This page is for brand new beginners on how to get started participating in Zoom meetings. If you see notes in italics, they’re just additional helpful tips – not really essential to understand. If you’re a more advanced user, it’s still worth skimming through this article, and you may discover tricks you didn’t know!
If you prefer to print out these instructions to have next to you as you learn the ropes, just print this Zoom basics PDF.
- Getting an Invitation
- Joining by phone audio only
- Getting ready for your first Zoom call on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, (download the app, do a test call, learn to mute/unmute, and chat)
- Joining a meeting
Getting an Invitation
You may just get a link to the meeting, like this:
Or, someone may tell you: “Meeting id 733 4481 2743. Password 6tR7Jn”
Joining by phone audio only
At the simplest level, you can treat zoom like a conference call. Just use your phone to dial any of the numbers listed at the bottom of the invitation (under “dial by your location”). It will ask you to type in the meeting ID from the invite. If there was a password in the invitation, you’ll type it in to. If you have an iPhone, you should just be able to use the “one tap mobile number” which will dial the number, the meeting ID and the password.
Then you’ll be on a phone call where you can hear everything that happens in the meeting. (You won’t be able to see anything.) It is best to mute the mic on your phone, so that people don’t hear all the sounds that surround you.
So, you can do an audio only call, but most people will do video calls:
Setting up for a video call
On a computer
To get the fullest functionality out of Zoom, to be able to see shared images well, and to see as many of the participants as possible, you should plan to use a desktop or laptop computer. (Most have webcams and microphones installed. If they don’t, you’ll want to add a microphone at least.)
If you’re on a computer, you’ll begin by downloading the app. Go to https://zoom.us/support/download. Zoom will start downloading. You’ll see something like this:
When it’s downloaded, click at the bottom left (where the blue arrow is pointing) where it says “open file.”
That will open the app.
On a mobile device
Or, you can use a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone. Your first step is to install the Zoom app. If you’re on an Android device, you’ll find it in the Google Play store. If you’re on IOS device, find it in the App store. (Here’s a video if you would like to be walked through this process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO206_NezaY) Important note: Mobile devices are fine for most Zoom needs, but they don’t have access to all of the features that I describe in this article. Chromebooks especially have some limitations.
Do a Test Meeting
Now, go to http://zoom.us/test. Click on a big blue button that says “Join” meeting. A pop-up window may prompt you – choose to open the Zoom app.
It may ask you to type in a display name. If it does, most meetings prefer that you type in your real name so they know who is coming into the meeting. (There have been issues with malicious folks “zoom bombing” meetings with offensive images, so we are all a little cautious about who we admit in.)
The test meeting will display a pop-up window to test your speakers. If you hear the ringtone, click yes. If not, try turning up your computer volume (or unplugging your headphones). If you still can’t hear it, click no, and switch speakers till you hear it.
It will then test your microphone. Speak for 5 – 10 seconds, then pause – do you hear a replay? If so, click yes, if not click no – check if your mic was muted and/or switch mics.
Then to join the meeting, click “Join with Computer Audio.”
Practicing a Meeting
Most of the commands for a meeting are in a black bar at the bottom of the screen. If you don’t see the black bar, try moving your mouse to the bottom of the screen or tapping the screen to display it. The command bar looks something like this on a computer:
And like this on a mobile device:
In the test meeting, try out these skills.
Turn off / turn on microphone
At the left corner of the command bar, there’s a picture of a microphone. Click to mute it – you’ll now see a red line over it indicating you’re muted. Click again to unmute it. Now click again to mute it. Try holding down the space bar and talking – this will temporarily unmute the mic. When you’re done talking, release the space bar and it goes back to mute.
(Note, next to the mic button, there’s an up arrow – clicking on that will take you to advanced audio settings – you’d generally only need this if you wanted to sing or play music.)
Turn off / turn on video
Next to the mic picture, you’ll see an image of a camera. You can turn it off by clicking it, and turn it back on by clicking. (Note, next to the camera, you’ll see an up arrow for more options. We’ll look at some of those in another article.) Some participants may want to keep their camera blank for privacy reasons, or because they’re in their pajamas with bedhead, but many meetings may request that you turn your camera on because being able to see each other’s faces helps humans to feel connected and also helps us all feel a little safer as we know who’s at the meeting. (As a teacher, I’ll tell you if I can see your face, the class will be better! It’s just easier for me to connect to faces than black squares.)
Participants List and Raising Your Hand
Participants List: Click the ‘Participants’ button on the command bar to see everyone in the call.
Raising Hand. When you’re in the participants list, look at the bottom of the list. If you see a ‘raise hand’ button, click on it. If you don’t see the raise hand, you may see three dots for more options. Click on those, and you’ll see the option to raise hand. That lets the speaker know you have a question or want to share something. It will put you in a line with others who have raised their hands. (Note: on a PC, you can also use alt-y to raise your hand.)
On your black command bar, you may see a chat icon that looks like a speech bubble in a cartoon. (On a mobile device, you’ll see the word “more” and chat will be one of the options when you click on more.)
Click the ‘Chat’ button and type ‘hello!’ into the chat box. This will send a chat message to everyone in the meeting. In some meetings, you will be given the option to choose one specific person to send a chat to. (In some meetings, there will not be a chat available, if that’s what the host chose.)
On the controls, you’ll also see a reactions button and “share screen” – you’ll learn about those in another article.
When you’re done, click on the red button at the right of the command bar to leave meeting or to end meeting if you’re a host.
Joining a Real Meeting
If you got a link to the meeting in an email, calendar appointment or on a website, you just need to click on that, or copy and paste it into your browser. You’ll get a prompt asking if you want to open Zoom, agree to do so. You’ll get a prompt asking if you want to use computer audio, agree to do so. You’ll be placed in the meeting.
If the host has enabled a waiting room, you’ll get a message that says “Please wait, the meeting host will let you in soon.”
Sometimes, instead of a link, someone will give you a Meeting ID and maybe a password. If so, then go to https://zoom.us. Click on “join a meeting”. (Or open your app, and choose “join a meeting.”) It will ask you to type in the meeting ID.
Once you join the meeting, you can confidently use all the basic skills you learned in your test meeting.
Once you’ve mastered these basic skills, you can learn more about how to use Zoom, by checking out the articles in my Zoom Guide. Here’s just a few to get you started.
- Becoming a more skilled Zoom participant (gallery view vs. speaker view, changing your name, communicating reactions and chatting)
- Looking and Sounding Good (finding a better signal so your calls don’t freeze, making sure you look OK, and that you can be heard)
- Hosting a Meeting (starting a meeting, inviting people, scheduling a meeting, muting, recording, and the basics of sharing screens)
- Screen “hygiene” for prolonged use – reduce Zoom fatigue