Tips for Using Zoom and Other Video Conferencing Software

Young woman having Video Conference at home

As we continue to move forward forging a “new normal,” it seems that video conferencing is here to stay. Whether for business, educational, or personal use, video conferencing comes with a host of benefits that will likely continue to be a part of our society for many years to come. Right now, video conferencing is making certain court appearances, and much parenting time, possible.  With this in mind, I would like to share a few useful tips to help you get the most out of video conferencing.

If you’re an expert on Zoom or other video conferencing software, great! If you’re not, there’s no shame; a lot of people are getting up to speed. Zoom, one of the most popular platforms, offers free online instruction classes on the basics. 

It is not inspiring for any of us to have you say that you don’t understand how to handle the basics of video conferencing and expect us to spend our meeting time instructing you. All of the various platforms have free instructional classes that are usually around a half hour. They are worth taking. Then as you become more familiar, you can take advanced classes like how to create a virtual background and using break out rooms, etc. They really are not difficult if you are motivated to learn how to use this important tool. 

What Do You Need to Learn About Video Conferencing?

The basic things to learn are:

  1. How to get online and into the meeting.
  2. How to rename yourself.
  3. How to raise your hand as a participant.
  4. How to use chat.
  5. How to mute your microphone and unmute.
  6. How to turn your video on and off.
  7. How to share your screen if that is a part of the meeting.
  8. How to leave the meeting.

If you are in doubt, host a meeting, with yourself and one other trusted friend, and practice.  It doesn’t take much to appear as a pro.

Being a Good Video Conference Participant

You’ve probably seen the insurance company ad on TV featuring team members in a video conference meeting. One team member makes snide (unmuted) comments, plays on her phone instead of paying attention to the meeting, and well, is just generally rude. Of course, you wouldn’t do any of those things—but there’s more to being a good participant than just avoiding rudeness. Here are some steps to take to make sure your fellow participants get the most out of your participation, too. 

  1. Make sure you have a good internet connection and that you are plugged in to avoid premature leaving.
  2. Make sure you are centered on your screen and a reasonable distance (not too close or too far away.) The point of video conferencing is to connect visually, and it makes it challenging to connect when you aren’t fully visible.
  3. Check your surroundings to make sure that there is nothing in your background that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing (ie. risqué pictures or distracting clutter).
  4. Go to a space that provides the appropriate amount of privacy for the type of call you are having. For a business meeting, try to find a space where family or pets aren’t seen walking through your background.
  5. Use mute if your environment is noisy. It is a good general rule in meetings to mute yourself when you aren’t speaking. It keeps down the external noise. 
  6. Make sure you mute yourself if you are using the bathroom or need to speak with someone off camera. (And really—try to avoid needing the bathroom during your call if at all possible.)
  7. Make sure that you have lighting on your face and that you aren’t sitting in front of a sunny window. Again, the point of video conferencing is to connect visually.
  8. In a group call, if you have to move your computer or phone, or get up and move around, turn your video off to keep from distracting the other participants. That includes going into the kitchen or bathroom in sight of the camera.
  9. When using the chat function in a group call, understand that it can also be very distracting to the other participants so keep it limited when others are speaking or wait until it’s your turn. Group chat is generally used to provide ancillary links or information. Personal side conversations can be had in most video conferencing apps as private messages.

I guarantee that following these few steps will help you be a great virtual participant.  Happy video conferencing to you—and here’s hoping that video conference will go back to simply being a useful tool, rather than a necessity, soon.

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