- Video-conferencing software Zoom has become the go-to for many people stuck at home in coronavirus quarantine.
- While you’ve likely mastered the basics, there are plenty of neat tricks for making the most out of your time on Zoom.
- Below are our ten best tricks, including muting participants, optimising screen-sharing options, and acquiring a better microphone.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As we approach what feels like week number 400 of stay-at-home orders and lockdown protocols related to the coronavirus, it’s likely that you’ve gotten a handle on the basics of Zoom.
Propelled by a newfound dependence on virtual connection, the company has risen to the top of the video-conferencing software heap. (Even the small children of Google executives enjoy it.) Zoom meetings, Zoom happy hours, Zoom family reunions, Zoom surprise parties – Zoom, it seems, is life.
Now that you know the basics, however, it’s time to smooth out some of the rough edges and really make it seem like you know what you’re doing. Below are our best tips for power users.
Mute people when they’re not talking
This is vitally important if you are in a group of more than four users, and even more so if those users are of a certain, uh, vintage. Newbies and older users often leave their microphones unmuted and aren’t aware of how sensitive those mics can be. (Case in point: the mystery of the Supreme Court flusher.)
This can be a significant problem in “Speaker view,” the Zoom interface setup that automatically switches between whoever is talking. The trick here, assuming that you are the host, is to be fast and unforgiving with the mute button.
Just mouse over the offending loudmouth’s box and a blue “mute” button will show up in the top-right corner. (They will get a notification informing you that the host has shut them up.) Click it to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Use the sidechat
If you have something that you want to say to only one member of a meeting without interrupting it, the best way to do this is to sidechat. By default, Zoom sets the chat’s messages to go to everyone, but if you open up Zoom’s text chat and click “Everyone,” it will reveal a dropdown menu of individual users.
From there, just pick who you want to talk to and send them a message. Just remember who you’ve set the chat to so you don’t send someone the wrong message!
Split people into breakout rooms
We’re slowly learning how many people are too many for a Zoom meeting. (My best guess right now is roughly a dozen.) If you find yourself overwhelmed by the number of participants, Zoom has a handy feature that lets the host split people into smaller “breakout” sessions. This way, teams can divide and conquer, and then reconvene to share whatever amazing brand activations and marketing synergies they have developed.
Optimise your screen-sharing options
Screen-sharing is something that users constantly get hung up on. Almost every meeting I’ve sat through with screen-sharing has had someone start it up and stop, and reset because they need to toggle settings. This is because there are different types of sharing and Zoom caters to each of these. If you’re a boring dork who gives PowerPoint presentations, the default settings should be fine.
But there are two important settings for anyone hoping to share video with their friends over Zoom. Before you run a screen-share, make sure you’ve ticked the boxes that share your computer’s sound and optimise the clip for video.
The former makes sure people can hear what you’re sharing; the latter makes sure it plays smoothly (not optimising for video refreshes the screen-share at a much slower rate, making it choppy and unusable). If you’re having trouble watching a movie or playing Jackbox with friends, these two settings might be why.
Screen-share only one window
This is a tough one to mess up, but humanity knows no bounds when it comes to messing up easy tasks. When you boot up a screen-share, Zoom will offer to let you share footage of just one window on your computer. You should do that, rather than sharing your entire screen, where everyone can see your bookmarks and open tabs and desktop folders with names like “Budget spreadsheets” (we know it doesn’t contain budget spreadsheets).
Mute your notifications
If, for some reason, you do need to share your entire screen, turn off your notifications. Both Windows and macOS have easy toggles in their notification panes that disable these potentially embarrassing pop-ups. If you’ve got personal iMessages set up to go to your computer, you might want to hide those when you’re walking everyone through the quarterly sales figures or regaling friends with a story about your day.
Get a ring light
This might be overkill for some, but if you have a job that requires you to look presentable, or if you simply want people to think you look great all the time, get a ring light. These are the same things that influencers use to get rid of shadows on their face when they take selfies. Relying on your home’s lighting and the antiseptic glow of a computer monitor might not be the best idea if you’re trying to impress a client or desperately trying to hide your Tuesday morning hangover.
Set up your meetings to auto-record
If your company has bestowed you with a Pro account for Zoom, you can set it up to automatically record meetings that you host. You can record just the audio, or audio and video, and store it in the cloud for reference afterwards. For instances in which everyone isn’t always focused and paying close attention during remote meetings – cough – this is an option. You have to configure this in the app’s web interface, but once you do it, you’ll never have to worry about taking notes during a meeting again.
Get a better mic
This is a small tweak that goes a long way. Laptop microphones are usually fine, but they can easily get messed up. You might sound like you’re underwater, the microphone might get covered with papers, or the audio might glitch out for a second. At this point, it’s worth investing in a cheap USB microphone so that your voice comes through crystal-clear. (Pretty much anything that gets halfway decent online reviews will be a noticeable improvement.)
Use your phone instead
When was the last time you upgraded your computer? If it’s been a half-decade or more, there’s a pretty good chance that your smartphone has a better camera (assuming it’s not also a half-decade old). For video calls where you don’t have to do a screen-share, it might be preferable to use your smartphone instead. Just remember to find your angles – nobody wants to see what your nostrils look like.
Brian Feldman is a full-time gamer living in Brooklyn. He writes about technology on occasion.
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