Your client wants to talk, and they’ve sent you a Skype request. You’ve accepted with a trembling mouse. Now – don’t just turn on and dial up. [Query: This is the twenty-first century. Does anyone still understand the word ‘dial’?] Make sure you’re ready for Skype success!
- Get dressed – don’t be tempted to skip this step. Remember to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. On your top half, anyway.
- Do a trial run, and check what’s behind you. Make a careful assessment: do you really need to tidy up? Or is it going to be possible to angle the camera in such a way that your client won’t be able to see the chaos? If you decide on the latter, ensure that your nose is extremely clean.
- Try to include some hefty professional tomes in the background, for effect. Position your desk lamp so that you don’t look as if you’re about to go trick or treating.
- Have a go with the volume controls before the call. Too many conversational gems have been lost to people silently mouthing at each other and waving their hands.
- Pause for a spot of hot social media action. There’s no harm in mentioning your important Skype call to a few colleagues, to make yourself feel relevant. Retweet anyone who responds.
- Remind yourself which project you’re meant to be discussing. Amass an impressive sheaf of notes, but don’t worry if it’s actually a pile of old bank statements. Everything will probably be too blurry for your client to notice, and they’re good for strategic rustling.
- Make time for a last-minute dash to the loo. I don’t agree with David Cameron on much, it has to be said, and that goes double for the ‘full-bladder technique‘.
- You’re ready! Your client is online! Take a deep breath, and make contact.
- Click on the camera icon to make yourself visible, then wait for your client to do the same. Wait some more. Let the realisation slowly dawn that you misjudged it: they are too cool for the video option. Miss everything that is said in the first five minutes while you wonder if it’s bad etiquette to turn your camera off again. Attempt to ignore these brutal mind games.
- Whatever you do, don’t make a silly face, because at that point the visuals will certainly freeze. If you don’t like the sound of yourself talking … trust me, you won’t like the look of yourself talking, either.
- Shut your dog/cat/small children in a separate room, and ignore their barks/yowls/screams. If you let them anywhere near the computer, they will definitely upstage you.
- Once enough time has elapsed, and you judge that the pain and awkwardness levels on both sides have peaked, mumble over each other for a few tortured moments in an attempt to close the conversation. Agree to put everything in an email, and ring off.
- Remember to check that you definitely have rung off before saying anything you might later regret. Go for a little lie down.
- Spend the next six years having Skype cheerily inform you – with sound effects – whenever your client is online, even though you are unlikely to Skype each other ever again. Feel vaguely awkward about this.
Liz Jones has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She thinks Skype is quite useful, but can you tell she’d rather be emailing? (Or even meeting face to face …)