What is Zoom?
If you haven’t yet Zoomed, it is likely that you will!
More and more people and groups are conducting formal and informal meetings and chats online, that is, virtually, rather than face-to-face in person. Wishing a loved one happy birthday, consulting with a health provider, playing group games, organizing a work project, learning a new skill in a webinar, all can be accomplished using Zoom.
This type of communicating is called video conferencing, or, in a less formal setting, video chat. Zoom is one provider of video conferencing services (see below for a list of others, and a disclaimer). It offers free and fee-based versions. It can be an effective substitute for in-person meetings, and has gained a wide following during a time when we are conscious of keeping physically distant.
Hamden Public Library is using Zoom video conferencing to host online public events for our patrons, such as book and video discussions, author talks, and health-related programs. These events will replace our on-site programs for awhile, and will likely be a permanent addition to our public offerings. To make these programs accessible to a wider audience, we have developed several how-to videos to help you learn your way around. There is a link to these videos below. In addition, Zoom.us has developed its own comprehensive series of user guides, also linked below.
Why talk about “etiquette”?
We communicate not only by the sound of our voice but by our expression and body language. Video conferencing includes some of these visual signals, but leaves out some of the hints that we pick up during face-to-face communication.
At their best, Zoom meetings can be productive and rewarding; at their worst they can be disruptive and create bad feelings all around. It is all about knowing the norms and conventions of hosting or attending a meeting.
Both formal and informal meetings are likely to go more smoothly if everyone plays by the rules of communication at a distance. Zoom has features that allow a host to control the ambience of the meeting: who can participate, if and when others in the meeting can talk, side-chat with each other, or see each other; in other words, create an environment that reflects the purpose of the meeting. By learning about the controls and their function, every attendee can help keep the meeting on track and secure.
Best Practices for Attendees
- Jump in and join a meeting, whether with friends and family or a more formal meeting.
- Take time to orient yourself to Zoom’s features and to the controls.
- Experiment with the Virtual Background feature, and use it with discretion
- Yes, it counts, especially on a job interview! Dress appropriately for the type of meeting you are in.
- Check that your lighting does not hide your image.
- Look at the camera, and not at the screen.
- Arrive early or on time to the meeting.
- Never share a meeting invitation without permission of the host.
- Plan to connect to a meeting a few minutes early, to try out your audio.
- Follow the guidance of the host when using features such as the muting/unmuting the mic, turning on or off video, and chatting with other attendees.
- In a formal meeting, if you wish to be called on to speak, use the Raise/Lower Hand button, rather than actually raising and lowering the hand attached to your arm. The host will see that you are waiting to be called on. A less formal meeting may be more flexible about that.
- If there is low Internet connectivity, consider turning off your video for better audio.
- Remember to speak clearly and not too fast.
- Last but not least, be mindful of what’s visible and audible in your own background.
Best Practices for the Host
- In addition to creating an agenda or plan for the meeting, before your first meeting try to schedule a trial meeting with someone, to get used to the layout of the screen and the location of controls such as screen sharing, muting and unmuting, and locking the meeting.
- Open the meeting a few minutes early if you can. Some meetings provide music for attendees who arrive early.
Security. If you host a meeting, you want to prevent ZoomBombing by some unknown person (troll) who interjects themselves or an image and disrupts your meeting.
- Never share a meeting link on a public platform. Anyone who sees the link can use it.
- Verify that screen sharing is disabled for participants.
- Consider using Waiting Rooms to control access to your meeting.
- If an attendee is misbehaving, you have the option to write them a note, then remove them from the meeting or to a waiting room.
- Introductions are often made at the beginning of the meeting.
- Be sure to remind attendees about the various controls are that they will need, and perhaps even give a short orientation to Zoom features such as participant views, raise/lower hand, mute/unmute mic, show/hide video, chat (or not!).
- How little or much independent communication you allow will be determined by the function of the meeting.
Welcome to the Virtual World
We have been launched into a world where we can see and hear each other, but not touch or, to a large extent, experience another person’s more subtle gestures while talking or listening. Communicate openly and in a friendly manner; however, humor and jokes can fall flat and can be offensive to people of a different culture or mindset. Attendees do not always see your face and can miss a joke that may seem obvious to you.
Video conferencing services each has its own distinctive personality. You can make use of any one of them to meet with groups and individuals while keeping physically distant. Some of the more popular services are GoToMeeting, Google Meet (was Google Hangouts), Facetime, and, Zoom.
Disclaimer: While Hamden Public Library has chosen Zoom for video conferencing, it makes no claims about the service and does not imply that other, similar services are inferior to Zoom.
For more information
The following links will enrich your video conferencing savvy.
Hamden Public Library’s Zoom Training Videos
Thrillist reviews of several video conferencing services
NPR podcast with transcript