So, dear reader, you want to learn how to present with Skype? Well, you’re in luck! You’ve stumbled across the latest in our series about using popular video calling platforms to make remote sales presentations.
If you’re new around here, we’re using the following criteria to test a range of video conferencing alternatives:
- How easy is it for you, the presenter, to use?
Can you schedule that call at a moment's notice? How easy is it for you to present your screen once you're in there?
- How easy is it for your prospects on the other end of the call to use?
Is it easy for them to start the call and their camera at their discretion? Can they dial in by phone if their microphone isn't working?
- How well suited is it for screen-casting a presentation?
When you’re casting, can you see your screen and the recipient's video? Can your recipients hear the audio from videos that you're playing? Can you cast from your iPad?
- Are there any extra features that make it more compelling to use?
For example, a chat function to send links to your viewers, or being able to record the call so that you can review it later.
- How’s the security and privacy?
Can you password protect the call? How secure is the software in general?
We’re putting each contender through an exhaustive mock sales call with our award-winning, easy-to-use sales presentation platform: Showcase Workshop.
If you haven’t experienced the delight that is Showcase Workshop yet, we’ve got a free 14-day trial waiting for you.
This week we’re diving into one of the OG video calling platforms: Skype.
Skype has been around since 2003. To put that in perspective, that was the year: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King premiered (kind of a big deal in New Zealand), and Beyoncé and Jay Z released Crazy in Love. And your author? Well, I was still in primary school.
Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis founded Skype Technologies S.A.R.L; it wasn’t until 2011 that Microsoft Corporation entered the picture, buying the software for $8.5 billion (USD).
Although there are now numerous video calling alternatives, Skype remains popular with 40 million daily users in March 2020. Skype is primarily used as a personal calling platform, but we wanted to take it for a spin since it’s so often associated with video calling.
“But isn’t there a business version?” I hear you ask. Yes, yes there was. Ordinarily, we’d be testing Skype for Business, for this series (given we’re discussing it in a sales context) — but Skype for Business has actually been replaced by Microsoft Teams. We did an article about using Microsoft Teams for sales presentations a few weeks back, so definitely check it out if you’re interested in Microsoft’s business-focused video calling software!
Just the stats, thanks
Based in: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg and Palo Alto, California.
Company size: 788 as of 2010, although I haven’t been able to find reliable data on growth in the last decade.
Cost: Free for video calling, but you’ll have to pay to call landlines or mobile phones.
Compatible with: Windows, Mac, Linux, Google Chrome OS, iOS, and Android.
Reviews: Skype has a TrustRadius score of 7.9 out of 10.
As a disclaimer, everything in this guide (including the screen captures) is accurate as of the time of writing in late June 2020. Some of the other platforms we’ve reviewed have already started rolling out new features and bug fixes so this may well happen with Skype too.
Now, on with the show!
Ease of use for the presenter
App and account
First things first: If you want to enjoy everything Skype has to offer, you need to create an account. Sure, you can create and join a call as a “guest” through your web browser, but you won’t be able to share your screen (the whole reason we’re here today) or save your chat conversations when the call ends.
Skype has apps for desktop and phones — you can grab your free download from their website. Once you’ve installed the app, creating an account is a relatively painless affair.
You can sign up with your personal email address or phone number — but beware, you can’t sign up with a work email! I think the reasoning behind this is probably to encourage people using the tool for work to sign up for Microsoft Teams (or, until recently, Skype for Business) instead.
For this call, I ended up signing up for a new Outlook email address — partly because I couldn’t remember my login details for my personal Skype account, and partly to test the process out for you fine people. It turned out to be really straightforward and I had a new email address and a Skype account in a matter of minutes.
Scheduling a call
From the app, you can start a call immediately by clicking the “Meet Now” button in the left-hand column.
This will open a new screen where you can enter a name for the meeting and invite others to join via email, Facebook, or by copying the link (if you wanted to pop it in a Slack message or calendar invite, for example).
To schedule a call in advance, you have two options:
Via the app
If your prospect has their own Skype account, you can schedule a meeting with them from the app. You’ll have to start a chat with them if you’ve never contacted them via Skype before, but once you do you can click the “More” icon (the three dots) in the bottom right corner of the chat window.
