While group video conferencing grabs the headlines, group texting on Skype is a relatively unknown and under-utilised feature.
Skype is most often used in a one-to-one basis, whether phone, text or video call. But it is also possible to set up a Skype Conversation, which is a chat session with more than one person.
The advantage of Skype Conversations is that you can set it up with a regular group of people, such as employees in different offices or a bunch of suppliers and keep it running indefinitely. Skype will notify you every time there’s a new message.
I have been in one Skype Conversation with 18 participants including analysts, journalists and technology pioneers for about six months now. It can be quite a social affair – Skype will suddenly start pinging away with messages as a discussion flares up about a new technology or upcoming conference.
Managing the conversation
Skype doesn’t publicise the Conversation function and it’s likely that a lot of people in highly active Skype Conversations think they have to suffer a barrage of message notifications from Skype or leave the group completely.
There are in fact options to make it easier to participate at a lower level without walking away. Right-clicking on the conversation name in the right-hand side bar lets you leave, delete the conversation or mark it all as read. A notifications setting allows or stops all notifications which sound every time someone posts a comment (in a group of 18 that can be quite often!).
A clever, third setting will only notify a Skype user if certain words are mentioned; the user types the word or phrase into a text box. The obvious step is to add your own name so that Skype pings you only when members of the conversation call you out directly.
A checkbox also lets you mark all unread messages as read immediately.
Alternatives to Skype Conversations
Skype was originally built to make cheap voice calls. Video and chat came later, and the feature set reflects its design history. More modern, purpose-built chat applications for businesses include Microsoft Yammer, HipChat and (the latest kid on the block) Slack.
These apps add features such as persistent chat rooms or channels (a more developed concept than the Skype Conversation), and searchable and archivable chat history. The goal is to remove the need for internal emails.
Skype’s killer advantage is that everyone has Skype. You don’t need to ask a supplier or customer to sign up to a new communications tool, so the barrier to setting up a group conversation is that much lower.
Image credit: Guru3d