Discoveries in Zoom

OK, so 200 million people a day are also working this stuff out, but if you’re new to Zoom then these ten discoveries will help you become a meeting master and enable your attendees to have a stress-free Zoom experience.

#1 There are several different places you can configure meeting settings.

Knowing where to look for the option you want is more than half of the battle in Zoom. In this article I’m going to talk about settings in four places. All the screenshots below are from the Mac version of the desktop client (Version 4.6.10).

The Home tab on the main Zoom client window:

Home tab in a zoom call

The Main Menu Bar when in a call.

The Manage Participants Window (opens from the menu bar during a call)

manage Paticipants

The Settings Page in your Zoom account on zoom.us (sign in to the website, click ‘my account’ and then ‘settings’.

#2 You don’t need to download the desktop client to join a Zoom meeting.

If you want to lower the bar for your meeting participants, you can make it possible to join the meeting without having to download any additional software. Once this option in enabled, your participants can join the meeting from their web browser. When they follow the meeting invitation link, the welcome page will give them the option to open the call in the desktop client or join the meeting by clicking a link. Joining in this way gives limited functionality, but allows full participation in the call.

To enable this option, look under Meeting Settings (Advanced) in the Settings Page on the website. You’re looking for the option to Show a “Join from your browser” link.

Option to add Browser Link in settings

#3 Participants can join a Zoom meeting by phone.

If you’re planing a meeting or event and want to include people who don’t have internet access, have slow broadband speeds or are afraid of using new-fangled technology, you can set up your meeting so that people can join by phone. You can give participants a UK geographical number to call and they just need to enter the meeting ID and password to be added to the meeting. Participants will hear a voice telling them if they have been muted or put in the waiting room.

To enable this, you need to select the Telephone and Computer Audio option in the Schedule Meeting widow (opens from the Home screen).

Zoom Meeting schedule dialogue box

#4 Keep your link safe

There have been plenty of reports of people searching for links to Zoom meetings on the internet and then ‘Zoom-bombing’ calls with obscene images, comments and music. To avoid this, work out a way to distribute the invitation to your meeting so that it only reaches the people you want to be there. Even if you have set a password (and the latest versions of the desktop client do this by default), the link can still grant people access directly to your meeting.

Another way to protect your meeting is to enable the ‘Waiting Room function’. The drawback of this is that you have to admit everyone individually, which can be cumbersome in larger meetings.

#5 Spotlight the speaker

If you want all meeting participants to focus on one person (you or someone else) you can spotlight that video. To spotlight someone, hover over their name (in manage participants) or video in the main meeting window and click the three blue dots or more option. If you choose to spotlight someone, they will appear as the main image for everyone using ‘speaker view’ even if someone else starts talking or does a loud sneeze. Remember to turn off the spotlight when you move to a group discussion.

#6 Assign a co-host

The host controls are very useful if you are chairing a meeting, but if you’re trying to present something (teach a class, lead a church service, give a presentation) then it can be helpful to give someone else in the meeting the ability to manage users, control muting, spotlight speakers and turn features on and off.

To do this, find the people you want to co-host in the Manage Participants window, click the three dots that appear by their name when you hover over them, and choose Make co-host. This only lasts for the meeting you are in.

#7 Use security settings during the meeting

I’ve been using Zoom with children now for the best part of five weeks and I can confirm that if there is a feature that makes them look or sound unusual, they will find it. In our family the favourites are virtual backgrounds (especially making it look like you’re an alien or super-villain, making yourself invisible or giving yourself the face of your own, younger, self), renaming yourself as ’74oP9′ or ‘spamming the chat’ with reams of meaningless characters.

The novelty factor of these tends to wear off much faster for adults than for children, so if you need to get something constructive done, you can click the Security shield and on the main menu bar and turn off screen sharing, chat and renaming participants. Turning off the chat also stops participants from privately messaging each other, which is a useful safeguarding feature.

Security Options from in-meeting menu

#8 Stop participants from unmuting themselves

A similar setting to those described above is muting all meeting participants to cut down on background noise and feedback, or to introduce a protocol where people need to be unmuted before they speak in a meeting. When you schedule a meeting there is a set of Advanced Options which includes mute participants on entry. This means anyone who joins your meeting will have their microphone muted by default.

If you want to prevent participants from unmuting their microphone then choose the mute all participants option in the manage participants window and in the dialogue box that pops up, uncheck Allow participates in unmute themselves and click continue. You can do this before anyone else joins or at any point during the meeting. Again, this is useful for both Zoom-bombing and working with kids.

Mute Participants

#9 Enable breakout rooms for chatting in smaller groups

Breakout rooms are the Zoom equivalent of talking pairs or discussion on tables. They allow participation in a way that isn’t possible in a larger group, but need to be enabled in the settings on the website. You’ll find the option to enable Breakout Rooms in the In Meeting (Advanced) section of the settings webpage.

Add breakout room option in settings

As host, you can assign breakout groups randomly or move participants into a specific group. Co-hosts retain their ability to manage participants in the breakout group while the overall host can move in and out of groups to check what is going on. When someone leaves a group they come back into the main session, and can re-join their group from the menu bar.

#10 Optimise screen sharing for video

Sharing screens is a useful feature in Zoom (although you might want to turn off annotation if you’re meeting with children or immature co-workers). A shared screen will become the main picture in Zoom for your participants with the video shrinking off to the side or top of the screen. All you will see is the window or screen that you are sharing, which will look like it normally would outside Zoom and you can interact with that window or annotate it using the tools in Zoom.

If you want to share a video from your computer, there are a set of tick boxes at the bottom of the sharing dialogue window which say share compute sound and optimise screen share for video clip. I can’t discern much difference between the optimised and non-optimised video, but it seems sensible to click both of these if you want to share a video. Sharing YouTube in this way doesn’t seem all that successful, but you can get good results from a (legally) downloaded video or one you’ve created yourself.

Screen Sharing Dialogue Box

Theres lot’s more to discover in Zoom, and their support pages are full of well written articles which cover all the above and much, much more. Check them out at https://support.zoom.us