In this highly connected digital world, video conferencing tools are a must-have for any budding entrepreneur or home-based freelancer.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused millions to move to home-based work in the first quarter of 2020, these tools have garnered even more attention. One that really skyrocketed in use during this period is Zoom Cloud Meetings.
As of April 2020, Zoom daily meeting participants, which includes the multiple times that the same person attends a Zoom meeting, have skyrocketed to 300 million from only 10 million in December 2019.
What Is Zoom and How Does It Work?
Zoom is one of the largest cloud-based video-conferencing apps in the world today. It boasts of high quality audio and video, making conversations as seamless as possible. You can use it to make video calls, but also to record video conversations and even share and annotate screens with your colleagues.
Zoom has been used for remote business meetings with international clients and colleagues, and with schools closing down for the pandemic, even for virtual classrooms.
Zoom is also a great tool for hosting webinars, since it allows you to Mute everyone while you talk, and then Unmute them for a Q&A session.
Plus, it’s very simple to use! If you receive a link to a Zoom meeting, all you need to do is click that link to join—no need to create an account or log in.
How to Set Up Zoom
To use Zoom, all you have to do is download the app on your computer or smart device. The Zoom app is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac computers, and for Apple, Blackberry, and Android phones.
Then, if you are the one setting up your meetings, you need to sign up or sign in. Zoom gives you the option to sign in using your Google account or your Facebook account.
Once you are signed in, you can test your audio and video by clicking “Start with Video.” You can prview how you (and your surroundings) will appear and adjust your lighting accordingly.
To test your headphones or computer speakers, check if you can hear the Test Audio. You can check your microphone as well by listening to the Test Recording.
Once you’ve confirmed that your audio and video are working properly, you can do one of the following:
- Start a meeting, with or without video
- Join a meeting
- Schedule a meeting
If you choose to start a meeting, you can invite your attendees by clicking the copy button. It will copy the Zoom link for you, which you can send to your attendees. During the meeting, you can:
- Record a video and audio file of the meeting
- Choose Speaker View or Gallery View: Zoom’s Gallery View lets you see up to 49 people on your screen, in grids of 7 x 7 per page, depending on your CPU
- Manage Participants, including muting those with noisy backgrounds or turning off their video
- Mute or Unmute yourself and let your participants Mute and Unmute themselves
- Remove guests if they show up uninvited
- Share your screen and allow everyone to annotate it
- Type in a chat box
If you choose to schedule a meeting, you can do the following:
- Set the date and time
- Set a schedule for recurring meetings
- Specify if you will enable video and audio for your attendees
- Specify if you want to mute all attendees upon joining
- Specify if you want to Enable Meeting Room
- Specify if you will allow your meeting attendees to “Join before Host”
- Enable automatic Recording of your meeting, and choose whether to save it to Cloud (for paid accounts) or to a specific folder in your computer
You can also choose to use your Personal Meeting Room so you don’t have to keep multiple meeting schedules.
Is Zoom Free to Use?
Zoom comes with free and paid versions. The free version allows video calls with multiple users, but with a 40-minute time cap. But, you still get an unlimited number of meetings. You also get a warning for the last 10 minutes, so once the free 40 minutes are up, you can all just reconnect and pick up where you left off.
Of course, this might be a hassle for important business meetings that do not have the extra time to wait for everybody to reconnect. The paid version gets rid of this time limit and gives you unlimited hours for your conferences.
Do You Need a Zoom Account to Join a Meeting?
You need to set up a Zoom account to host or schedule a meeting. But if you’re only attending a meeting, all you need is the Zoom link, or the Zoom Meeting ID and password.
If you’re attending a meeting on your computer, you can log in even without the app. But if you’re attending a meeting on your phone, you will need to have the app downloaded and ready to go. Even if you don’t sign in to your account, you can click on the meeting link and it will take you straight to your meeting.
Once you click the meeting link, if you are logged in before the meeting host, you may get a notice that says “Waiting for Meeting Host to Start this Meeting.” All you have to do is wait, and you will be let in as soon as the host logs in.
Is Zoom Better Than Skype?
Skype was one of the first video calling applications, and Skype and Zoom functioned fairly differently at first: Zoom pioneered the one-click system for joining meetings. With the demand in online conferences, Skype has evolved to have this one-click function for group meetings very similar to Zoom.
