Are you a seasoned "Zoomer"?
Do you fearlessly Zoom through cyberspace, dodging every obstacle and successfully completing every video conferencing "mission" with flying colours?
Or are you like most of us? Flying by the seat of your pants, always one step away from losing your sound or video, or accidentally doing something that will lose your connection?
I thought I'd write a short guide to taking Zoom (the most popular video conferencing tool) to the next level, so that those of us who feel a little uncomfortable when joining in online. I hope you find it useful.
Preparing for a video conference meeting
“Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” was an oft repeated phrase when I was in the RAF, and it is, of course quite correct.
Your aim is to enjoy a trouble-free hour or so in the company of others, and the best way to do that is to eliminate as far as possible any problems that can be foreseen.
Firstly, choose the place where you will be Zooming from carefully. You will need a place with good Internet reception that is quiet and well lit.
Let everyone in your household or living space know that you will be on a videocall and do not want to be disturbed and put your phone and other devices on mute.
Pets are OK, but remember that they can be a distraction, and some people find it hard to concentrate when there is a lot of movement on screen.
Make sure you are sitting in a comfortable chair and that the camera on the device you are using frames you in a good head and shoulders view. It’s very disconcerting for others to have to look up your nose or down the front of your shirt if your camera is incorrectly positioned.
If possible, sit in front of a table (you can pick up a folding one for a few quid) and set up your laptop, tablet or smartphone on that. You’ll also have space for a notepad and pencil then, so you can note down anything interesting or jot down questions you might want to ask later.
If you intend to participate in regular Zoom meetings, you might consider investing in a good stand for your tablet or mobile phone, and a microphone to enhance the clarity of your voice and avoid having to sit quite so close to the device.
Next, think about your appearance and your surroundings. Have you checked your beard for fish bones and foreign bodies? Does your hair have that “sticky-up bit” that people will fixate on rather than listening to your words of wisdom?
Now look behind you. Is there anything embarrassing on the bookshelf or the mantelpiece?
Is there anything that might give away personal information that you might not wish to share (address, phone number, photo of you winning the knobbly-knees competition at Butlins in 1968)?
Almost ready. Just a few more things to put in place for a trouble-free meeting.
I’ll list them:
Keep a drink handy. Two reasons: ▪ To wet your whistle ▪ To provide you with a breathing space if you forget what you were saying.
Use the loo! You won’t get the full benefit of a meeting if you’re squirming in your seat with a full bladder (as you can guess, I’m speaking from experience).
If there’s an agenda, either print it out or write down a note or two. It’ll help you to keep track of the progress of the meeting so that EVERYTHING has a chance to be discussed. One of the most frustrating things about some meetings in when people go off on a tangent and lose focus while the Zoom clock is ticking down the seconds toward cut off and there are still three agenda items remaining.
Keep all your “props” handy. Do you have an “I want to speak please” card? Cough sweets?, tissues? Any notes you have written down in advance of things you want to say?
Well. I guess you’re all prepared.
Time for a dry run....
Before any Zoom meeting, I always run the Zoom app.
I’ll quickly run through the settings for a Windows PC (other operating systems are available, but the Windows PC is by far the most common device used to access Zoom).Apple, Android and Linux setups are slightly different, but the same rules apply.
So open the Zoom application and go into Settings (either the little cogwheel on desktop or laptop or the three dots on some tablets or smartphones). Take your time and you’ll find them.
Once in settings, if you have a laptop or PC, tick the box that says “Always show meeting controls”. Now you’ll always have easy on-screen access to the icons that allow you to mute your microphone and turn your video camera on and off, as well as the comment function and some other controls. This is a great time saver, as so many meetings are crippled because people are not properly set up and prepared at the start of a confab.
Next, click on the “Video” menu item and make sure that you can see yourself. If you can’t try selecting a different “Camera” in the drop down box.
Yes that really is you as other will see you – star of stage and screen. Play around with the settings when you have time – you can’t break anything.
Now select the “Audio” menu item and click the “Test speaker” button. You should hear a tinkling little tune. If you don’t, click in the drop down box nest to the button and select a different Speaker then test again until you find the right one.
Now click on the “Test Mic” button and say a few words while looking at the “Input Level” bar. You should see the little bar filling up from the left. After a few seconds, your voice will be played back to you in all it’s glory. If there is no sound, click the drop down box and select a different Microphone input, then test again until you find the right one.
The last item you may want to click is the “Background & Filters” item. Your ugly mug will appear again, and you can experiment by clicking on the variety of virtual backgrounds and video filters that are available, or simply blur your background so that your fellow Zoomers cannot see what a messy room you inhabit!
If you use a green screen as a background (I do) then there is a checkbox to turn that on and
A green screen will provide a clearer outline of your profile against a virtual background
Then let the meeting commence…
Joining the meeting
Relax. You've done most of the hard work.
Now it's time to use the link you got with your invitation email to enter the meeting.
Each meeting has a unique 9, 10, or 11-digit number called a meeting ID that will be required to join a Zoom meeting
If you are joining via telephone, you will need the teleconferencing number provided in the invitation.
Click on the link and you will be transported to a waiting area until the meeting host lets you into the main "room".
Make sure you select the "Join with Video" and "Join with Audio” options then, if you’ve had a quick dry run prior to the meeting, all should be well.
Time to say hi to the other Zoomers as they arrive, but remember to mute your microphone when you are not speaking, as any background noise or feedback coming from your setup will make it difficult for everyone to hear what is being said. If at first you don't connect. Try again, and if, after a few tries you're still having problems connecting, email or phone your host to sort out the problems.
In the meeting
Once you're successfully in the meeting room, the rules of online meetings apply. The rules are simple and sensible and are collectively known as "netiquette". Here's a quick guide...
Netiquette is the oil that smooths troubled meetings. It is a series of do’s and don’ts that, if followed improves the flow and quality of any meeting and stops anger and frustration.
Here’s my own list that I try to follow during meetings:
DO address any tech issues before the meeting
DO familiarise yourself with the meeting controls - especially the MUTE button (usually a little microphone)
DO mute yourself when you’re not speaking
DO look directly into the camera, not at yourself
DO eliminate distractions and focus on the agenda
DO bring all voices into the conversation
DO end the meeting on a positive note
DO hold your hand up or use an "I want to speak please" card if you want to speak
DO be patient and supportive if someone has trouble with their speech (we've all been there)
DO engage in the conversation, and make comments or ask questions throughout the meeting when it is an appropriate time to. That's what makes Zoom meetings so much fun.
DON'T be late to a meeting. Remember, a Zoom meeting is still a meeting, with all the responsibility that that entails
DON'T Dress inappropriately (at least above the waist)
DON'T be rude or hurtful
DON'T sit in the dark. Good lighting is essential or you might as well just be making a phone call
DON'T ignore the importance of a good internet connection. The internet connection and the distance to your WiFi router can make or break the quality of your meetings.
The link below will open a PDF file of a trifold "tips & Tricks" guide that I wrote for a recent 3 Nations Dementia Working Group webinar. Please feel free to use it in any way you wish.