Using Skype and Join.Me your organization can save time and travel expense by holding ABSOLUTELY FREE MEETINGS online. Skype provides the free audio conferencing; and with Join.Me a presenter can show his desktop and cursor movements to all participants. This CyberKenBlog post gives you detailed directions for conducting your first online meeting using these tools.
First, though, some information about Skype and Join.Me:
Skype is a voice-over-the-internet-protocol (VOIP) application which allows users with a digital microphone to talk to each other over the internet, for free! If you have a web camera (webcam) you can also see the person(s) you’re talking to. But that video feature is for another post. Today’s post concerns just Skype audio. If you haven’t yet installed Skype, go to www.skype.com and download it, then double click on the downloaded .exe file to install it.
Here are the choices for microphones when you use a VOIP app like Skype:
- The best choice is a USB headset (see below, right) which has ear pads and a microphone strut that bends around toward your mouth. This device gives the best speaking and hearing clarity, and it is least likely to transmit distracting background noises.
- Webcams have built-in microphones which are usually pretty good. If you have a working webcam, you’re set to go.
- Some laptops have built-in microphones. If you have such a laptop, you’re equipped.
- A hand-held microphone that plugs into a mic-in port on your computer will do. This mic will give good sound quality, but it occupies one hand, which you would probably rather have for your keyboard.
Join.Me is a free online meeting service . When you visit Join.Me for the first time you will see two arrows, one labeled “Share,” the other labeled “Join.” To open a Join.me meeting, click on the “Share” arrow. This downloads a very small .exe file to your computer. Save it and double click it to install this temporary app which will operate just for this meeting.
When you install Join.me you will see an orange control bar appear at the top of your screen, with five buttons on it. (See illustration at left). By clicking the button to the far left, the one with a graphic of a telephone, you will see the telephone number and access code for joining a telephone conference with the other participants.
Please note: Join.Me does not permit a mixing of VOIP connections with telephone ones. If even one participant lacks VOIP capability, then all participants must use the telephone mode of conferencing instead. Using telephone, Join.Me meetings are NOT free. Each participant must pay long distance phone rates according to his/her telephone contract. So you see that it is to your organization’s advantage to see that all participants get equipped and trained to use VOIP.
If you plan to convene a Join-Me meeting, below are separate instructions for doing it by means of a VOIP conference; or instead, by telephone conference.
Instructions for conducting a VOIP Join.Me conference:
- Make sure you have everyone Skype equipped and trained and also, that every participant’s Skype address is entered into your Skype contact list.
- Enter the email addresses of all participants into an email distribution list so that you can send messages to all of them by entering just the group address.
- Using this group address, notify your participants ahead of time, making sure that at a given time they are all sitting by their computers, with Skype launched, ready to go.
- Also tell them that step one will be to establish the audio connections, then step two will be to enter the visual Join.me meeting.
- Start Skype on your computer.
- Log into Skype if you aren’t already logged in.
- Under the “Conversation” link at the top of the window, click on “add people.”
- From the left hand column of listed addresses, select the addresses of persons who will be joining your conference. As you highlight a name and click on the “select” button, the name will be added to the list in the right hand column. When you have all the addresses of persons for the meeting in the right hand column, click on “add” at the bottom of the screen.
- Next, click on the “call group” button. This will invite all the persons for your Skype group meeting. The Skype app on their computers will respond, inviting them to answer your call. When each clicks on the “answer” button he/she will join the VOIP conference.
- Take a roll call of who is VOIP connected. Make sure you have all the participants whom you expect. Now you’re ready to open the visual Join.me meeting.
- However, before we get to that, there is one more recommendation for a VOIP meeting: Have the participants mute their microphones. With many persons connected by VOIP, sometimes there are sound problems: echoes, and hesitations in transmission. These problems will be minimized if only the presenter has his/her mic volume turned up. When the conference is under way, participants can communicate questions or comments via the Join.me text chat window. They can access the chat window by clicking on the second-from-the-left green button, the one with the dialog cloud graphic, in the Join.me control panel. (See the video below which demonstrates how to mute your Skype mic, and how to use the Join.Me chat window.)
- Now, to establish the visual tools for your meeting, first visit Join.me meeting and click on “Share”. Download the temporary Join.me app and install it, which will also launch it.
- When Join.Me launches you will see a five-button orange control panel at the top of your computer screen. Right click on the link in red letters and select “copy to clipboard.”
- Paste the contents of your clipboard into an email note and send it to your group list.
- As each participant receives that email he/she then clicks on the link which automatically connects him/her to the Join.me meeting. All participants should then be able to see your desktop and your cursor movements.
Notice, by this VOIP method of audio conferencing, you have all the ingredients for a free and time-unlimited online business or teaching meeting. You can explain content by voice, and point out to participants whatever you wish by moving your cursor. VOIP participants who have turned down their mic volume to insure the clearest audio for the meeting can pose questions via the Join.me chat window (accessed by clicking on the second-from-the-left green button on their Join.Me control panel, that is, the one with the dialog cloud graphic). They can request permission to speak by the same means, and then turn up their mic volume temporarily.
Incidentally, a good way to organize meeting content and stay on topic is to prepare a free Google presentation file ahead of time, and run that presentation full screen, as you move through the meeting agenda. (More details about this in an upcoming CyberKenBlog post.)
Please follow the instructions below if you are using telephones to connect instead of VOIP:
The procedure is reversed. With VOIP you first establish an audio connection. But using the telephone mode of connecting you first establish a visual connection. Here’s the procedure:
- Ahead of time, send an email to all participants. (Again, it may help to have them organized in an email group, so that you can send a message to all by way of a group address.) In that email tell them to be at their running computers at a stipulated time, with a telephone nearby. It’s best to use a telephone that has speaker-phone capability, which frees both hands for using a keyboard.
- Also in that email–this is very important–tell them that they will receive a link in a subsequent email, a link enviting them to join the meeting. Tell them that when they click on that link they will immediately and automatically have visual capability in the meeting, but that in order to establish an audio connection they must first click on the telephone button in the green Join.me control panel on their desktop. When they do that they will receive a telephone number to call, and an access code for entering via their touch-tone keypad. Once they call that number and enter the access code they will then have audio connection to the meeting.
O.K., meeting convener, here are the remaining steps to convene a telephone Join.me meeting:
- Visit Join.me and click on “Share,” download and install the temporary Join.me software.
- Right click on the red lettered link in the Join.me control panel and copy that link to your clipboard.
- Paste the link into a group email note and send it out to all participants.
- When they receive that note, participants will click on the link to establish visual contact with the meeting, and then, following your prior email instructions they will call the given telephone number and enter the access code, thus gaining audio access to the meeting.
One benefit of a telephone-mode Join.me meeting is that the sound problems sometimes encountered with VOIP are not likely to occur. Thus, participants needn’t mute their audio connections, unless there is loud background noise which might come through to the others (One meeting I convened recently was treated to the unmistakable sound of a flushing toilet!)
In these days of high gasoline prices and busy schedules it makes sense to conduct at least some of our meetings online. And, if your organization wants to conduct distance learning, here are the tools required, for absolutely no cost if you use VOIP, and for modest cost to each participant, if you choose to use telephones instead.