Now that we're all about to be "Zooming," or teleconferencing via other video chat platforms more than ever before, here are some best practices for running a smooth meeting and putting your best face forward.
Check Your Frame
Do you have dirty laundry strewn across your bed and is it in your screen? Are you sitting at your desk with your open closet door in your screen and the hot mess that lies therein visible to everyone on your video? Check your frame to make sure that you are showing only what you want to show and what is going to represent you well.
Weak WiFi? Don't Use Video.
If you are using video and the audio quality is poor (e.g. the sound is stuttered), turn off the video and the sound usually improves. If it does not, you might have to switch your meeting to audio only.
To Mute or Not to Mute?
Should you keep Zoom on mute while hosting a group? That depends on how many people you are hosting and the tendencies of the people who are on the call. If Joe is running a fan in the background, everything might hear that seemingly small noise as if it's a jet engine. If Jane is constantly sneezing or coughing, that may interrupt the flow of the call.
The Zoom host has ability to mute you from the Zoom session. In the lower left-hand corner of the screen is a microphone; if it has a line through it, you're muted. You just click on the mike and you are not muted. Many PCs (and mobile devices) also let you mute yourself. Just double-check when Zoom comes up so you're aware. If you keep Zoom on mute, it means that should you need to remember to unmute yourself before you speak.
Exit out of Apps with Notifications
If you or your meeting participants leave your messenger or other chat app on and open when you are videoconferencing, your time will be interrupted by a bunch of "dings." Exit out of messenger and chat apps before starting or joining a meeting. If you’re on a Mac “do not disturb” mode can silence notifications.
Note Your Speaking Volume
Speaking volume is important. If you are not using a headset or other listening device, what we've found to be the right level of volume is to imagine the person you are talking to as far away from you if you have your arms out and they do as well. The need to project as you might do in front of a classroom isn't necessary on Zoom (or any teleconferencing system). Most folks using headsets modulate the volume automatically as they hear their voice from the headset, and adjust.
Regarding headsets: AirPods are OK but It’s best to use a headset with a microphone, such as a small boom or built in mic near the mouth. Corded headsets that can flop around are not as ideal, as other people will hear it crinkle and scratch against your clothes every time you move.
Give Instructions to Novice Zoomers
Notify your attendees ahead of time that they'll be prompted to download Zoom the first time they click through a Zoom invite link. Give instructions clearly and slowly. Be explicit about what people should be doing with the technology, and let them know what should happen, and what they should see on their screens.
Let Attendees Know How to Ask Questions
The host or presenter can use “Gallery view” to see everyone and call on participants with physical hand raises if desired. If you prefer that people ask questions over the chat function, let your attendees know.
Break Out into Breakout Rooms
Break out rooms are great for when you have a group of people but then need smaller conversations, such as group projects and 1-on-1 meetings that need to be separate from the larger group. Breakout rooms have several set up options that can make things easier for participants, e.g., automatically sending participants to specific rooms so that they don’t have to click around looking for where to go.
Beware What You Share
If you're sharing your screen, please note that you have the option to share just one application or your entire screen with each and every tab (and every associated pop up that may come with it). Only share what you intend to share, and downsize or click out of screens that are not relevant to your meeting.
Dress to Impress (Or Not, But Wear Something)
This seems obvious, but many people have reported to me that this has been an issue in their video conferencing. You don't have to wear a suit and tie, but at a minimum it's good to wear a clean shirt without stains or holes (even if you're wearing sweats or leggings on the bottom). And again, check your frame to see what portion of your body is showing and that those portions are covered if necessary for your clients and students.
Have Compassion and Flexibility
School closures and social isolation mode means that many of us will have children at home with us while we're trying to teach, work, and connect online. Have grace and compassion if your colleague's child suddenly appears in the screen to ask mommy for a snack, or if there's a kid meltdown happening that requires a two-minute pause in the meeting. Remember that everyone is adjusting to a new normal, and we are all doing the best we can. Let's continue to take care of ourselves and each other!