Five Productivity Tips to get the most from Skype for Business

As a daily user of Skype for Business and someone who specializes in it, I often see other users struggle with some relatively common usage scenario’s in the client. This blog entry describes 5 productivity tips that will increase the productivity of Skype for Business users in specific situations.

1) Easily Start a Group Conversation from an Outlook Meeting

I frequently see the need for this and it is a real productivity booster. Many times users are participating in a meeting from their Outlook calendar which does not have a corresponding Skype for Business (SfB) meeting or conference.  Typically these meetings have a mix of internal and external participants with an external audio bridge, or other non-SfB conferencing solution.

Inevitably the needs arises during the meeting to collaborate – a group IM chat, a desktop share, or sharing a PowerPoint presentation.

A very effective way to instantly start collaborating with all meeting participants in Skype for Business is to:

  1. Open the Outlook Meeting
  2. Go to the Meeting tab
  3. If you are the meeting Organizer –select the Contact Attendees option (click on the icon), and select Reply All with an IM
  4. If you are a meeting Participant – select the Respond option (click on the icon), and select Reply All with an IM

This seldom used option instantly starts a Skype for Business group conversation with all Outlook meeting participants. All the people on the call can now chat, add audio, share their Desktop, or share a PowerPoint presentation. If an external participant (outside of the company hosting the SfB conference) does not have Skype for Business, you might have to send them the URL for the meeting and they can join via a web browser.

The screen shots which illustrate this capability are here:

If you are a Meeting Organizer


If you are a Meeting Participant


2) Transfer a Call from a Mobile Client to your Desktop

Many times users want to know how to keep a call going when they are participating in a Skype for Business session on their mobile client (i.e. using the SfB client on an Windows Mobile / iPhone / Android device) after they have reached their desk.

In these scenarios the call can be transferred from the SfB Mobile client to the SfB Desktop client by doing the following:

  • While in a call on the SfB mobile client, select the “…” circle icon to bring up additional options
  • Select yourself in the SfB client mobile address book
  • Select “Transfer Call” and then “Skype for Business call
  • The call should now ring the SfB Desktop client where it can be answered and the mobile session can be disconnected

An example of the call transfer process is shown here:

Blog Entry Call Transfer

3) Change Devices During a Call

Having multiple audio and video devices is becoming the norm for most users.  Many times users will join into a SfB web conference with audio and video, and the client is using an different audio device then the one they want (e.g. a speakerphone instead of a USB headset).

Most users know of the “Select your Primary Device” shortcut setting in the bottom left-hand corner of the SfB client, but users often forget that this device selection feature can be used mid-call. So if you join a SfB session with a device you do not want to use, it can be changed on the fly. The client device shortcut is shown here:


Note: when an incoming call is ringing the SfB client, the device cannot be changed; it must first be answered.

During a SfB voice call, the dial-pad contains an obvious Devices icon which allows users to easily switch devices as shown here:


4) Use Shortcut Keys for Common Tasks

Like most Microsoft client software solutions, the Skype for Business (SfB) client has several well document keyboard shortcuts. One of the best references is available here:

Keyboard shortcuts for Skype for Business

Keyboard shortcuts are most useful for frequently used actions, or features that require multiple clicks. Here is a list of my useful favourites that not many users know of:

Windows logo key+F4

Mute Yourself (On/Off).  Useful for quickly toggling your mute setting during a call.


With a Contact selected, use Alt+Enter to open the contact card.


Quickly start a new ad-hoc Meeting (i.e. “Meet Now”)


Pop-out the Gallery / Pop-in the Gallery during a web conference.


5) Use the Address Book instead of the Contact List

This is possibly the simplest tip, but one that alludes even experienced users of the Lync & SfB clients.

Users, including myself, get into a habit of adding people that you communicate with even when these are contacts not commonly used.

Few users are disciplined enough to categorize their contacts into Skype for Business Groups that meet their work habits, so the contact list ends up diluted with a lot of contacts – many of which are rarely used.  This is a typically a productivity drain because whether users realize it or not, they spend extra time sifting through their huge contact list trying to locate the people they communicate with most frequently.

A simple way to solve this is to make ample use of the built-in SfB Address Book, and save the Contact List only for contacts that you frequently communicate with (or need to know the Presence Status of).

This takes some getting used to – but after doing it for awhile the benefits of simply typing a name into the Address Book search bar will make you more productive.

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