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11 Zoom hacks for work meetings and one happy hour

Prior to the #covid19 pandemic, I only used Zoom maybe once or twice. This is something I really regret now, especially because the tool has significantly developed since my first virtual Zoom meeting years ago.

Now that we have to socially distance from each other during the #coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has become a daily tool for me. Before we always used Skype, but Skype can very quickly become heavy to use if you have many people "meeting" at the same time.


If you are a new user to this amazing tool here are some small tips and tricks to get the most out of Zoom. Not all features are available in the free version of Zoom.

Zoom meeting - picture courtesy of Zoom.us

1. Password-protect your meetings.

With Zoom you are able to create recurring meetings. This is very useful if you have a scheduled weekly meeting and you don't want to create a new meeting URL every time. You might even have larger meetings and webinars where it is only specific people that should be allowed to connect. One way of limiting the whole world of connecting to your meeting is to protect your meeting with a password. This will limit the risk of trolls to get access to your meeting and potentially post inappropriate things.


2. Create a Personal Meeting ID (PMI) and personal link

Personal meeting ID and personal link are two ways to access your personal meeting room. Your personal meeting room is a virtual room that is permanently reserved for you. You can start it at any time or schedule it for future use. There are several ways to personalize your personal Zoom link.


3. Create a waiting room for the meeting attendants.

When you use a PMI or personal meeting room, you don't want meeting attendees to bump into one another or show up early for a meeting when one is already in progress. You might have back-to-back meetings and your attendants for the next meeting don't have, this is where it can be a good idea to create a waiting room. The Waiting Room feature allows the host to control when a participant joins the meeting. As the meeting host, you can admit attendees one by one or hold all attendees in the waiting room and admit them all at once. You can send all participants to the waiting room when joining your meeting or only guests, participants who are not on your Zoom account or are not signed in.


4. Hold down the spacebar to temporarily unmute yourself.

If you have more than one-to-one meetings, it is good customs to mute your mic. There is nothing more disturbing for an online meeting than background noise from meeting attendants. One trick here is to create Hot Keys and Keyboard Shortcuts. One very useful shortcut is to hold down the spacebar when you want to speak. This will, however, only work if you have Zoom in your main window.


5. Activate dual monitors during a meeting

If you are working in a company setting or have a proper home office, the chance is that you are using more than one monitor. A great trick is to activate the Dual Monitor setting in Zoom. This will allow you to see the meeting participants at one screen and the other monitor will show the shared content. This is useful for PPT presentations and hiding notes from the participants.


6. Virtual background

Let's be honest, you are working from home and maybe didn't spend the needed energy to make the bookshelf look nice in the background. Or you want to make sure that you always have the same professional look no matter where you are having your meeting. The virtual background feature allows you to display an image or video as your background during a Zoom Meeting. This feature works best with a green screen and uniform lighting, to allow Zoom to detect the difference between you and your background. You can also upload your own images or videos as a virtual background.


7. Use a whiteboard during your meeting

Zoom actually has a built-in whiteboard feature that you and other participants (if allowed) can annotate on, much like you would have if you were in a conference room. You need to activate annotation for the meetings.


8. Keep your meetings around 35 minutes

Let's be honest, nobody likes to have a meeting for the sole reason of having a meeting. Meetings should be short and to the point. Zoom is, in my opinion, the best free video conferencing software available today. The free version (Basic) allows for unlimited one-to-one meetings, If you want more participants, Zoom offers unlimited meetings for two or more participants but with a time limit for each meeting at a 40-minutes. This is an excellent opportunity for you to keep your minutes to the point! (Unless you, of course, have the educational or business package with no limit).


9. Breakout rooms

Do you have the need for individual brain-storming groups? Well, Zoom also has a feature for this. Using the Breakout Room function it is possible to split your Zoom meeting in up to 50 separate sessions. The meeting host can choose to split the participants of the meeting into these separate sessions automatically or manually and can switch between sessions at any time.


10. Polling for Meetings

Are you teaching in a class and want to give your students a quiz? Using the polling for meetings function you can create single choice or multiple choice polling questions for your attendants. You will be able to launch the poll during your meeting and gather the responses from your attendees. You also have the ability to download a report of polling after the meeting. Polls can also be conducted anonymously if you do not wish to collect participant information with the poll results.


11. Beauty-sleep filter

Didn't get enough sleep last night? Then you have the option to use the ​​Touch Up My Appearance function. It will retouch your video display with a soft focus and help smooth out the skin tone on your face, to present a more polished looking appearance when you display your video to others.


Happy hour with your friends, family and colleagues

The bars are closed, restaurants are closed, you can't go to work to see your colleagues and you can't attend that big birthday party that was planned for months. Since we can’t interact in person as much anymore it becomes even more important to keep in touch and be (virtually) socially active.


One way to cope with this is to meet virtually. Create a Zoom meeting room, make sure you change it for gallery view so everyone is visible and not only the person speaking. Assign one person to be the DJ, so you don't have 8 different types of music playing at the same time, and then enjoy the evening!


If you don't want to use Zoom you can also log on to the newly created ViralHappyHour.com webserver.


Disclaimer: I am not in any way encouraging people to drink alcohol, but merely encouraging people to be socially active during a lock-down and quarantine. Drinks and happy hour can be anything from water, coffee, tea, beer or whatever your flavour is.

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Bent Petersen

University of Copenhagen
GLOBE Institute
Section for Evolutionary Genomics
Øster Farimagsgade 5
1353 Copenhagen K
DENMARK

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© 2020 by Bent Petersen

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