I love talking to book clubs, and the internet has made virtual meets possible, through Skype. However, I find that there are often problems with Skype: the screen goes black, or freezes. Sometimes I can hear, but not see. At other times I can see, but not hear, and often there is a lag in the communication, or annoying warbling gaps. It reminds me of talking on the old one-way radios we used in the artic thirty years ago.

I presume that these problems have to do with the quality of the Net connection?its speed and width?and possibly with the computers themselves.

I’m pleased that talking with the wonderful Mont-Tremblant Bookmarks Book Club last night, we came up with a solution. Here’s what I suggest:

1) Plan on Skype but have on hand, as well, a telephone with a speaker-phone feature.

2) Connect with Skype. If (when) it proves frustrating, turn off the sound on the computer and telephone, instead. That way, you are talking over speaker-phone, but you can also see each other, which is nice. 

In short: it works.

The Club asked how to structure the hour that we had scheduled. I suggested that they each come up with a question (or two), and come to the screen one by one. This was wonderful–I got to meet each member one-on-one (with the others watching), and their questions were excellent. The hour flew by!

The next time I do this, I will see if I can move the little Skype image of myself to the upper corner of the screen so that I’m not always looking down to check if I’m in view. (Better to be looking up.) I will also use my hands-free telephone mike so that I have more freedom of movement.