Practical Tips for Running Online Zoom Meetings

If you remember the Hollywood Squares TV game show from the 60s and 70s, you’ll feel right at home in Gallery View.

We’ve been involved in a few different groups that meet online using Zoom over the last several years. In the last few weeks, due to CoronaVirus quarantines, we’ve attended and hosted many more. OMG, the things we didn’t know it could do! To learn the details of everything it can do, the best place is to go to the source – the Zoom.us website Help Center. The purpose of this article is to give some practical tips that we’ve learned along the way.

Have at least one co-host

It can be difficult to pay attention to everything going on in a zoom meeting. A co-host can be assigned to listen for distracting background noises and mute the offender. Also they can be watching for people who are trying to speak and need to be UNmuted. They can also kick people out of the meeting if necessary.

If you have more than 20 people, consider having multiple co-hosts, one co-host who listens as mentioned above, and one who watches the chat and makes sure that everyone who posts a question in chat, gets a response.

It’s easy to assign a co-host. After the meeting is started, the host clicks the “Participants” button at the bottom so you can see the listing of people the right sidebar. From there, you can simply click on a participant’s name and “make co-host.” Co-hosts have all the powers that a host has.

Learn more at Zoom help on hosts and co-hosts.

Audio etiquette

Probably the most problematic part of zoom meetings is participant’s audio. “Can you hear me now?” People need to know how to mute and UNmute their microphones. No one can hear you if you’re muted, and if you’re unmuted and some noise happens in your room, it can be very annoying.

The common etiquette is to stay muted unless you are speaking. However, this results in awkward pauses while people try to figure out how to unmute themselves. It is ok, if you are a small group – less than 8 say, and everyone is in a quiet place, to stay unmuted. This makes the meeting more relaxed, less formal.

There are many ways to mute/unmute. Try to find the one that is most comfortable for you so you can do it quickly.

  1. Click the microphone icon in the lower left. This is the primary method for mute/unmute. However, that microphone icon can sometimes be elusive as you may be focused on other parts of the screen, making it take too long to get to the microphone and click.
  2. Click the 3-dots on your cubicle and then the Mute option, or just right-click on your face/cubicle to get the same menu.
  3. Click the “Mute Me” or “Unmute Me” in the right sidebar. IF you have the participant list showing (click the Participants button at bottom) then you should see the words “Mute Me” or “Unmute Me” in the right sidebar at the bottom of the participant list. I find this position easiest to find quickly when I need to unmute. If you are a host or co-host, this is where you’ll find the Mute All and Unmute All buttons.
  4. Alt-A (Cmd-Shift-A on Mac) This keyboard shortcut will toggle you between audio mute and unmute. Note: if you are using multiple monitors, this only works when the Zoom meeting window is the active window – click on it.
  5. Space bar: This keyboard shortcut acts like a walkie talkie. If you are muted, holding down on the spacebar will unmute you so you can talk. Let go and you go back to being muted. Note: if you are using multiple monitors, this only works when the Zoom meeting window is the active window – click on it.

See help at Zoom.us: Mute All, Attendee controls

Video Etiquette

There’s a reason we use video conference calls rather than phone calls – so we can see you! Therefore, unlike audio, the standard etiquette is to leave your video on. If all we see is your profile photo, we don’t know if you’re even in the room! You control whether your video is on or not with the icon in the lower left of your Zoom screen.

Scheduling

The host should open the meeting at least 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start. This allows participants to gather, test their mics and video cameras, and practice sharing their screen before the scheduled start of the meeting. Be aware that a “scheduled” meeting starts whenever a host starts it. The purpose of the schedule is just for people to put it on their calendars, it has nothing to do with when the meeting actually starts – or ends. A scheduled meeting can be used like an always available meeting room, it can be used to start a meeting at any time, not just the scheduled times.

See Zoom.us help center for more on Instant and Scheduled meetings.

The Waiting room

One of the meeting settings is to have a “waiting room.” When you turn this on, people cannot pop in to the main meeting. They will be held in the waiting room until a host or co-host lets them in. This provides a way to control who enters the meeting without requiring a password.

See Zoom.us help center for info on Waiting Room

Calling on people

The host, or co-host needs to moderate the discussion in a Zoom meeting. Unlike an in-person meeting, there are no visual cues about who should speak next. The “Hollywood Squares” are not even in the same order on different participants screens. So, you can’t say, “Let’s go around the room and everyone introduce yourself.” You need to say, “Peggy, unmute and introduce yourself.” Then, “Carlos, unmute and introduce yourself.” It is the host’s job to see that everyone gets called on.

The moderator, or Host needs to be prepared to encourage individuals to speak. S/he also needs to be prepared to stop people from speaking too much. It’s not always an easy job.

Recording meetings

One of the benefits of using Zoom is that you can record the meetings. It’s important to make attendees aware that they are being recorded. Make that part of your standard greeting. When you view the recording, you may be surprised that it doesn’t look like the meeting you attended. That’s because you may have changed your view once, or even several times, between Gallery view and Active speaker view. You may be surprised when you see that the recording all happened in Active speaker view.

Learn more about the Recording Layouts.

Zoom.us Help Center

Here’s a Zoom.us blog post for more helpful tips:
Video Meeting Etiquette: 7 Tips to Ensure a Great Attendee Experience

As I’ve reference throughout this article, the Zoom help center is very useful. I encourage everyone to take advantage of their Live Training. You can join a live meeting, get instruction and ask questions. If a live meeting doesn’t fit your schedule, you’ll find recorded meetings as well.

One reply

  1. Catherine Tracy says:

    What a well times sharing, thank you so much for the information. Excellent as always.

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