Perhaps one of the main differences is in terms of price and the number of participants, as summarized below:
Free Version: Up to 100 participants, 40-minute time limit
Paid Version: $14.99/month, up to 1,000 participants no time limit
Free Version: Up to 50 participants, unlimited minutes
Paid Version: $2.99/month to call landlines or non-Skype users
Skype’s free version allows up to 50 participants only, and its subscription plans or the credits that you can buy are for calling landline numbers and not specifically for video conferencing.
Based on this information, if you regularly hold video calls with more than 50 people, Zoom is a better choice. And if you need to host more than 100 people or have meetings longer than 40 minutes, you can opt for the paid version of Zoom.
Is Zoom Safe?
With the dramatic increase in the number of people using Zoom in the first quarter of 2020, a number of security issues popped up, which, fortunately, the company has worked overtime to resolve.
One of the major issues was that anyone with a Zoom ID can hack into a meeting they weren’t invited to. Several hackers have joined children’s school classes and bullied the children by showing inappropriate images on the Share Screen function.
Since then, Zoom has made several updates, including a requirement for passwords for all meetings, and setting the default to a Meeting Room, where the meeting host can choose to let people in or not. Meeting hosts also have the ability to secure a meeting with encryption.
Zoom also comes with some additional cool features, including the following:
- Virtual Backgrounds: The internet has exploded with tips on how to set up the perfect background for web conferencing, such as settling right in front of a large bookcase. But Zoom’s Virtual Background function means you may not have to worry about the actual background in your space, and can instead choose a photo from your computer or from the default images.
- Mute Function: It’s considered good Zoom etiquette to “mute” yourself when others are talking. If you are the meeting host, you also have the power to Mute All and let participants Unmute themselves. This is a big help for webinars and presentations, so that the participants can listen to the presentation without distracting noises.
- Share Screen Permission: The meeting host can share the contents of their screen, but everyone else needs the host’s permission to share screens. This is a good security feature to prevent unwanted guests from crashing a meeting and sharing unwanted images from their screen.
- Share a whiteboard: Hosts can also share a whiteboard on their screens that they can write on. Other attendees can also annotate the board, if allowed by the host.
- Record meetings: Hosts have the ability to record meetings and share them with their teams. As host, enable this by clicking on Settings > Recording and toggling it on, then while in the meeting click the Record icon on your bottom toolbar.
- Beauty filters: No time for a touch-up? No problem! Zoom’s “Touch Up My Appearance” feature can help you look well-rested. To use it, just click the Up arrow next to Start Video, then click Video Settings. Under My Video, select Touch Up My Appearance.
- Hide non-video participants: If you’re hosting a large meeting, your screen can quickly get clogged up with the empty boxes of participants who have opted not to enable their cameras. If you’d prefer to focus just on the faces you can see (and hopefully all on one screen), head over to your Settings, then click Video > Meetings and check Hide nonvideo participants.
- Emoji Reactions: If you’re muted during a meeting, you can still share your thoughts by reacting with an emoji visible to all participants. Give a “thumbs up” to a colleague’s comments, or “raise your hand” to signal to the host that you’ve got something to share. The emoji will disappear after 5 seconds. To use these reactions, click the Reactions tab at the bottom of your screen and select the icon you’d like to share.
- Handy shortcuts: Using many of these features can be made even simpler with Zoom’s hot keys and keyboard shortcuts. For example, mute or unmute yourself by simply pressing your spacebar.
Zoom Video Tutorial
To see all these features in action and to better understand how Zoom works, here’s a free video tutorial on how to use Zoom to record podcasts, video conferences, and screen sharing.
Using Zoom to Connect with Colleagues and Clients
Video conferencing apps are a great way to connect remotely with colleagues and clients. The suppliers of these services are working to ensure privacy and security, but you also need to remain vigilant on your end.
This includes keeping your meeting links safe by not posting them on social media for the whole world to see. As a meeting host, you also need to make sure only the appropriate participants are allowed into your meetings.
With these safety precautions in place, you can really put Zoom and other similar apps to good use for your productivity and success.
Have you used Zoom? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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