LOCKDOWN CHALLENGE: Join A Virtual (NAM) Meeting

By Danny Holmes

Published October 21, 2020 #Zoom

Whilst we’re all desperate to get back to meeting one another face-to-face, the reality is that we are going to have to find new ways of organising club activities over the next six months at least. Rides out, training sessions and meetings are going to have to look and feel a little different if we’re going to be able to offer a ‘covid-proof’ events schedule. Whatever restrictions are thrown at us to control the pandemic, it is important that we are able to stay connected as a group and to continue to advance our charitable aims.

Like many organisations and charities, some of our meetings and presentations will need to take place online. If you haven’t attended a virtual meeting before, here are a few pointers to get you on your way.

Getting started with Zoom

If you have an internet connection, it’s easy to get started with Zoom. You do not need to buy software to join a meeting that someone else has organised. The chances are that you already have an adequate microphone and web camera built into your computer, laptop or mobile device.

If you have received a meeting invitation and link from your host, you can join in a number of ways:

  • using Zoom Client software on your computer
  • using your web browser (Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer, Firefox)
  • using your mobile device (Android or iOS)

If you’re completely new to Zoom, watch this short tutorial   to find out how to join a meeting.

Before joining a Zoom meeting on a computer or mobile device, you will need to download the Zoom app   . Otherwise, you will be prompted to download and install Zoom when you click a join link for the first time. To make sure that you’re not late for that all-important meeting (like our AGM), it’s worth taking a little time to make sure everything is installed in advance.

To check that you’re all set to go, join a test meeting   meeting and familiarize yourself with the Zoom meeting layout.

join Zoom meeting

Have your say

Raise your hand

Let the meeting Host know that you have something that you would like to contribute to the discussion by using the ‘Raise Hand’ feature.

Open the Participant panel and select the ‘Raise Hand’ button or icon.

How to raise your hand in a Zoom meeting

Ask a question

To submit a question to the meeting host, use the ‘Chat’ button to open the chat pop-up window. From here, submit your question or message to the meeting host, or other recipient or all attendees (if allowed by the host).

How to ask a question in a Zoom meeting

Respond to a poll

During some meetings (e.g. an AGM) the host may launch a poll to gather audience feedback. Once poll questions appear, submit your answers.

How to submit an answer to a Zoom poll question

Headphones

Consider wearing headphones if you have them. You will sound clearer and they will stop your mic from picking up feedback.

Get noticed

If you want to be seen as well as heard, there are a number of steps that you will need to follow.

Close unused applications

Streaming video is potentially resource hungry, both in terms of computer processing power and network capacity. To ensure that your video is free from distracting glitches and blurring, close any applications or programs that you do not need for the meeting.

Grant access

If your operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS) is reasonably up to date, the chances are that you will have to explicitly give permission for the Zoom software to use your camera.

The following settings are provided for guidance and may not be applicable to your operating system version. Refer to your system help documentation and on-line support guides.

Operating SystemPath to Settings
MacSystem Preferences > Security and Privacy > Camera
Windows 10Start > Settings > Privacy > Camera
AndroidSettings > Applications > Application Manager > Zoom > take pictures and videos
iOSSettings > Privacy > Camera > Zoom

Lighting

If possible, try and avoid strong sources of light behind you. Web cameras will adjust exposure based on the brightest area of the scene in front of them.

lighting from behind
"Rear window light only, built in camera"

Try and position lights in front of you to ensure that you don’t disappear into the shadows.

lighting from front
"Light in front of monitor, built in camera"

For best results you need ensure that both sides of your face are illuminated evenly. There are many low-cost lighting solutions available including battery-operated lamps that will clip onto your computer or mobile device without the inconvenience of mains cables. If you have a permanent workspace and attend meetings frequently, it may be worth investing in an LED desk lamp. Look for a lamp which allows you to vary brightness levels and colour.

lighting from front using GoPro Hero 8
"TaoTronics LED desk lamp, GoPro Hero 8 camera"

Cameras

Avoid pointing your camera up your nose! Position your camera so that it is at the same level as your eyes if you can.

If you already own an action camera for filming motorcycle rides, it is worth checking if this can be used an alternative web camera. These will tend to give a much higher picture quality than budget cameras fitted in many computers.

GoPro Hero 8 and 9 are capable of being used as web cameras. It is necessary to install separate GoPro Webcamera software from the GoPro support site. (If the GoPro isn’t listed in the Zoom camera selection list, if may be necessary to re-install the GoPro Webcamera software.)

After effects

If you want to hide your room from the rest of the audience, apply a Virtual Background to your video. You will find these in your Preferences or Settings under ‘Background and Filters’.

Virtual backgrounds are either static images or short, looping videos which will (almost) magically replace everything in the scene apart from you thanks to some clever image processing algorithms. However, bear in mind that real-time image processing takes a lot of processing power.

setting background filters in Zoom

If you want to make the virtual background magic appear even more convincing, you can go as far as erecting a green screen behind you. There are many available online, including pop-up screens which attach directly to your chair. You can make your own from an old tablecloth or sheet as long as it is a block of solid colour. It is much easier for the video processing software to identify and ‘key out’ the green background than it is to work out which part of the scene is you or your sofa.

If you love SnapChat and feel underdressed without rabbit ears and an augmented reality beard, fear not! Zoom’s own video filters and studio effects (currently in beta) have you covered, literally. If that isn’t sufficient, you can download and install SnapCamera which will allow you to use up even more processing power to apply actual SnapChat filters to your Zoom video. If you have a serious message that you want to get across and ensure that the audience remember, this probably isn’t the way to go.

Avoiding Zoom fails

Avoid becoming the star of the show for all the wrong reasons by following these simple tips:

  • Let all other members of the household know that you’re in a meeting (especially if they are still in their onesies). Put a ‘meeting in progress’ sign on your door.
  • If you need to scream at your kids, mute your microphone first.
  • If you need to snack on crisps and biscuits, mute your microphone first.
  • If you need to start working on something else and don’t want everyone to know that you’re not paying attention, mute your microphone before your start typing away on your computer keyboard (especially if you have a laptop and are using the built-in mic).
  • Put your gadgets (phones, Fitbit, etc.) in another room or where you won’t be distracted during the meeting.
  • If you have joined the meeting using a mobile device, remember to turn off the camera before taking it into the bathroom.

Eye contact

Finally, if you have an important point to make, look at the camera! That’s the closest that you will get to making eye contact with your audience.

look at the camera

Comments

Do you have any Zoom meeting tips? We’d love to hear them. Please send your comments to email or Twitter.

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