With all of us shut in at home and unable to see family, friends, and colleagues, Zoom has become the unofficial video chat app for keeping in touch during the pandemic. We use it in business for meetings. We use it for family "reunions" where any relative across the country can join. Everyone's invited, except Uncle Covid and Aunt Corona. Chances are, you've heard of Zoom. You've probably even used it. But are you using it correctly, or at least getting the most out of your experience? Here are 10 golden nuggets to help you:
1. Host a Meeting: Yes, even you can host a meeting. Signing up for a Zoom account is easy, and there is a free level of membership. Once you have an account, you can schedule your virtual cocktail hour for any day and time. (It's 5:00 somewhere.) Then invite friends via email or send them a calendar invitation.
2. Screen Sharing: The host, and often the guests, of the meeting can share their computer screens to show everyone whatever important information they want: A PowerPoint presentation, pictures of the grandkids, a website, a cat video. You name it!
3. Compatibility: You can use Zoom on any device--Mac, Windows PC, iPhones, Androids, and tablets.
4. Mute Yourself: This one gets into the issue of etiquette. Many users on Zoom don't realize how much background noise gets picked up when they are not muted. Even moving your laptop on your desk creates a loud sound. When you make a sound, your video box gets highlighted on everyone else's screen if it's loud enough. This distracts guests from what the speaker is saying. Unmute yourself when it's your turn to talk.
5. Smile! You're on Candid Camera!: Be sure to look at the camera. You'd be surprised at the number of people who don't realize that everyone is looking into their ear or at their shoes. Think of yourself as being on TV and check the video box you're displayed in to see how you look. If you're having a really bad hair day, you can always turn off your video. Remember, as long as the Zoom meeting is happening, and your video is set to ON, your camera stays on--even if you navigate to a different screen on your computer.
6. Step into the Light: Try to have good lighting directed at your face. You don't want to look like you're in the dark. Sitting with a window behind you can backlight you and make you look like you're in the Witness Protection Program.
7. Facial Expressions: While a step up from an ordinary audio phone call, video chatting still doesn't convey your emotions and demeanor as well as a face-to-face conversation. Even though you're muted, you can wave, give a thumbs up, smile, etc. You can also click on the Reaction Emojis to show how you feel.
8. Chat Feature: This is a great tool if you want to ask a question of everyone, or the host, or a specific user without disrupting the speaker. Important note: your one-on-one chat with your buddy won't be seen by the rest of the users in the Zoom meeting, but it's not private. The host gets a transcript of ALL chat conversations. So don't say anything bad about the boss or Aunt Martha!
9. Zoombombing: Many of us have heard about the security breaches that have happened recently, where nefarious people have crashed a Zoom meeting and displayed rude pictures or messages. You can avoid this by not publicly posting your meeting on social media. Assign a meeting ID and password, and only share it with your invitees. You can also turn on the Waiting Room function that puts users in a virtual "room," and only the host can let them in.
10. More Than You Can Shake a Stick At: There are myriad ways and reasons to use Zoom. My family has used them for work meetings, family get-togethers, attending a Passover seder, and a virtual happy hour. How have you used Zoom? I'd love to hear other ideas. Please let me know by posting in the Comments Section!