail to give the TU’s the “head’s-up” when a significant change is about to be communicated.

10.  Fail to recognise the value that some TU reps bring to the table.

I’ve always advocated good relationships with staff side.  Perhaps it’s because my Dad used to be Chair of his local staff side committee and is now an active TU pensioner?  Perhaps it’s because my uncle was an old-guard Labour MP?  In reality, I think it’s more down to my belief that it’s beneficial to the organisation if the HR Department acts in a way that is fair, listens to it’s staff, is honest and transparent.

We’re going to have interesting times ahead if we continue to demonstrate inappropriate behaviours.  When times are tough, we need to the support of the unions, and alienating them will just make our jobs harder.