Tips for Using Zoom: How to Become a Videoconference Power User

 wired.com  03/25/2020 12:00:00   Boone Ashworth

An upside of being quarantined during a global pandemic is that your isolation doesnt have to be so & lonely. Amid the chaos of the coronavirus, the magic of video conferencing technology (and, most popularly, Zoom) has allowed unprecedented numbers of people to connect virtually.

But its not exactly second nature. There are all sorts of settings and complications that await the noob Zoomer. Whether youre using Zoom for work, long-distance video tutoring, or just to connect with friends or family, heres what you need to know.

The Basics

Get up to date

First things first: Youre going to need to download Zoom. Chances are youve already done that, or you wouldnt be reading this in the first place. Next, make sure you have the most up-to-date version of the software. Some of the more advanced features (which well get into later) require the latest release. To update, click on your user icon. Its the blob in the top right corner that likely has your initials or a photo on it. A list will pop up. In the middle is "Check for updates." Click it, and follow the steps shown in the window.

Enjoy the view

Youll enter a Zoom meeting by either hosting it yourself (theres a big "New Meeting" button right there on the app's main control panel) or joining someone elses meeting.

Once you're in, youll see the other people in the meeting. They may be arranged in the big, checkered, Brady Bunch-style grid which Zoom calls Gallery View, or youll be staring deep into the slightly pixelated soul of just one person on the call. Zoom calls this Speaker View, and it switches the video feed to show whoever is talking at the moment. You can toggle between the two view options by clicking the icon at the top right of your video screen.

Why cant anybody see/hear me?

Zoom should give you the option to turn on your camera and mic right when you log onto a meeting, but if it doesnt, use the buttons at the bottom left corner of the toolbar to turn on your camera and your microphone.

If youd like to set your video or audio to be always on or always off, open Zoom and click the little gear icon just below your profile icon. In the video settings, go down to Meetings and check or uncheck "Turn off my video when joining meeting." To silence your mic, select the "Mute my microphone" option.

A quick etiquette note: Its best to stay muted, especially when youre on a busy call. Chances are youd rather not have your screaming toddler or yapping dog provide the backing track for everyones meeting. To briefly unmute yourself to say something like, Yes, I am paying attention, just hold down the space bar. It works like a walkie-talkie button, keeping your line open as long as you're pressing it. Release the space bar, and you go back to being muted.

If the space bar trick doesnt work, go back into the audio settings and check the box for "Press and hold SPACE key to temporarily unmute."

Why is my connection so bad?

Choppy video could be caused by anythingand maybe it's because your connection cant handle it when all 65 people in the regional sales logistics department (or whatever) talk at the same time. You do have options for beefing up your home Wi-Fi, and now you might have a good excuse to do so.

A more immediate solution is to save some bandwidth by reducing video quality. Go into video settings and uncheck "Enable HD." If youre the host of the meeting, you can make that the default for everyone on the call. Youll need to leave the Zoom app and go to the company's support site (it will make you log in). From the Settings page, go into Meetings, then scroll way down to the "In Meeting (Advanced)" section. Toggle off "Group HD video" and enjoy slightly smoother video at the expense of downgrading all your coworkers visages to look like blocky Minecraft characters.

The Particulars

How do I share my screen? I want people to see all my browser tabs

« Go back