My Zoom Hacks

Zoom Hacks by Tara O’Shea

My first encounter with Zoom was a couple years’ ago when I was desperately trying to work out how to demonstrate something on my screen to my client. Fast-forward two years and not only is sharing my screen part of my day-to-day activities, but it is one of the vital components in managing virtual events.

Along with every other workforce across the globe, Zoom was swiftly brought in to replace our in-person team meetings during the first lockdown. Our new virtual meeting room quickly transformed into our team event space. From weekly pub quizzes to online conferences, for the past 12 months we have solidly relied on Zoom to replace the human interaction stolen from us by COVID-19. 

You’re on mute

“You’re on mute”

The universal catchphrase uttered at some point in every online meeting; closely followed by the awkward wave everyone seems compelled to do before they hang up the call. Despite the cringe-worthy actions that are inevitable with any virtual gathering, there is no denying that Zoom is one of the best video conferencing providers out there. Its functionality, user-friendliness and cost-effective subscription plans makes it the number one choice for team meetings, group workshops, networking, parties and conferences. After dedicating a significant amount of time to figure out the best ways to successfully run a Zoom event, I have compiled a shortlist of features which have made [and continue to make] the biggest impact on the way we deliver our client’s virtual events. The functionality mentioned may already be common knowledge to a lot of people but when you are running an event remotely, with no other equipment but a laptop available, you really start to realise how valuable they truly are.

Breakout rooms

This has to be my favourite feature on Zoom Meetings. It is the best solution for events where the client’s brief is ‘to maximise networking.’ There are three ways you can organise attendees into breakout rooms:

  1. Automatically – you choose the number of rooms and Zoom randomly, and evenly, splits the group up into those rooms. You can shuffle people around afterwards, but this is great for those sessions where the client really doesn’t mind who are in the same group as each other.
  2. Manually – you choose the number of rooms but then you have to move the attendees into them yourself. If you have a small group and plenty of time to do this then this is perfect, otherwise, I recommend stay clear of this one to avoid any potential delays in opening the rooms up.
  3. Let participates choose themselves – you create the number of rooms you want and then open them up for attendees to join at their leisure. This is great for optional breakout sessions or perhaps during a coffee break to allow attendees to further network. You can name the room with a particular theme or topic so that attendees know what is going on in there. Not only does this save the organiser a lot of hassle from moving the everyone around, but it also gives the attendees that feeling of moving from room to room, just like they would at an in-person event.

Slides as a virtual background

We all know you can share your presentation via the share screen function, but did you also know that you display your PowerPoint as a virtual background? Zoom enables a more immersive sharing experience via their virtual backgrounds. Speakers can have their video imposed directly on their presentation and can manage their slides directly in Zoom using the meeting controls. I really like the concept of this feature as it mimics the image of a speaker walking in front of a LED wall on stage at an in-person event.

Spotlight

If you are not using Zoom webinar for a conference and want to ensure your keynote speaker remains the focal point in the meeting, then you will absolutely need to use this feature. Spotlighting can put up to 9 presenters as the primary active speakers for all participants, meaning everyone will only see these speakers during the meeting. This feature provides the organiser with a lot more control of bringing someone on to speak at certain times during the event, and who needs to come off screen when their turn is over. 

Pause sharing screen

Have you been sharing a document but wanted to transition quickly to another presentation or screen without your audience seeing? Whilst you are sharing your screen, Zoom gives you the option to ‘pause share’ which essentially means that the screen you are sharing from will ‘freeze’ and you can open up another document on that screen without people seeing. Not only does this make the transition look as seamless as possible, but it is also great for those presenters who notice a mistake on their presentation and need to edit on the fly.

Audience engagement tools

Audience participation is an essential facet of any event (virtual or in-person), regardless of size or complexity – it is not really an option to host passive and non-engaging events.

Available on many virtual platforms, Zoom offers the ability for the audience to become involved with the content through polling, a range of emoji options and different formats for participating in Q&A sessions (text questions, raise hand, spotlight an audience member). All simple features, but so important for creating a sense of community.

Tara O’Shea, Event Co-ordinator