From there, select “Schedule a Call” and enter the meeting details in the pop-up box that follows.
Once you hit “Send”, Skype will send an invitation to your prospect and notify you when they respond.
If your prospect doesn’t have a Skype account, you’ll need to schedule the call online via Skype’s website. Simply enter a name for your meeting in the box provided and click “Create a free meeting”. This will generate a unique code that you can share with participants in a separate email or calendar invitation (make sure you take note of the code yourself so you can find it when it comes time for your meeting!)
Starting the call
Starting the call is as simple as clicking the link that was generated when you scheduled the meeting (or clicking “start call” if you’re ready to go straight away).
If you’ve got Skype installed on your computer, the link will prompt you to open the meeting in the app — which launches quickly when you select “Open Skype”.
Once on the call, you’ve got the blessed option of checking your camera feed before joining. Lighting good? Hair on point? Sweatpants not visible from this angle? Awesome!
You can also blur your background or replace it with a fun (or professional) image from your personal files. This is great if you’ve got confidential information or even the kids’ toys visible in the background.
On the call
Once on the call, everything you need to control it is in the black toolbars at the top and bottom of your screen. You can open the chat, share the meeting details (great if someone misplaced the link last minute), and adjust your audio or background setting from the “More” icon in the bottom right corner.
The only thing missing is what we came here to do: screen-sharing. After a quick Google, I learned that I had to manually enable screen-recording permissions for Skype on my computer.
The thing is, when I went to set the permissions, Skype wasn’t even an option on the list of apps!
So I switched them on for Google Chrome instead, thinking I would use the web app to connect. But that seemed to do the trick for both Chrome and Skype because when I returned to the app, the sharing option was there!
As we’ve said in all our previous articles in this series: Always join sales meetings a few minutes early so you can troubleshoot issues like this. Or, better yet, set up a test call with a colleague to run through the process in advance.
Our verdict: Ease of use for the presenter
Score: 3.5 / 5 stars
Easy to create an account and start a call but I would have liked more options for scheduling a call with people who don’t have a Skype account. The screen-sharing permissions are also not at all obvious; it would be great to have the permission request pop up when you start the call, so you don’t waste time looking for an icon that doesn’t exist.
Ease of use for prospects
My very special prospect, Millie, reported that it was quick and easy to join the meeting from both her phone and computer.
Millie already had Skype installed on her computer, so the link I sent her prompted her to open the meeting in the app.
If she didn’t have Skype, she could have joined as a guest through her web browser without downloading the app. There are also options to sign in, create an account, and download the app if your prospect wants to join that way.
Before joining the call, Millie had the chance to check her hair and lighting — just like the host.
Once on the call, it was easy for Millie to chat, create and answer polls, and suggest follow-up meeting times. More on these features later in this post.
Screen-sharing came through crisp and clear at Millie’s end — at least with Showcase, which is what we were using during this call.
The showcase I was presenting took up most of the screen and Millie could see both of our video feeds as small thumbnails in the top right corner. While these videos could be bigger to really make it feel like an in-person presentation, I like that the actual presentation is the focus here. It’s big enough that your prospect can (hopefully) read the slides as you talk them through it — even before I made it fullscreen in my app.
We discovered that Millie could start a recording without any authorization from the host (yours truly) but, in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t seem like a red flag. All participants get a notification when someone starts recording so it would be difficult to do without anyone knowing. Recording a sales presentation can also be useful for prospects for remembering key details and sharing with their boss or colleagues at a later date.
Like Google Meet, it was only too easy for Millie (the guest) to boot me (the host) off the call. One click and my video call was replaced with a message saying “You have been removed from the call by Millie Blackwell”. At least they had the decency to include a crying emoji GIF to help convey my feelings about being kicked off a call I scheduled.
Our verdict: Ease of use for prospects
Score: 4 / 5 stars
Easy to join and navigate — but a point lost for my wounded pride over Millie being able to remove me from the meeting.
Screen-sharing a presentation
As you saw in the previous section, screen-sharing renders nicely with Skype.
