A Comprehensive Guide to Slack Video Calls
Generation Z, being dubbed the Slack Generation, is expected to make up 24 percent of the global workforce by 2020. It’s fitting, then, that with the video conferencing market expected to grow at a 14% annual rate (to $20 billion) by 2024, and Slack having over 10 million daily active users, that Slack would vigorously embrace video conferencing. In fact, Slack video chat has been a core part of the Slack experience since 2016, making it possible to have one-to-one and group video calling.
While bringing Slack video calls to life was essential to Slack’s growth, Slack has not shied away from allowing third-parties to create app integrations that also handled voice and video. So how do you know whether to use Slack’s native video chat and calling functionality, or to go with an integration like Zoom?
Tech Stack for Slack Video Chat
First, let’s look at the tech stack that comes with native video calls for Slack. Slack comes with basic voice functionality already baked into its feature set, allowing you to make a Slack video call or use just voice to connect with any member within your workspace.
Slack voice and video uses the WebRTC standard for real-time communications with the latest recommended security techniques that make it appealing. They also offer clear information on how they protect the integrity and confidentiality of a call with:
- All traffic encryption in transit
- Media traffic encryption with SRTP using a DTLS-SRTP key exchange
- Real-time data channel traffic encryption with DTLS
- Using HTTPS or secure WebSockets using TLS 1.2 for signaling communication with Slack’s media server
Slack also does not store any recordings or transcriptions of calls within Slack. Instead they store some metadata from a call (think the name of a call, what channel or direct message it was started from, who started and who participated in the call, as well as when the call ended, and when members join or leave a call).
While this all sounds great, the big catch is that these calls must be to members within your Slack workspace. This level of calling functionality may work for collaborating internally, but it doesn’t make it possible to conduct Slack video calls or audio calls to people outside of your organization.
Using Integrations for Video Calls on Slack
For those looking for a ubiquitous unified communications experience, there are several alternatives to Slack’s native calling features, some of which include Skype, Webex Meetings, and Zoom – one of Slack’s biggest partnerships.
While external calls cannot be made within Slack, having these meeting solutions will allow you to have the software in place to make external calls easily.
Each integration has slightly different features and requirements, but looking at Skype, Webex Meetings, and Zoom, we’ll cover the basics:
This integration is for the consumer version of Skype, not Skype for Business, and it enables you to start voice or video calls from within Slack. While it requires each party to have Skype installed on their mobile or desktop device, there are shortcuts made available for starting Slack video chats and calls:
- To start a Skype call in a direct message
- Type /skype [skype-username], then hit Enter
- If a member’s Skype user profile is stored in Slack, simply type /skype
- To start a Skype call in a channel
- Type /skype [skype-username]
- If a member’s Skype username is stored in their Slack profile, you can type /skype [@slack-username]
- You can have up to 10 people participate in a group video call, or up to 25 people in a group voice call
- This app cannot be set as the default calling app in Slack
Integrating Webex meetings into Slack is relatively easy, but it does require you to have a host account on a valid Cisco Webex site. Once you have a valid account set up, you can start or join Cisco Webex meetings directly from Slack with your personal room link.
- To start a Webex Meeting
- Type /webex to share your Webex Personal Room Link
- To share an existing meeting
- Type /webex [meeting_number]
- This app can be set as the default calling app in Slack
In April of 2019, Slack announced its growing partnership with Zoom. At the time of the announcement, Zoom was already far and away the most popular Slack voice and video integration option with over 10,000 teams leveraging the functionality. The new partnership means you can expect the two companies to work closely together on a future roadmap of features and functionality. You’ll need a paid Zoom account that can only (currently) be connected to one Slack workspace at a time.
The Zoom app allows you to make voice and video calls as well as screenshare within the dedicated Zoom app.
- To start a call with teammates
- Type /zoom
- This app can be set as the default calling app in Slack
To Change the Default Calling App
The default calling app can only be customized by the workspace owner and admins. Configuring the default calling app to Zoom, for example, enables users to use the phone icon to make calls using your default app of choice.
To do this:
- Visit the Slack’s App Directory and choose a calling app
- Install the app to your workspace
- Click the workspace name within the desktop app
- Select administration > settings & permissions from the menu
- Expand the calls section
- Make sure the box next to “enable calling in Slack” is checked
- Select your preferred app
- Click save
Troubleshooting a Slack Video Call
For basic issues with Slack video chat, you can use the Slack calls troubleshooting URL https://my.slack.com/help/test/calls. This URL allows you to test your calling connection.
For Slack video call errors, Slack recommends restarting Slack. If issues persist, verify your that you have a strong network connection, run speed tests, and make sure you meet all video call requirements.
If your main issue is that the video fails to display:
- Ensure that external cameras are connected prior to starting or joining a call
- Ensure that the correct camera is selected in video settings (found by clicking the gear icon)
- Manually selecting a different camera and then switching back to the desired camera
The above troubleshooting may work well for minor one-off issues, but oftentimes the reasons why voice and conferencing are problematic stem from complex systemic issues in the IT environment. In order to quickly and efficiently tackle more complex trouble spots like firewalls, network bandwidth, and device issues, having a monitoring and management tool like PowerSuite™ can be critical for preventing and proactively troubleshooting problems before users are even aware of them.
Learn more about how PowerSuite can help you keep your entire collaboration and communication environment in tip-top shape.