Despite the fact that it feels like we have been trapped in virtual meeting mode for decades, we are still seeing Zoom fails: poor video, incomprehensible audio and less than to be desired backgrounds are still a part of our daily working lives.
In this edition of Loud & Clear, we blow away the virtual call cobwebs to share a few tips and tricks that we know both Zoom noobs and ninjas, alike will find useful. So, before you head to your first (or one thousandth) Zoom meeting, let's cover off the basics and then I'll outline some tips to help you get more from your Zoom calls.
Joining Zoom is free with a basic account, and that's great for those who wish to try it out before they buy a Pro license (which starts at around £10, per user, per month). Just be aware that free accounts limit the duration of your meetings to 40 minutes. Paid accounts have no duration restrictions and they also allow you to include more meeting participants. There are also optional add-on features, such as Zoom Rooms for more complex meetings; webinars for virtual events; and cloud storage for all your recordings.
Sound, video, and display
Whether you access Zoom via your desktop computer, laptop, or phone, we can assume that, in most cases, your device will have its own camera and microphone, which will likely provide 'good' levels of audio and decent video quality during Zoom calls. Here are some tips on how to get from good to excellent:
- Install an HD webcam with a minimum resolution of 1080p at least 30fps (frames per second) for a crisp, high-quality video stream. Most modern webcams have in-built microphones and start from around £30.00. You should check the webcam's settings to adjust the levels of brightness for poorly light rooms.
- For a small investment, a ring light provides an excellent solution for those with dimly lit rooms. They help to improve your appearance on camera by reducing shadows in the room and diffusing light evenly across the subject.
- Be heard loud and clear in your meetings with a USB or Bluetooth headset. Not only do they provide a great listening experience, they also really help to limit annoying background noise and echo... Bingo!
- A larger monitor (or two) will really improve the overall user experience and make it easier for you to interact during meetings. Having more display real estate makes sharing a presentation, document, or video, more manageable, especially if you have room for a dual-monitor setup. This setting separates out the meeting controls and participant's video onto one monitor, while the other monitor will only display the participant's video.
- Smile! [When] you're not on camera...with video turned-off, Zoom displays your initials in lieu of a profile picture. Head to the Zoom web portal to upload (or update) your profile picture. We recommend using a headshot that clearly displays your face, rather than a busy group photo from Facebook. You can even replace a traditional Zoom profile picture with a caricature with free services like Avatar Maker.
What does your background setting say about you?
Findings from a recent US survey of over 1,500 regular Zoom users indicate that you are likely to be perceived as more intelligent, trustworthy, approachable, and professional by displaying a combination of plants, books, and artwork in the background setting for your video calls. 41% of users said they use a blank wall, which ranked lowest among those four desirable Zoom traits, so a little care and effort goes a long way (even if you stage it, as 40% of users do).
That said, we know at times there is simply no ideal location to take a meeting, so perhaps make use of an appropriate virtual background display (also available in video format). Check out Zoom's library of a wide selection of free-to-download backgrounds, or why not create your own and brand it with a company logo?
Five tips for better Zoom meetings
- The quickest and simplest way to schedule your Zoom meetings is by using the Zoom Scheduler Extension or Plug-In for Outlook with your existing calendaring system. Both toolsallow you to create Zoom meetings directly from within your calendar or web browser, eliminating the need to schedule them using the Zoom web portal or desktop application. Don't forget to add your calendar to your Zoom desktop client.
- Rehearsals for important online meetings are not optional. Test calls help you to identify the holes in your plan and provide you time to resolve any issues with your meeting content, format, and the Internet connection of each participant. Check out our article on Tips for Running a Virtual AGMto learn more about best practices for important meetings.
- Double-check your video and sound settings for joining calls in the Zoom web portalor in the desktop application. You might find it useful to update the default settings to automatically join meetings with your video off and your sound muted. Stay within settings to discover a full list of Zoom keyboard shortcuts – these two hotkeys may come in handy:
- With a Zoom Business account, you can create audio transcriptions of your meetings, which makes it much easier to take notes or meeting minutes. In settings, verify that cloud recording is enabled and then head to the advanced cloud recording settings tab and click the audio transcript checkbox. Webinar and meeting recordings can be trimmed before making them available on-demand for anyone with a link. This is not only useful for those who missed the live show, but it's also an efficient way of storing and sharing your recorded content with the rest of the world. Drastically improve the broadcast quality of a song or video played over Zoom, by using a light media player such as VLC Player. We use this player over anything else to seamlessly share our HD videos with smooth frames and cleaner sounds. Just be sure you check the options for 'Share Sound' and 'Optimize' For Video Clip boxes on the bottom left of the Share Screen pop up menu.
- Before we hit the End Meeting for Allbutton, I would like to point out that other video conferencing services are available. It is an excellent platform but just like its competitors, Zoom has limitations and is by no means the be-all and-end solution for hosting virtual meetings and events. Those new to this space should check out TechRadar's article on Best video conferencing software in 2021before jumping on the bandwagon.
Stay tuned for more tips on how to get the best out of your virtual meetings. In the meantime, be sure to check what upcoming events we have in store for you at mjhudson.com/events.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.