It was a wee bit confusing to set up — as I mentioned earlier — because I had to look up what to do and manually enable screen-recording permissions for Skype on my computer. Before I enabled these permissions, there wasn’t even an option to share my screen (I spent far too many minutes looking) for the icon repeatedly mentioned in the help desk article.
I presented via the Showcase Workshop desktop app, which provided a crisp, bright image for Millie.
She could also hear the audio perfectly when I played a video, and there was no echo from my computer microphone even though I wasn’t wearing headphones. So, this is already a step up from Google Meet.
Although Millie could see what I was presenting and our (albeit small) video feeds, I couldn’t see either within the Skype app. I had to open the Showcase Workshop app separately to control the presentation and hope that Millie could see what I was seeing. My Skype window disappeared completely while I was doing this.
This confused me a bit because, in all other contexts, Skype keeps a small version of the call window open when you navigate away from the app. This is useful for continuing the conversation in a natural manner if you have to look something up or find a particular file for your prospect.
In terms of making a sales presentation, it’s always a lot nicer to be able to see your prospect’s face while you’re presenting. It feels more natural and it helps you gauge their reactions — did they like your joke or is their brow furrowed in confusion? Being able to see their reaction lets you tailor your presentation to them by spending more time on the things they seem interested in or confused by and less time on the things they’re not engaging with.
Our verdict: Screen-sharing a presentation
Score: 4 / 5 stars
A bit confusing to enable, but once you get it going screen-sharing is slick and renders nicely for prospects. The major downfall is not being able to see your prospect’s face when you’re presenting — something we’re seeing in a lot of video calling apps!
Most of Skype’s extra features are built into its chat capabilities — and let me tell you, Millie and I had quite a bit of fun testing all the different elements.
You and your prospect(s) can open the chat function from the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. The chat interface appears on the right-hand side and doesn’t obscure any part of your screen; instead, Skype adjusts your video call window to fit everything in nicely.
Skype has an in-built Emoji keyboard so you can send big beautiful rainbow emojis for Pride month or a simple thumbs up if you want to keep things to-the-point. You can also send GIFs, create and participate in polls, and schedule follow-up calls. Oh, and send good old-fashioned text-based messages, of course.
The polls are a fun little feature to get your prospect’s opinion on the most pressing questions:
The only problem we found was that the creator of the poll couldn’t see the results unless they clicked “View details” or opened the chat in the main Skype window (not the pop-out window for the video call).
When the poll closes (at a time you select when creating the poll), you get a fun wee emoji to celebrate the results. And in case you’re wondering, the correct answer to the above poll is: both.
The “Schedule call” function is also handy if you want to get a follow-up meeting in the calendar while you’re already talking to your prospect. Anyone on the call can suggest a time for the call and the other participants have the option to accept or decline.
Like the poll option, the creator can’t actually see whether others have accepted or declined until they open the main chat, which is a bit of a pain.
There’s also no reminder or follow-up option after the call ends, meaning it could be easy to forget the call or lose the details. If you use this option for your sales call, we recommend making a note to send an invitation with the details as soon as you finish the call.
In keeping with Skype’s youthful demeanour, there’s a cute “reaction” feature that lets you or your prospects harness the power of emoji to convey your deepest feelings.
Okay, maybe not deepest. But you can convey emotions in the range of: thumbs up, heart, crying with laughter, shock or surprise, boredom, or sadness. A decent range for a sales presentation call, and Millie was kind enough not to use with yawning emoji on our call!
When you select a reaction by clicking the option in the bottom toolbar, your video feed is momentarily filled with a giant version of your chosen emoji.
I can see this being a useful tool for prospects to engage with your sales presentation without interrupting you — but the catch is, you won’t actually be able to see the reactions if you’re sharing your screen because the video window completely disappears!
This is a shame, but Millie and I still enjoyed testing out the feature.
Recording a call
As I alluded to earlier, anyone on the call can start recording it at any time. When you stop recording, Skype drops a copy of the video in the chat for everyone to see. According to the fine-print underneath the video, recordings are available for 30 days.
The recording isn’t sent in any other way, so you’ll have to get it directly from the chat — which Skype saves automatically if you’re using the app.
