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Zoom hacks from local pros: Tips and tricks for better video conferencing

Even though Zoom has become a daily necessity for doing business, many still find video conferencing to feel awkward and unnatural.

ZOOM app
Resist the temptation to download the exciting interplanetary backgrounds Zoom offers. It’s good for a smile, but the digital buzz around your head gets annoying quickly.
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash
As the number of coronavirus cases skyrocket, so too does the number of people working from home to avoid getting sick. In an attempt to keep up some semblance of business-as-usual, many are turning to the already-popular video conferencing software, Zoom. While Zoom wouldn’t share specifics on its growth since the virus outbreak, CFO Kelly Steckelberg did tell Yahoo News earlier this month that, “At the end of January, if you took the run rate of our minutes usage at that point, we were on a run rate of a hundred billion annual meeting minutes, and that is up pretty significantly since then.”

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Even though Zoom has become a daily necessity for doing business, many still find video conferencing to feel awkward and unnatural. We asked some Twin Cities professionals to share what they’ve learned — tips, tricks, and hacks that might just help make your next Zoom meeting a little sharper.

Chris Preston, CCO and partner at Preston Kelly: 

  • Don’t trust Zoom to play your videos. Send a Vimeo link separately. You may have to have clients play it on their on screens to get the quality you are looking for.
  • If you are working with two monitors, remember to put your meeting on the screen with your camera. I’ve been in many Zoom meetings where people appear to be looking over you. It’s oddly disconcerting and feels like they’re not paying attention.
  • Resist the temptation to download the exciting interplanetary backgrounds Zoom offers. It’s good for a smile, but the digital buzz around your head gets annoying quickly.
  • And, of course, don’t listen to the people who tell you to try a Zoom meeting without wearing pants. One hot coffee spill could end your career. Or worse.

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Liz Giorgi, CEO and Co-founder of soona: 

    • If you’re in leadership, try to start your meetings with an ice breaker or some traditional office banter so people can get that communal vibe that you are so desperately missing. Here are some recent questions we started our last few meetings with: What is your spirit emoji? What internet video makes you laugh the hardest?”

Fatima Olive, freelance makeup artist and beauty expert: 

  • Set up your computer in front of the window so your face gets natural light, which is the most flattering type of light.”

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John Morioka, CMO of OMG (O’Neill Marketing Group):

  • Sharing documents has been incredibly helpful to ensure video meetings run smoothly and there are strong actions and takeaways from our video meetings.

Alexis Walsko, founder and owner of Lola Red:

  • You can improve your appearance and look airbrushed. Just click the “enhance my appearance” button under video options.
  • Use Zoom to maintain team culture. Our group hosts a 15-minute “positivity pause” every morning and we invite industry friends and clients to join.

Twila Dang, founder and CEO of Matriarch Digital Media: 

  • Do not register for a Zoom account through another source (Google, Facebook, etc.). Use an email and a strong password — better for your safety.
  • Ask in advance if it is OK to record the call. Different companies may have different policies. And individuals should have a right to opt in or out.
  • ​Mute mics and only unmute when you are speaking; it eliminates some of the screen jumping that is triggered by sound/noise.
  • Use laptops/computers over phone/tablets. It allows for better control of viewing and accessing chat features.

Jodie Pundsack, co-founder and creative strategist at Gaslight Creative: 

  • We just noticed that there is an option to change the background image in preferences. We plan on having a bit of fun with this at our agency happy hour this evening. I heard having a green screen is best, but if your OX is up to date, it will try to compensate without a green screen and just use a depth of field technique.”

Eliesa Johnson, photographer and founder of Rivets and Roses and The Restaurant Project: 

  • Try to host in a room that doesn’t echo and mute yourself while other people are talking. It makes for clearer sound. Also a well lit room will make you feel prettier!

Casey Shultz, executive director of Beta.MN: 

  • Let people start your meeting without you. When scheduling a meeting under “advanced options,” click “enable join before host.” This allows your meeting participants to start the Zoom without you, which is great if you’re running a little late.
  • Enable breakout rooms: Zoom allows you to create up to 50 breakout rooms within a meeting; this is great if you want to move people into smaller discussion groups and then bring them back to the main meeting.

Betsy Vohs, founder and CEO of Studio BV: 

  • Try to get a good camera — not the one on your computer. Some video cameras include Instagram filters that you can use.
  • Make sure you have a good ergonomic chair.
  • Try to video chat with others whenever you can to stay connected.
  • ​​Surround yourself with things that inspire you: art, a Himalayan salt lamp, or burn a candle.

Laura Roos, founder of Minny & Paul:

  • If there are pets or kids in your life that may create a disturbance during a call, mention the potential inconvenience from the start, letting your team or client know. Simply saying, for example, “Hey everyone, my dogs are joining me today in the background, so I apologize in advance for any barking.” That way, if and when it happens, everyone knows what’s going on and where it’s coming from — and getting put on mute is likely coming. We can all relate, especially now when kids are home from day care and everyone is figuring out this new normal.

Greg Swan, director of digital, social, and innovation at Fallon: 

  • Plan ahead so your emails and texts aren’t pinging and beeping during your meeting.
  • Give nonverbal feedback: There’s nothing worse than speaking to bored-looking people. Learn to nod and laugh and give your coworkers the sense you’re paying attention.
  • Try you best not to click out of Zoom and work on other things. Take notes on paper, and if you do need to look at your cellphone, hold it up out of frame so it’s not distracting.

For more tips from Swan, check out his blog post from today, Etiquette and Tips for Being on Camera All Day Long.

This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.