Nobody knows exactly how long the advised (or mandatory) work from home orders will last but it’s pretty clear for everyone they are here now. The traffic on Zoom has grown exponentially this year, with 300 million daily meeting participants in April. Yet for all the usage it gets, people seem to often be at a loss when using the platform if we are to believe the number of hilarious bloopers posted all over social media.
While Zoom is highly user-friendly and easy to figure out, we were all thrown into this ‘new normal’ without any prior training so we must just do our best.
The pressure is mostly on the managers or trainers who are faced with facilitating live meetings and learning interventions. Here are some tips on how to improve the experience and avoid being unintentionally funny.
1. Have video and microphone turned off when starting a meeting
I am certain that there is not one corporate employee who has not caught one of the weird moments when the facilitator or host of the meeting looked like a curious meerkat into the camera, seemingly performing a spiritism session with questions like “Are you there? Can you hear me? Give me a sign if you can hear me? Do you also see me?”.
It’s a lot better to begin with the camera off, figuring out everything that is on the screen and if anybody else is already in the small squares. It’s easy to turn the video off by clicking the “turn off my video when joining a meeting” box. The same goes for the audio option.
Any noise, even the ones made by you sitting down, adjusting in your chair, or arranging some papers will be rendered to everybody in the meeting. It’s no end of the world but it’s not very pleasant either and you want the first impression of you to be one of collected professionalism.
When you want to unmute, there’s the Alt=A shortcut to do that really quickly.
2. Use the annotation option when you facilitate online learning sessions
This feature seems to be often overlooked. The ‘share screen’ option is very popular because it gives participants the possibility to take a look at the same thing the instructor is seeing. Annotation is a function integral to screen sharing that allows the facilitator to ‘draw’, ‘stamp’, spotlight’, and when it is necessary to use the ‘eraser’ option.
The “spotlight’ tool is especially useful because as you move the mouse over what you want to point out it will literally get the spotlight and the audience will not have to wonder if they are looking at the right thing. It helps clear out confusion and draws eyes where you need them to be, without the distractions of everything else on the screen or slide.
You can easily familiarize yourself with this feature by trying it out and just to give you a head start, here is a detailed video on how to employ it.
3. Always password your Zoom meeting
The issue of security is a very serious one. Tales of meetings and classes being crashed by people who didn’t have the best intentions or the nicest language are all over the internet. There is also ZoomBombing – an instance in which hackers take over the facilitator’s screen and put their own images for everyone to see.
When it comes to corporate training it is essential to keep inside information on the inside, so adding a password for each meeting shouldn’t be optional.
In order to password protect your online training sessions click ‘Schedule‘ on the main interface, schedule a new online class (appearing as a meeting in Zoom) and check the ‘Require meeting password’ box. Then of course you have to set a password and make sure that everyone who is supposed to participate in the meeting has it.
Another good way to ensure that your screen can’t be taken over is to go to advanced sharing options and select ‘Only Host’ under the ‘Who can share?’ section.
4. Mute everybody when necessary
Generally, trainers and facilitators want people to be engaged, ask questions, share their experiences, and generally participate in their sessions. With online live meetings, however, this could be a bit tricky.
When several (or, in some cases, most) participants feel very strongly about a subject and want to speak their mind at the same time it just turns into a sort of Tower of Babel even if they are all talking in the same language. At times like this, facilitators need to be heard and set some rules.
Getting overly agitated and trying to be louder than the crowd of heads on the screen is counterproductive and looks highly unprofessional but if you go to ‘Manage Participants’ and then, on the next screen click ‘Mute All’ you’ll get your window to take things back in hand and establish some rules for speaking. To make things even easier Alt + M will do the same thing and then you can hit those keys again to unmute.
Like all platforms, Zoom takes some getting used to and has features that are highly visible and features that need a little digging after. The above tips are meant to make live training using this platform a little easier and more efficient.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.