On Computing

How to Zoom Through Zoom…

Joel Howell

Article by Joel Howell Newsletter Editorial Board


Like it or not, Zoom has become an integral part of office software over the past year. While it is helpful in many ways and the program is user friendly, there are some features that are new that you might not know about. Thanks to CNET and the Internet, here are some nuances that can help.

Zoom allows users to change their backgrounds. This feature allows you to transport your background from anywhere in the world and beyond. You can also add custom backgrounds with your firm’s logo or a picture of your conference room, so it seems more personable. To do so, go to Settings > Virtual Background and select or upload the image you want to use.

Having your name on the Zoom screen can help when you are meeting with unfamiliar people. Making sure your name is correct on the screen is a great place to start. For temporary changes or changes just for a specific meeting, after you enter a meeting, click the Participants button at the bottom of the screen. Just hover over your name and click More > Rename. Then type in the name you want to appear and click OK. For name changes that will occur for all your meetings, go to the Zoom web portal and sign into your account. Click Profile and in the top right corner across from your name, click Edit. You then need to enter your name under “Display” name and click Save changes. This will allow for your name to appear in every meeting going forward. The good news is you can continue to change it for individual meetings with the temporary method detailed above.

You can also change your profile picture temporarily. To do so, click the Participants button (at the bottom of the screen) and hover over your name. Then click More > Add profile picture. You then just need to select the picture you want to use for that meeting and click Open.

To change your picture for all meetings, log into your Zoom account, click Profile, and at the top right corner across from your name, click Edit. At the empty photo icon, click Change > Upload, then select the picture you would like to use and click Open. Size the picture and click Save.

Having audio or video you didn’t realize was on when you first connect into Zoom can be awkward. So, to save you from that, you can set your settings to automatically turn off your camera and audio by default. The steps are as follows: go to Settings > Audio > Mute microphone when joining a meeting, and then Settings > Video > Turn off my video when joining a meeting. This will save you a lot of time and effort when you first join the meeting.

A quick and easy way to switch your audio on and off is to use your keyboard instead of having to scramble to locate your mouse when you need to speak. A keyboard shortcut is to press and hold the spacebar. This allows you to quickly mute and unmute your mic, without having to use your mouse.

The beauty filter feature might sound funny, but it can be helpful in situations where the lighting is not so great. Zoom’s touch up my appearance feature aims to smooth over your appearance, making you look well-rested. The effects are like that of the beauty mode on a phone’s selfie camera. To turn on, click the up arrow next to Start Video, then click Video Settings, and under My video, click the box for Touch Up My Appearance.

Early in the pandemic, “Zoom bombing” made headlines. It is where uninvited guest would crash a Zoom meeting and disrupt it. Waiting room is a tool to help you prevent this from happening. A waiting room is basically a tool that allows the host of the meeting to see who’s attempting to joining the meeting before allowing them access to the meeting. To enable this feature, go to Account Management > Account Settings and click on Meeting, then Meeting Room. This will enable the meeting room setting.

Breakout rooms are a great tool if a conference has been moved to virtual or there is a large group meeting that could use some smaller discussions. As the host, you can separate the groups automatically or manually and the host can enter different breakout rooms during that time. To begin a breakout room as a host, go to Account Management > Account Settings and under the Meeting tab, go to Breakout Room, and make sure the setting is toggled on. In this setting you (as the host) can pre-assign participants to breakout rooms.

Screen sharing might seem like a basic function that everyone knows but it is so useful it is worth mentioning again. A user can enable screen sharing by clicking the Share screen icon on the bottom toolbar then clicking the red Stop Share button at the top of the screen when they are done sharing their screen. Users can do this automatically if they are the host of the meeting. However, if a user is just a participant of a meeting, they might need the host of the meeting to enable participants to share their screens.

Often in larger meetings questions are asked of the group and it is impractical for everyone to verbally answer or write in the chat. A tool that can help is using an emoji to answer simple questions. An example of how this can be useful is if the host asks, “have you all read this report yet?” and instead of everyone unmuting, participants can give the thumbs up or down emoji to indicate they have or have not read the report. To use this function, click the Reactions tab at the bottom of the meeting screen and choose the emoji you want to use (there are 40 options). The emoji you choose will appear on your screen / video window for 5 seconds then disappear. Another tool a host of a meeting can utilize is the nonverbal feedback feature. This allows participants to place icons on their screen (such as raised hand) to communicate and every participant will be able to see each other’s nonverbal feedback.

Gallery View is a helpful tool to allow you to see all meeting participants and be a little more engaged with the meeting. To activate this feature, you will need to click the tab that says Gallery View in the top right corner. If your meeting has 49 or fewer participants, you will be able to see all of the participant’s windows on one screen. However, if there are more, you will be able to move through multiple pages. To change back to the speaker only view you will need to click Speaker View in the same top right corner.

The Zoom immersive view feature is a new feature from Zoom which allows you to put yourself in the same virtual background as your fellow video chat participants (think conference room, classroom, court room, etc.). If you are the host of the meeting, start the Zoom meeting on your desktop and in the top right corner, where you find Speaker or Gallery View, you’ll see the option to enable Immersive View. Next, click Immersive View, and choose from a stock image provided by Zoom or upload your own personal image. Now, you and your meeting participants will be placed in the same virtual background.

During some larger meetings, it is easier to have your screen get cluttered with participants who are just a blank screen (if they don’t have video on or a set picture) and it can be districting. To hide the participants not using video, go to Setting > Video > Meetings, and check the box Hide non-video participants. Now your screen will have only those participants whose videos are up.

Zoom has a feature called “vanishing pen” and it is a great tool for those who are sharing their screens in the meeting to highlight or bring attention to important texts on the screen. Once you draw a line using the pen, the line will fade away, so you don’t have a messy screen when you scroll up on a document and you do not have to worry about actively erasing the marks you make. To use this feature, you will need to share your screen, and click Annotate, then on the menu that will pop up, click Vanishing Pen.

Recording the meeting onto your computer is a helpful tool you can use to keep team members up to date who can’t make a meeting. The great news is that both free and paid Zoom users can record their meetings to a laptop or computer using the desktop app. Currently, only the paid Zoom subscribers can record using their mobile devices. These recorded files can then be uploaded to a file storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox, or a video streaming service such as YouTube or Vimeo. To do so, go to Settings > Recording and toggle it on. Now when you are hosting a meeting, click the Record icon on the bottom toolbar.

Recording a meeting to the cloud is a true space saver for those who want to record meetings but don’t want to use of a lot of their computer’s storage space. This requires a paid Zoom plan (which start as low as $15/ month). Users can then record the meeting directly to the cloud (or upload to your computer). To so, just tap the record button on the bottom toolbar, which will give you the option to record locally or to the cloud. This feature is available for either desktop or mobile devices.

Currently, the free Zoom plan only allows group meetings for up to 40 minutes. However, you can have unlimited one-on-one meetings under this plan. If you will need group meetings longer than 40 minutes, you will have to upgrade to a paid account. Additionally, some meetings require more than 100 participants in the meeting. This will require users to upgrade to a paid professional account (which is Zoom’s highest account tier) called Enterprise Plus. If you have this plan, hosts can have meetings with up to 1,000 participants.

Questions or comments? Drop me an email: jwh3@mindspring.com