Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people are using Zoom than ever before. Users on the video conferencing platform increased by 21% between 2019 Q4 and 2020 Q1, with memberships continuing to climb since then.
If you’re a gig worker working for a client who is using Zoom meetings, or a parent whose child has recently started using the platform for online learning, you’ll want to take time to learn the tips and trips necessary to maximize performance. This article will serve as the ultimate guide to Zoom, teaching you everything you need to know about the video conferencing software.
What Is Zoom?
Zoom is a video-conferencing platform that connects numerous users at once. In 2020 especially, it’s been used for:
- Virtual meetings
- Webinars and online classes
- Virtual visits with relatives and friends
- Birthday parties and other holiday celebrations
There are two versions of Zoom available — a basic, free version and a more advanced version that requires a subscription. We’ll dive into both of them in the next section.
How Does Zoom Work?
Zoom video conferencing exists as an application or program. You can use the service on almost any device that has a camera, including cell phones or tablets like an iPad.
There are primarily two different types of Zoom available. Zoom Meeting comes in both free and paid options. Zoom Meetings allow for interactive sessions where there is a lot of audience participation. Meeting hosts can also break attendees into breakout rooms for smaller group participation. In summary, this option is best for your basic online meeting or discussion.
The other type of Zoom service available is Zoom Webinar. This service acts more like a lecture hall or auditorium. This format is best for those expecting large audiences — perhaps those open to the general public. Zoom Webinars do not allow for as much interaction.
Typically, only one person is speaking to the audience during the webinar live stream. At most, there is a group of panelists. The host has the option to mute all meeting participants. Only hosts and panelists can mute or unmute themselves. This service is a paid add-on that is only available if you have the subscription level Pro or higher.
How to Join a Zoom Meeting
If you’re using Zoom on a Microsoft PC or Mac with a webcam, you’ll need to download it from the company’s Download Center. Note that you’ll need to do this even if you visit Zoom from a web browser, like Google Chrome.
For instance, if you open a meeting link in your web browser, Zoom will prompt you to download its software. Doing this ahead of time can save you time when you’re looking to enter a meeting.
If you’re using it on mobile devices, you can download it from the:
- App Store for Apple iOS devices
- Google Play Store for Android devices
- Amazon store for Kindle Fire devices
You do not need to have an account to enter a Zoom meeting. Once you download the software, you will receive a prompt to enter your guest name. If you create a Zoom account, your preferences will be saved for future meetings so that you do not need to enter this information every time you log in.
When you receive a meeting invite, there should be a link that takes you to the meeting directly. There should also be a meeting ID that accompanies the invitation. The easiest way to enter a meeting is by clicking the invite link, which redirects you automatically. But if this is not an option, entering the meeting ID will also allow you to enter the meeting.
Lastly, you want to make sure that you are connected to Wi-Fi before entering a Zoom call. Because Zoom relies on video streaming, it uses a lot of data. A one-hour call with one person can use up to 1.62 GB of data. A one-hour meeting can use up to 2.4 GB of data. If your mobile data plan does not carry a lot of data, you could find yourself running out quickly.
How to Start a Zoom Meeting
You can set up a meeting by going into your profile and selecting “Schedule a New Meeting.” From there, you can set the date and time of your meeting. Once you have set your meeting, you can invite others to join by copying the invitation link and distributing it to them. You also have the option to add the meeting to your:
- Google Calendar
- Outlook Calendar
- Yahoo Calendar
As the meeting host, you may also require a password for entry. This prevents what’s known as “Zoombombing,” which is an unwanted disruption that occurs when someone enters a public meeting. Having a password and keeping the meeting private prevents this from happening.
Meeting hosts may also set up a waiting room. Under this setting, the meeting host has to accept a participant’s request to join. This is another way to prevent unwelcome guests. You do not necessarily need to set up a password if you are using the waiting room feature.
The Ultimate Guide to Zoom — Tips and Tricks
Looking to enhance the Zoom experience? These tips and tricks should help.
Muting the Mic and Turning the Camera Off
If you have a lot of background noise that you don’t want others to hear, you will need to mute your microphone. There is a microphone on the bottom of your video conferencing screen. You can toggle this on or off when you need to mute or unmute yourself. Additionally, you can use Alt + A on a Windows or Shift + Command + A on a Mac to toggle the mute function on and off.
You’ll also see the “Start Video” button next to the mute button. If you turn this video button off, your camera will go blank. If you don’t want other attendees to see you, all you need to do is press this button.
If you would like to present a project, you can share your screen. For instance, if you’re a freelance writer working with an editor remotely, you can share your screen and display the document so that you can both view it at the same time.
To share your screen, select the green “Share Screen” button on your bottom toolbar. This will then prompt you to select what you would like to share.
You can share your entire screen, a specific window or application, or an iPhone/iPad screen. There is also a whiteboard setting available when sharing your screen as well. A whiteboard allows you to jot down ideas from others while collaborating.
Send a Private Chat
At the bottom of the Zoom screen, there is a chat feature. Typically, a chat is sent to the entire audience. However, there is also a private chat feature that allows you to only send messages to one person. Be sure to check who you are sending the message to before hitting send.
In the screenshot above, you see that the message is currently set to “Everyone.” If you select the dropdown menu, you will see the call participants. Select the individual’s name to send that person a private chat.
Set a Virtual Background
Another unique feature of Zoom is the ability to set a virtual background. For example, if you do not want everyone to see your home or office, you can change the background to something more professional. Some participants like to have fun with this, changing their background to something like a photo of their most recent vacation.
Note that your meeting host has the option to turn this off, so it may not be available.
If you would like to distribute files, like PDFs, to the team during the middle of a meeting, you can do so using the chat function. Again, your meeting host will have had to set this up beforehand for this feature to work.
Interact With Others
Zoom allows participants to interact in the meeting without having to speak. For instance, participants can use icons within the chat feature to:
- Raise their hand
- Disagree with a statement
- Request the presenter speed up or slow down
If you send these via private chat to the presenter, no one else on the meeting will be able to see your reactions or interactions.
Still looking to learn more about Zoom? Consider some of these FAQs to help further clarify.
1. How much does Zoom cost?
Zoom Personal Meeting is free to use. With this plan, you can host up to 100 participants for a 40-minute meeting. Zoom Pro allows you to host 100 participants for an unlimited amount of time. This service costs $149.90 per year. Zoom Enterprise allows you to host up to 500 participants. You will also receive unlimited cloud storage and a dedicated customer success manager.
2. I’m still struggling trying to learn Zoom. Where can I go for additional training?
Zoom offers weekly live trainings to help people learn their platform. You can ask questions via the chat feature during these trainings.
3. Do I need a webcam?
You can use Zoom on a device that does not have a webcam. You will not be able to transmit video of yourself. However, screen sharing is still a possibility. You can also listen and speak during the meeting, so long as you have a microphone.
4. Are there any alternatives to Zoom?
Use Zoom to Connect From Anywhere
One of the benefits of freelancing is that you can work remotely from anywhere. With more and more companies adopting Zoom video conferences in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with clients.
With our ultimate guide to Zoom, you should have the tools necessary to maximize your experience during video calls. And, if you’ve just started your digital freelancing career, be sure to check out our list of 100 must-have tools to help get you started.