Note: This post was updated 3/20/20.
If you've suddenly found yourself spending a lot more time looking at your colleagues through a Zoom videoconference as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, you're not alone. If you're not used to video meetings, it can be a little intimidating at first.
Fortunately, there are best practices that you can use, like keeping yourself on mute and always keeping your camera on (unless you have a good reason otherwise). Both of those go a long way toward fostering a productive and engaging meeting with your remote team.
Here are a few additional tips for getting the most out of your Zoom meetings.
1. Use a Waiting Room
If you have a lot of meetings, especially with a full calendar, there's always a chance that the person or people in your next meeting will log on a few minutes early, or a meeting might run long. Fortunately, Zoom has a waiting room feature that allows you to have new attendees placed there instead of just appearing in your meeting room.
To do this, log in to your account on Zoom.com, select Preferences, and scroll down to Meeting (advanced), where you can toggle the waiting room on or off.
2. Create Recurring Meetings
If you meet with the same people on a regular basis, you can create a recurring meeting within Zoom, which uses the same settings as well as the same meeting link. This makes it easy to set up a schedule, and since it doesn't use your personal meeting invitation, you can keep different groups of attendees separate. Simply log in to Zoom, select "Meetings" and select "Schedule a Meeting." Then click the box for "recurring meeting."
3. Use Attention Tracking
One of the hardest things when you're hosting a meeting, especially if you're sharing your screen, is that it's hard to see your participants. Naturally, some of those participants are probably working on something else or not giving you their full and undivided attention. If that's a problem, you can turn on the "Attention Tracking" feature, which will let you know if one of your attendees has moved another window in front of Zoom. This feature is also under the advanced meeting settings.
4. Request Control of Another Desktop
Sometimes helping a co-worker diagnose a problem or work on a project would be so much easier if you could be sitting next to that person. While Zoom hasn't completely solved that problem, it does allow you to request control of your participant's desktop. They'll have to approve the request, but you'll be able to maneuver their cursor with your own mouse and keyboard, which is especially helpful for demos or technical support.
5. Pay Attention to Your Background
We don't usually pay much attention to what is behind us until we log on to a meeting and can see ourselves. It's often then that you realize that it might have been worth paying a little more attention to what everyone else sees. If you don't have a great option, Zoom has a "virtual background" that you can set within the Zoom app on your laptop.
6. Record Your Meetings
The free version of Zoom allows you to record calls to your computer, which is convenient for meetings and demos especially. The paid version also allows you to save recordings to the cloud, which makes it easy to share with team members later by simply emailing a link.
7. Touch Up Your Appearance
If you want to have a little fun, or if you have a meeting before you had a chance to fully get ready for the day, you can choose the "touch up my appearance" setting. From the Zoom App on your laptop, choose "preferences" and then "video settings," to add a subtle skin-smoothing effect.
Bonus: Use a Good Pair of Ear Buds or Headphones
Making sure your team can hear you well is important, especially if you're working somewhere where there might be background noise. The same goes for being able to hear them. I'm a personal fan of the Apple AirPods Pro, but honestly, any paid of wired or wireless headphones will do.
By the way, if you're new to videoconferencing, Zoom also has a really helpful resource guide dedicated to supporting teams affected by Covid-19. It includes free training as well as a handful of best practices you can use to keep your team connected.