Note: Zoom displays differently on desktops, tablets and phones, and differently than on IOS and PC devices, so some things may be slightly different than described. Also, your account settings may need to be adjusted to see all the options I describe. Use the Zoom support guides for more information.
Getting a Meeting Started
When you’re new to Zoom, you do not have to pay for an account – you can host meetings for free. One on one calls are unlimited. Group calls, for up to 100 people, are limited to 40 minutes. (For info on free calls vs. paid accounts, go to pricing.)
Host an impromptu meeting
Go to https://zoom.us. Sign in. (If you don’t already have an account, it will ask you to create one.) Click on “host a meeting” and choose “with video on.” Then you’ll get a pop-up prompt – agree to open the Zoom app, and a meeting will start.
Go to the participant list. At the bottom, click on “invite”. You can either choose to “copy invitation” which will include all the info anyone could need. Or you can choose “copy link” to get the link to send.
If you’re talking with someone on the phone or texting them, and the link is hard to manage, then you can just give them the meeting ID (at the top of the invite window) and the password (at the bottom of the window) and they’ll type those into their app.
Scheduling a meeting
You can also schedule a meeting in advance, so you can send out the links in advance. Go to https://zoom.info. Sign in. Choose “schedule a meeting”. (If you don’t see this option, click on “my account.” Then choose to schedule a meeting.)
Fill out the fields there to set up the meeting. For security’s sake:
- for meeting ID, generate a random ID, don’t use your personal ID
- ALWAYS require a password (Zoom will give you a random number as a password – you can change it to a word if you want to, I don’t bother)
- do NOT enable join before host, and
- DO enable the waiting room.
Set the date and time. Just an FYI: the times you set on the schedule don’t mean a lot other than being what is included in the information in the invitation. People can join a meeting before the start time – like days before the start time. So, if you’ve enabled join before host (not a smart move in most cases), people could use the meeting at other times. The meeting also will NOT end when it hits the scheduled end time. It will keep going till the host ends the meeting (or till the last participant leaves in a meeting with no host.)
Send the invitation information out to your attendees.
Checking Security Settings
There have been incidents of “zoom bombings” where unexpected people appear, and may say (or chat) offensive things, have their webcams aimed at something offensive, or share offensive videos. You want to take steps to prevent this.
First, don’t post your zoom links widely on the internet where they can be found by anyone – think about other options, like emailing the links only to specific participants. (You could also require that people pre-register for a Zoom meeting to get the link.)
Then, when you start a meeting, check your security settings by clicking on the shield in the command bar. For a meeting with known people, I usually set security so they can rename themselves, and unmute themselves and use chat, but NOT share screens. In some situations, with participants you don’t know, you may need to have tighter security than that.
Generally it’s best to have a waiting room. When people log in to the meeting, you’ll see their names appear in a separate part of the participants list, and you click to admit them to the meeting. It lets you just quickly check to be sure you recognize the name before you let them in. (Also, potential zoom bombers see there’s a waiting room, get bored and move on.) For meetings of over 30 people this may be challenging for one person to manage, so consider having a co-host help you admit folks.
You can also choose to “lock” a meeting once all attendees have arrived.
Click on the participants button to bring up the participants’ list. During a call, keep the participant list open – it’s good for quickly fixing minor problems. By clicking on someone’s name in the list, you can mute them, or turn their camera off, or put them back in the wait room (or put them “on hold” if you don’t have a wait room), or even permanently remove them from a meeting.
If there was one problem person, you might be able to quickly remove them. Some groups have experienced Zoom bombings where many people appeared all at once, sharing offensive videos. If something like that happens, plan to end the meeting immediately. Just let your participants know in advance that if anything problematic ever happens, you’ll just immediately end the meeting and send all your participants an email with new links. Here’s a Zoom tutorial on Keeping Uninvited Guests Out.
In November 2020, they’re adding a feature in the security panel to “suspend participant activity: which will mute all audio and video, stop screen sharing, end all breakout rooms, and pause recording.” Here’s info on how the suspend function works in case of a zoom bombing.
Running a Meeting
At the most basic level, you just need to know how to make sure everyone can see and hear and chat with each other.
So, as people join, if they need assistance, teach them how to mute and unmute themselves, how to turn their camera on or off, how to chat with others, and how to raise their hand. (Directions for all these skills are in my Zoom Basics post.)
Muting / Un-Muting
The host can mute people at any time, but you cannot unmute them without their permission. If someone is trying to speak, but is un-muted, you can go to their name in the participant list, and “ask them to unmute” and that prompt might help them realize they’re muted.
