6 simple tips that will make using Zoom easier

17 Apr 2020

Image: © asiandelight/Stock.adobe.com

With a huge number of people using Zoom both professionally and personally, these tips will make navigating the app a little easier.

As most of us are currently communicating with anyone outside our household via online tools, many people will have become accustomed to using video conferencing platform Zoom, both professionally and personally.

However, new users and even relatively competent users may only be getting familiar with the software on a need-to-know basis, learning just what they have to in order to make video calls. But as with most software tools, there are so many more tips that can make the experience better.

In light of the dangers of Zoombombing, which have arisen in the last few weeks as more people turned to the video conferencing tool for communicating, we published an essential guide to keeping your Zoom meetings secure.

Now that you know how to stay safe, we can also help you use Zoom a little more efficiently. While these tips are by no means exhaustive, they include some very handy shortcuts and tricks that should make navigating the app quicker and easier.

1. Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are one of the easiest ways to become more efficient with any tool and, unsurprisingly, there are a number of shortcuts to help you speed up actions while using Zoom.

For example, you can share your screen by hitting Alt+Shift+S on a Windows device or Command+Ctrl+S on a Mac. If you want to quickly mute and unmute yourself press Alt+M (or Command+Shift+A on a Mac).

Keyboard shortcuts can always take a little getting used to, but once you learn them, you’ll be able to use Zoom much more efficiently. The best way to incorporate shortcuts is by starting with the ones you will use the most and learn those. Once they’re committed to muscle memory, you can expand your knowledge. A list of all keyboard shortcuts is available here.

2. Setting up meetings

You can set up a recurring meeting while scheduling the first one, which will help you keep the same settings each time and means that participants of those regular meetings can use the same credentials to get in. If the meeting is regular but tends to move to different time slots, you can select this with ‘no fixed time’.

You can also integrate Zoom with a number of other apps such as Google Calendar, Slack and Outlook. This makes it easier to schedule Zoom meetings in your diary or join meetings seamlessly.

3. Muting yourself

Everyone should become comfortable with muting and unmuting themselves frequently, especially now that a lot more people are working from home and children are off school, which can lead to additional background noise and distractions.

To avoid disruption to other attendees, it’s good practice to mute yourself unless you actually need to speak. Again, this is where keyboard shortcuts can come in handy.

In a situation where there are a lot of people on the call and you will not need to speak too much, you might even choose to leave yourself muted for the duration of the meeting. If this is the case, an even quicker way to ‘jump in’ is by holding down the spacebar while you’re on mute, which will act like an intercom button. When you let go, you’ll return to your muted state.

4. Sharing your screen

When you want to share your screen with other participants in a Zoom meeting, it’s a good idea to have everything you will need ready to go. When you click ‘share screen’, you have the option to share your whole screen or share individual applications or documents.

Sharing your entire screen will allow you to toggle easily between applications but it also means that everything on your screen will be visible, including notifications. So if you would prefer to maintain privacy, it may be best to simply share each application as you need it.

If don’t want to share your full screen, sharing individual applications will be a little less seamless if you need to move between different things throughout a meeting. For example, showing something in your browser, then going to a Word document, then going to another document, then back to your browser means you will have to share your screen four different times.

To speed up this process, the keyboard shortcut for sharing your screen will become essential. Remember, Alt+Shift+S on a Windows device or Command+Ctrl+S on a Mac device is what you need to share a new screen or switch to another one. However, for this to work, the meeting control toolbar has to be in focus.

5. Recording Zoom calls

Any account level has the ability to record Zoom calls, but will need permission from the host of the meeting. You can record directly to your computer as an MP4 file, which will give you both a video recording and a separate audio-only file. If you have a Pro account or above, you can also record to the cloud, which will go to the Zoom website.

You can log into your Zoom account, go to your meeting settings and toggle the recording reminder in the recording tab to let participants know upon entry that the session is being recorded.

It’s important to note that if a host chooses to record a Zoom meeting locally, ie to their own computer, both chats sent publicly and privately between participants will be saved, so be careful about what you put in the chat box, even if it’s just to one other person.

6. Virtual backgrounds

If your real-life background is not suitable for a professional meeting or it’s just a bit too distracting, virtual backgrounds are a great way to put you in the focus of the meeting so that your house isn’t on show.

Zoom already has a number of preloaded virtual backgrounds to choose from, but you can also add one of your own by simply uploading a picture. Go to your settings, click on ‘virtual background’ and select one from the menu or use the (+) icon to add your own.

The best way to become proficient in any tool is to explore its settings, learn its shortcuts and become comfortable about the set-up you need. Not everyone will require every shortcut or hack, but discovering what you need and learning the tools that could help will make the system work best for you.

Don’t forget to check your security settings to keep your meeting secure. For more advice on that, check out our essential guide.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic