Practical and technical tips for interactive online meetings
In the past days, I’ve spent a lot of time in online meetings (mostly using Zoom) – and a lot of questions came up regarding the practical set up and functionality. Here is a collection of tips and ideas based on those questions.
As a participant
- You are in charge of what you see. You can switch between Speaker view (where you just see the speaker) and Gallery view (where you see up to 25 people). You can also hide your own video or choose (‘pin’) a particular participant’s video as the speaker.
- It’s a good idea to open the Chat and the Participants List to see who’s there and to engage in the meeting throughout. You can also message individual participants.
- Check your Audio Settings in private by going to Settings > Audio. You can test (and change) the current speaker and microphone settings there.
- I’d recommend keeping your microphone muted unless you’re speaking (you can unmute using Alt+A) and your video on during the meeting – it makes for a better, more human connection.
- And: try sitting facing a window (or other light source) – the video quality will immediately improve.
- You can minimize and move the window when someone is sharing their screen. This really helps if you also need to consult other information.
As an organizer
Zoom has a lot of hidden features that make interaction during the meeting easier. I have enabled the following in my account settings (https://zoom.us/profile/setting):
- Host video: Start meetings with host video on
- Participants video: Start meetings with participant video on
- Join before host: Allow participants to join the meeting before the host arrives (this is particularly important when you are meeting with a regular group and might arrive a few minutes late yourself)
- Auto saving chats: Automatically save all in-meeting chats o that hosts do not need to manually save the text of the chat after the meeting starts
- Play sound when participants join or leave: Heard by host only
- Feedback to Zoom: OFF
- Co-host: Allow the host to add co-hosts
- Polling: Add ‘Polls’ to the meeting controls. This allows the host to survey the attendees
- Allow host to put attendee on hold: Allow hosts to temporarily remove an attendee from the meeting
- Whiteboard: Allow participants to share whiteboard during meeting; Auto save whiteboard content when sharing is stopped
- Nonverbal feedback: Participants in a meeting can provide nonverbal feedback and express opinions by clicking on icons in the Participants panel
- Breakout room: Allow host to split meeting participatns into separate, smaller rooms; Allow host to assign participants to breakout rooms when scheduling
- Virtual background: Allow users to replace their background with any selected image
- Show a “Join from your browser” link: Allow participants to bypass the Zoom application download process, and join a meeting directly from their browser. This is a workaround for participants who are unable to download, install, or run applications.
Amongst other things, these settings give you a bunch of new ways of interacting in addition to chat and screen sharing:
|Breakout rooms||Polls||Nonverbal feedback||Whiteboard|
In the Telephone settings, you can also define which international dial-in phone numbers are included by default with your invitations.
- For each individual meeting you schedule, you can choose to Require Registration. This will give you a link to a registration page. Depending on the type of the meeting, you can then ask Zoom to automagically send meeting information to everyone who registers – or manually approve participants.
- If you choose to Enable waiting room, you will have to individually admit every single participant to the meeting once it starts – a better option is to join the meeting a little early, put up a cover slide and mute and hide yourself until the meeting starts.
- You can create breakout room and pre-assign participants before the meeting starts. Depending on the size of the meeting you might want to have a co-host at hand to adjust the groups in case of last-minute changes.
Let me know how things go – and good luck with your online meetings!
More resources for online meetings
- Rachel Smith has a great Crash Course for Translating Your Process to a Virtual Setting.
- Nancy White is collecting resources for Moving Online in Pandemic.
- Gillian Martin-Mehers has ideas for capturing virtual group work effectively.
- Bonnie Koenig has a few reminders of good practices for online meetings.