I find it helpful to be able to unmute people (I teach young children on Zoom and I work with parents who may have toddlers on their laps and can’t get to the unmute button and I work with elders who may have a challenging time un-muting.) You can make this adjustment in your account settings:
When someone attends your meeting, it will ask them if you have permission to unmute them in this and future meetings.
If you hear an awful echoing / ringing sound, it is often because one person is using two devices in close proximity to each other (they’ve dialed in on their computer AND on their phone). If you hear this, just make sure they mute one of their mics. (Or do it for them.)
Sometimes someone on the call is making a lot of noise. (Dog is barking, sirens are going past their house.) And sometimes they don’t realize they are. If most people are muted, just look at your participants list to see if someone has accidentally un-muted, and re-mute them. If that didn’t help you to figure out who is making noise, just switch to gallery view and watch the yellow highlights that show you who is “speaking” (or making noise in this case) and mute them.
Note: the flipside of this is that Zoom does try to filter out some of the background noise. But I’ve had times where a student in a class had poor audio quality (their computer had a poor built-in mic and they weren’t close to it), and Zoom basically just tuned them out as “background noise” and let my mic over-ride theirs. I was screen sharing and didn’t even know they were trying to speak. I now know to watch for participants with really quiet audio, and keep an eye on the video for that person so I can see if they’re trying to speak.
You can share items on your computer with other people in the meeting. As a speaker, you might want to share your PowerPoint slides, or a video. As a meeting participant, you might want to share a document you’re working on so others can see what you’re referring to. You can also share a “white board” that you can draw on.
To share a screen, go to the command bar at the bottom of the screen, and choose the green button for share screen. It will pop up a window, like this:
Choose the thing you want to share – say the word document on the bottom right, then double click on it, and it will begin sharing. You’ll know it worked if up near the top, there’s a green box that says “you are screen sharing” next to a red box that says “stop share.”
I usually gather everything I plan to share (slides, video, audio, images, screen captures of internet sites) all in one PowerPoint that’s set up exactly as I want it. (Learn more about optimizing PowerPoint for Zoom.)
When you’re planning to share a video, it’s SUPER important to click those two boxes in the bottom of the share window (see above image) where it says share computer sound and optimize screen sharing for video clip.
Check out this article for lots more ways to finesse your screen sharing for the best possible experience.
You can record the meeting – just click on the record button. If you’re using speaker view, it will record the speaker – We spotlight our speaker, and if people have questions, we spotlight them, so the recording does not accidentally catch other people. If you’re using gallery view, it will record gallery view. (More on recording layouts.)
Get people’s permission to record them!
When you end the meeting, it will tell you it’s processing the video. If you recorded to your computer, Zoom will pop up a folder with the recordings in it when it’s done. If you recorded to the cloud, then you’ll log on to your account at https://zoom.us, then look for recordings.
A Few Tips
If possible, put noisy animals out of ears’ reach, find ways to keep your children occupied for the call, and minimize other sources of noise when possible.
Have a water bottle nearby – be sure that it’s one that if you knock it over it won’t spill all over your laptop!
Look at the camera when you speak (not at the person’s image on your screen) – that will make it look most like real eye contact to them. Keep your notes in front of you, if possible, so your eyes are looking toward the screen rather than away. (I have mine in a separate window on my screen, but if juggling the windows is challenging for you, it’s fine to use paper notes.)
Have a backup plan. What would you do if your device suddenly died or your internet suddenly disappeared? I keep my phone nearby and I know where on my phone I can quickly find my class link. So, if I suddenly dropped out of a meeting, I could use my phone to get quickly back in.
Consider starting meetings by defining group norms – do you want them to stay muted, or would you like them unmuted when possible (if they are in a noisy environment they’ll stay muted). Would you like them to be camera on whenever possible or is it fine if their camera is off? Is chatting actively encouraged or do you want to minimize chatting? (I find it enhances social events like talent shows or game shows where people can chatter like they would chat between acts to someone seated next to them; I find at somber events like a church service, chat is too distracting, just like it would be distracting for them to be whispering at church.)
Read on in the guide for more on:
- Advanced Meeting Management (spotlight, breakouts, co-hosts, polls)
- Sharing Screens on Zoom (how to share PowerPoint slides, videos, documents, the whiteboard, etc.)
- Optimizing PowerPoint for use on Zoom – place all the audio, video, and images you need in one PowerPoint to help meetings go smoothly.