Skype has always had a multi-party conference call feature (for up to 25 participants) but it was always a little difficult to set it up. Select “Conversation”, select “Add people …”, scroll through the Contact list and select the participants you want in the call. Tedious and time consuming, to say the least, especially if you have a large number of contacts (say, >20). One alternative: in Pamela you can create conference call “Groups” that then require a single click to launch the call.
It turns out that Skype for Windows 5 and Skype for Mac 5 have an “Easter Egg” experimental feature whereby one can very simply set up an ad hoc conference call from a simple “/” instruction in a group chat session. The instruction generates a link from which all those in the chat session, who wish to, can join an audio (or, if there is a Group Video Calling subscription available, video) call.
Skype’s Raul Liive has provided detailed instructions in his post: Easily host big conference calls in Skype:
We have developed an experimental feature to allow you to host big group conference calls in an easier way, with no need to rely on people picking up the call when you start.
All you have to do is distribute one easy link to all participants – for participants, it’s just one click to join the call.
By default, an audio conference call will be created, but if any of the participants has a Premium subscription for Group Video Calls then you can easily turn on video at any point in the call.
Over at Disruptive Telephony, Dan York has expanded on the feature in Skype 5.0 Easter Egg: Super Simple Way To Launch Conference Calls! where he points out that, using one simply created link, one can pass along a URL to anyone via Skype chat, email or Twitter as an invitation to join the call. (The only caveat is that the invitee must have a Skype account with an open Skype client in order to join the call.) He goes on to point out two ways to create a URL and provides some examples of how the call appears in the Skype client.
Dan goes on to list three use cases for this feature:
- Internal Collaboration where it may become obvious that a chat session should be escalated to a voice conference call.
- External Collaboration where one can easily bring outside parties into the call, and
- Public Calls where one may wish to announce a call via email, Twitter and/or Skype chat that would be activated at a specific time.
Along those lines, I could see someone giving this out as a URL for a “support line” or something like that.
What I like is the merging of the connections within Skype and also outside of Skype, i.e. you can pass the link in Twitter and have people join in.
Dan finishes with two caveats: the need for a host to be using Skype for Windows 5 or Skype for Mac 5 (although call participants can be on several other versions of Skype) and recognition that the Host’s PC will needs to have the processing capacity to support a multi-party call:
For this reason, it’s important that the host of the call have:
- a good Internet pipe into their location
- a decent computer, without a zillion apps running on it
- preferably a wired connection versus wireless
Check out Raul’s and Dan’s posts and give it a try. It’s has the potential to create ad hoc conference calls when required in the context of a conversation. It eliminates the need to “add” individuals tediously to a conference call while providing an externally accessible “Single click” URL to participate in a conference call. I’m given to understand this may become a more obvious feature in future versions of Skype.
- Skype for Mac 5.0 Goes Gold: Incorporating Beta Feedback and More (voiceontheweb.biz)
- Skype for Mac 5, Skype for iPhone 3.0.1 – Upgrade Wednesday (voiceontheweb.biz)