At Skype, we’re all long-time fans of the benefits provided by ongoing group chats. Their ability to help people stay connected on a project or topic solves many of the challenges that virtual teams and remote employees can face when collaborating.
Who hasn’t been stuck in a long “reply all” email chain that clogs up your inbox and seems to go back-and-forth endlessly? Group chats make it easy to seamlessly keep a conversation going with multiple people at the same time, and allow you to refer back to the conversation for days, weeks, months or even a year ago.
Greg Bell, whose company develops software for collaboration, uses group chats extensively. He uses scores of Skype chats for topics like product testing, specific work tips, partner communications and password protected customer support.
Business owner Jen LaFlam uses group chats to discuss clients’ needs, and pulls in different experts to the chats when appropriate.
Thinking a group chat might help your business stay on top of things? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- To create a group chat on a PC, select a contact you want in the group, and then the “+” symbol to add the other people. You can also click on “Create a Group” at the top of your Skype client, and drag and drop the contacts you want to include into the box. On a Mac, you’ll select File > New Conversation from the menu bar, and then click “+” to add people.
- Give the group a name (like “Marketing Team” or “Product Launch”) that identifies its purpose. To assign a name on a PC, click on the “i” on the top of the chat box. On a Mac, open the group’s conversation window and double-click the names of the participants, and from there you can enter a name. You can skip this step, but I recommend naming your group chats to help stay organized.
- Add the group to your Contact List by clicking the “Save Group in Contacts” icon at the top of the chat box. This makes it easy to access the group at any time. You’ll find it under its name, along with all your individual contacts. You can also add the group to a list. For example, if you add the group to your Favorite list, it’ll appear on the top of your contact list (or on top of the sidebar, on a Mac), so it’s easy to find.
- The group creator can add or remove participants at any time (and people can remove themselves as well). To remove someone, just right-click the person’s name in the group and select “Remove from Group.” To remove yourself, just right click on the name of the chat and choose “leave this conversation.”
Check out the video below for a walk-through of getting started.
Once you’ve created your group and everyone’s begun interacting, take a look at how some of Skype’s more advanced features can help you collaborate even better:
- Search the chat for a keyword or phrase. On a PC, select Conversation > Find at the top of the group’s chat box. On a Mac, select Edit > Find. Your group may want to use hashtags with keywords to make it easy to find important comments later (for example, #To-Do, or #Resolved).
- Assign roles to the group’s members to control their participation. For example, you can designate someone as a “Listener” if they can only read comments but not post, or specify someone as “Master” so they have the same authority as you. You can learn about the six roles available here.
- Adjust the commands. If you are the creator or Master of the group chat you can use commands to not only assign roles, but to secure the chat with a password and do other administrative tasks. You can set a command so you’ll be notified when a certain word is added to the chat. You can also set chat guidelines, ban individuals from joining, or add special text to appear next to your name in the chat (such as “working from home” or “in the London office”). To see what commands are available, type “/help” into the chat. You can also find definitions of all commands.
How are you using group chats in your business?