Don’t Get Caught With Your Virtual Pants Down!
A personal article from Kris Brinker, Ocean 5
As we all adapt to doing just about everything online while we help flatten the coronavirus curve, the Zoom video meeting and webinar app is becoming a household must-have. People have quickly scrambled to move in-person meetings, networking events, classes and other gatherings to virtual experiences and Zoom appears to be the most popular platform being utilized.
I personally have been adapting client meetings, business networking, workshops and committee meetings into Zoom meetings for our business and have even begun teaching my private and group Tai Chi classes using Zoom.
It has been a learning experience.
I have been using Zoom for quite some time but primarily for client and prospect meetings and am far from considering myself to be a power user. During the last few weeks of being an almost-daily meeting organizer, panelist, and presenter, there have been many lessons learned and I have realized the need to communicate some best practices and offer preparation guidance to ensure a positive experience for all attending my meetings and classes. Here are some of the most important and useful Zoom tips and tricks I recommend for successful user experience.
The biggest, most important recommendation I have is to not assume that your attendees know how to use Zoom. This is the mother of all tips and tricks.
Prior to a Scheduled Meeting
Prep Your Tech!
Hosts: Instruct your attendees on how to best set up their technology and set up meeting defaults based on the format of your meeting. Send details in and email, create a step-by-step guide, create an instructional page on your website, etc. Also, set up your meeting defaults for your meetings. For example, you may want to begin the meeting with all attendee microphones muted to avoid audio mayhem if your intention is a formal instructional meeting, or you might prefer to allow guests to join before the host if the experience is a social gathering.
Attendees: For the best experience you will want to create a free account on https://zoom.us/ and download and install the mobile app for your Apple or Android device or the desktop client for your laptop. Then, sign in from your device, test your audio and video. Now, you should be all set to join your virtual meeting. Yes, you can simply click the link provided to you by the meeting host and use your browser to join without downloading the app, but the tools will be limited and your experience will not be as useful.
- An internet connection – broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
- Speakers and a microphone – built-in or USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth
- A webcam or HD webcam – built-in or USB plug-in
To look up the latest requirements and supported devices and operating systems go to the Zoom Requirements Page.
Tech Tip: Make sure you have a good wifi connection or connect your computer directly with a broadband cable.
Hack: Ever wonder how some people’s profile image completely fills their image block when they are not using video? Here is a hack.
- Create a profile picture 1920×1080.
- Create a new virtual background using this image and turn it on.
- Now cover your camera lens if you have a cover or use an opaque piece of tape.
- Start your video.
Now you get to hide your bad hair day and your glamorous profile picture fills your image box!
Learn Basic Skills
Both hosts and attendees will benefit from taking a little time to watch some of these useful Zoom video tutorials.
At the Beginning of Your Meeting
I recommend you take a little time at the very beginning of every meeting to go over basic use of the tool and overall virtual meeting etiquette. Better yet, invite your attendees to join 15 minutes early and have a “tech talk”. Walk them through muting and unmuting and changing between speaker and gallery views. Also, introduce them to the toolbar and show them other functionalities you are using such as raising hands or chat window
Microphones—We Can Hear You!
The number one biggest thing I have discovered is that people don’t realize that microphones are crazy sensitive! Most participants join using their device’s built-in microphone. These microphones are designed to pick up faint sounds and amplify them. The intention is to make your voice heard even though your mouth is not right next to the mic, but that means that your squeaky chair, your dog, or your tiny whisper to someone in the room is amplified.
User Tip: People simply may not know that their mic is on when they enter a meeting and don’t mean to be loud and inconsiderate. Help your attendees by setting your default to “Mute participants on entry.” This will ensure that latecomers will not disturb the main event.
Let attendees know that “everyone on the call can hear you.” And that if they do not mute they will be interrupting the intended speaker. Ask your attendees to please—unless you are intentionally speaking to the entire audience—mute your mic!
Hosts: Stay near that mute all button! Even if you do mute all, individuals still have the ability to unmute themselves. Perhaps they think that they are muting themselves and actually unmute themselves. So keep an eye out for the unconsciously unmuted! It is often handy if you assign a colleague co-host ability to help wrangle the microphones while you stay focused on your topic.
Tech Tip: Did you know that you can mute and unmute with the space bar? Tired of scrambling for the little microphone button? When muted, you can press and hold your spacebar to unmute your mic temporarily.
Tech Tip: If you are experiencing terrible echoing and feedback, ask everyone to check if they have joined by both phone and computer audio. This is most likely the cause. Have the the attendee cancel one of them.
Video—Do You Want to be Seen?
It honestly took me a while to feel comfortable joining with video on. Over time, I have gotten used to it. You, as the host, can use the default of attendee video on or off at the start of the meeting. Attendees also have the ability to set their own preferences.
Hosts: My suggestion is to test your lighting set up and strive to look your best. Also, learn how to “spotlight” yourself or others. This will ensure that another unmuted microphone does not take over the video—you will still hear them however, so back to “mute your mic!”. Spotlighting is really important in an instructional environment when you need the attendees to continue to see the intended speaker even when other people are asking questions.
Attendees: You have the ability to change your own visual experIence by toggling between speaker and gallery views and “pinning” the host or other attendees. You can even pin yourself if you really want to. Rest assured that any local changes you make will not affect the main video that everyone else sees.
Tech Tip: Gallery view lets you see thumbnail displays of participants, in a grid pattern, which expands and contracts as participants join and leave the meeting. If you want to be seen by other attendees as well as the host, it has been my observation that the attendees that have their video on will have priority placement in the gallery view. Those without video will most likely appear after those with video on in gallery order.
Once you have had a few experiences after your initial “tech-prep,” I highly recommend to both hosts and attendees that you take a little time to browse through and adjust your personal settings based on lessons learned. You should now have a better feel for how you want to adjust your personal preferences which will carry through to all new meetings that you host and attend. The way you choose to use the Zoom tool and the type of meetings you are hosting or attending will affect how you want to set up your personal defaults.
Host: By default, anyone can share their screen. You can toggle this setting to prevent non-host participants from sharing their screens.
If the nature of your meeting will benefit from all attendees being able to share their screen, you are set. However, for most uses, you will probably want to disable this feature. When in a meeting, click the arrow in the toolbar next to “Share Screen” and hit “Advanced Sharing Options.” Here, you can specify “Who can share?” by choosing “Only Host” or “All Participants.
Alas, Guarding against “Zoombombers”
Unfortunately with so many people now utilizing Zoom to cooperate with “Stay at Home” and “Flatten the Curve” efforts, trolls—called zoombombers—have found a new target for their antics. On April 7, 2020, Zoom released an update in order to address these disruptive security issues. Read the full article
If you are offering your meeting to the public and want to be safe, you may want to use a feature called “waiting rooms”. This means attendees cannot join your meeting without you admitting them. They can’t just automatically join. Keep in mind however, once your meeting formally begins, any additional attendees arriving late will still need your attention to admit them or they will continue to sit in the waiting room.
Zoom is aware of the zoombombing trend and has released advice on how people may avoid the trolls as well as updates to the platform. The company said in a statement: “We have been deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack. For those hosting large, public group meetings, we strongly encourage hosts to check their settings so that only the host can share their screen. For those hosting private meetings, password protections are on by default and we recommend that users keep those protections on to prevent uninvited users from joining. We also encourage users to report any incidents of this kind directly to our support so we can take appropriate action.”
This blog will be updated with additional observations and input from other users.
Do you have a tip you would like to share, a correction to offer, or additional questions—your input is valuable? Would you like to be notified of updates? Please drop me a line.