Based on the current situation calling for an increased use of online methods for communication and interaction, we are providing the following detailed information on the use of Zoom video conferencing software.
Please note that for small groups of people there are many free options, including Zoom, and if you are already comfortable with Apple’s Facetime, Google Meet/Hangouts, Whatsapp Video/Audio chat, Facebook Messenger video chat, or any other tool, feel free to continue using those tools if so desired. Several platforms are offering additional “premium” services for free through mid-2020, including a Zoom competitor, Cisco’s WebEx which is now free as well.
For simplicity, many schools, churches, businesses, and even small common-interest groups have begun depending on Zoom as a main driver of communication, meetings, and online classes during this time. The following guide should get you going on any supported platform—anything from a laptop running Windows or MacOS, to a mobile device, iPad, Android, or iPhone. The biggest requirement will be that you have stable and reasonable high-speed internet service on the device where you will use Zoom. If you do not have this, Zoom provides call-in numbers so any participant can join via audio by making a simple phone call. The only downside is you will not participate in the video portion of the meeting, which might include someone sharing a screen of information or a presentation.
- You first need to download the Zoom.us client for your platform. It is possible to join a Zoom meeting in a web browser without installing the full client, but the client makes it easy to interact with meetings whether in or out of a web browser. Please see the Zoom.us download page to select the proper client for your platform. The topmost download link, labeled “Zoom Client for Meetings“, is what you want for a laptop running Windows or MacOS. Scroll down to the mobile clients for a quick and easy link to the Google Play store for Android or the Apple App Store depending on your mobile device type.
- If you are leading meetings (small group leader, want to lead a prayer group) you will also need to create a Zoom account. Please note if you are only joining meetings you are not required to create a free Zoom account. Click on Zoom.us’s signup link to create a free account.
- You’re ready to join or start your first meeting! Please see this very helpful “Getting Started” guide from Zoom that covers all the basics. A short video is provided below which also walks you through a lot of the simple concepts of participating and/or leading a Zoom meeting.
Some useful hints and tips if you haven’t had much experience with Zoom and/or video conferencing before:
- Once you have more than a few participants it is really important to mute your line when you aren’t speaking. The Zoom interface has a button to mute/unmute your audio right at the bottom of the window. Depending on your environment background noise, echoing, and other environment noises can make the call very difficult for other participants.
- If you can use headphones, a headset, or airpods as your audio output device this can be really beneficial to reduce echo and interference on the call.
- Two or more people cannot be in the same space/room on a Zoom meeting unless they have fully isolated audio (e.g. headphones with built-in mic); otherwise a terrible echo will start to propagate through the call and if it isn’t stopped by muting those lines will overwhelm the call. The only way to have multiple participants in the same room on the call is to fully mute all but one device (e.g. turn audio volume to zero, and mute the mic).
- If the video or audio quality is stuttering or coming and going, you can improve the call quality by having everyone turn off their video stream to see if this improves the call. It may just be temporary slowness of your internet, wifi connection, or the Zoom service itself, which is under incredible load at this time (but performing amazingly well at this point).
- If you have a standing meeting time with a group of participants make sure you have a standard method for participants to contact the host if nothing is working (the meeting hasn’t started on Zoom, they are getting a notice that they are “waiting for the host”, something isn’t working). For example, share your phone number/texting number ; create a group chat so that participants can troubleshoot rather than give up on the meeting.