After the call, you can hover over the video and a ‘More’ option (three dots) will appear in the top left corner. From here you can download, save, forward, bookmark, or remove the video from the chat history.
I tried forwarding the video during the call but my only option was to forward it to the group chat again, which seemed a bit redundant.
The quality of the recording is great, although it doesn’t include any of the “reaction” emojis so you might end up looking a bit weird if you’re reacting to the reactions like Millie and I were… we looked like we’re laughing at absolutely nothing for about 30 seconds!
The ‘More’ option in the bottom toolbar also lets you turn on automated captions if you’re having trouble understanding your prospect (or vice versa!). This is also great for hearing-impaired hosts or guests, and is an accessibility feature we love to see.
The captions appear at the bottom of the video and are pretty accurate — which isn’t always the case with the Kiwi accent!
I find it a bit strange that Skype only provides rolling captions for the other people on the call, not yourself. So, I could only see captions for what Millie was saying and Millie could only see captions for what I was saying. It’s not a big deal and makes sense in the grand scheme of things — you know what you’re saying, after all — but it’s a bit disconcerting to see what appears to be a one-sided conversation taking place on screen.
Millie revealed the meaning of the universe on our call, but I didn’t manage to capture it in time so now it's lost forever.
Our verdict: Extra features
Score: 4 / 5 stars
A nice chat interface with decent recording and caption options to make the meeting more accessible. It would be nice to see “reactions” when you’re screen-sharing and be able to view participants’ responses to polls and calls in the chat window, though.
Security and privacy
As someone who grew up in the “Don’t talk to strangers on the internet” era, one of the first things I always do when joining a new social media platform is check the default security and privacy settings.
Don’t get me wrong, these days I do talk to strangers on the internet (don’t tell my dad) — but they’re a carefully curated bunch and I like to have the option of restricting the personal information they can see about me right off the bat.
I bring this up because Skype behaves like social media in that anyone can find and contact you by default. They can even call you through the Skype app. The reasoning behind this is to make it easier for friends and family to contact each other, but the idea of a stranger video calling me out of the blue doesn’t sit right with me (thank goodness I don’t answer calls from unknown numbers anyway).
In many ways, this is true for any calling device, though. Luckily, unlike the days of prank calls on landlines, there are a few options to stop you getting bombarded with random calls or messages.
First, you can change your settings so that only people you’ve accepted as contacts can call or message you. If a call or message slips through before you do this, Skype will give you the option to accept or block the contact. If you’re being harassed, you can also report the user.
In terms of security, Skype uses the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) — which, incidentally, the US Government also uses to protect sensitive information. I’ll leave you to decide if that’s a good endorsement or not.
Skype doesn’t use end-to-end encryption, however, which means that Microsoft (as the parent company) can view your messages, calls, and shared files whenever they like. So, high-profile government calls are out but your average sales call is probably going to be fine.
One thing to note is that only Skype-to-Skype calls are encrypted here. That means that if you use Skype to call landline or mobile phones, those calls won’t be encrypted at all.
Our verdict: Security and privacy
Score: 3.5 / 5 stars
The security itself is robust, but I’d like to see some changes to the default privacy settings and more transparency about the data that Microsoft stores.
So how does this old-school video calling platform stack up against newcomers like Zoom or Google Meet? Let’s see:
Host ease of use: 3.5 / 5
Participant ease of use: 4 / 5
Screen-casting capabilities: 4 / 5
Extra features: 4 / 5
Security and privacy: 3.5 / 5
Total: 19 / 25 or 76%
Skype may not be the most professional choice for sales presentation calls, but you could definitely do worse.
The app and interface are built for personal use — think calling family overseas — but the high-quality screen-sharing capabilities and reliable features make it a good choice if you only have to do remote sales presentations every now and then.
If you’re not sharing particularly sensitive data and you don’t need all the additional features of Microsoft Teams, Skype is worth a go. Just be sure to adjust the privacy settings if you’re a private soul like me.
Fancy taking Showcase Workshop for a spin on Skype (or any other video calling platform)? Sign up for a 14-day trial to experience the wonder yourself.