Designed to Connect: Video Conferencing with Skype

by Susan Welker, AIA

Texas Architects New Media Committee, Chair

Simplistic in its features, video conferencing like Skype, can benefit your firm by allowing people to place both audio and video calls to each other, call ordinary phones, and send SMS messages.

A. SIMPLISTIC
With most electronic devices already equipped with a camera and microphone, the hardest part of getting started with Skype is the download.  With a three-step process, you can be video chatting in no time.  This link provides a “Skype for Dummies” install instructions. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-download-and-install-skype.html  .  After you install the software on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you will be asked to place a test call to see if your camera and microphone are working correctly.  Congratulations, you can now request from your friends or colleagues their “Skype name” and contact them via Skype.  My Skype name is "Ladyaia" if you want to try it out with someone you know.

B. BENEFITS
In addition to placing free long distance calls; you can video chat with anyone in the world.  Calls placed to international numbers costs a few cents a minute, but more on that later.  But what benefits can you gain from video conferencing for your firm?  I found that I can interview a potential candidate for a position, place calls to vendors or other consultants not local to your firm, and host group video meetings, free of charge.  This year, our Texas Architects New Media Committee experimented with Group Video Chats for our monthly “conference calls” and found them to be very successful.  Not only were we able to put a face with a name more quickly, we could “show and tell” different items from digitizers to iPad connectors.  We even found that “spur of the moment” demonstrations happened that would not have occurred in our previous audio-only conference calls.   Some of our committee members have been able to attend committee meeting via Skype from the airport or jobsite using this same application on their smartphone.

Another benefit I found was the ability to make my office global as I transferred calls through a Skype number to receive those calls in Copenhagen, London, Boston, Chicago, and Hawaii last year on either business or pleasure. 

C. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
Video chatting, as I commonly refer to it, helps build strong relationships with your network of business people. Responding to a face, as well as a voice, is more personal and quickly builds a connection to someone that audio conferencing fails to provide as quickly. You can even share your computer screen with another person or group and transfer files in real time while conducting a very thorough meeting.

Video conferencing is simple with Skype, Google+Talk, Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting or Webex.  Try each and determine which works best for you.  The following is a case study on Skype for Business use by International Architects Lewis & Hickey http://about.skype.com/press/2007/01/skype_for_business_takes_lewis.html

Susan H. Welker, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is a principal architect with the Austin office of Harris Welker Architects. She chairs the Texas Architects New Media Committee.