Natalie Barnett
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From simple video calls and document sharing to call recording and customised backgrounds, this guide will give you all the information you need to utilise the tools available in Zoom to help you communicate, collaborate and operate, no matter where you or your team may be located.

This guide will explain the basics of Zoom and highlight the tools available to make remote working easier, including:

  • How to get started with Zoom on mobile and desktop devices
  • How to join a Zoom call
  • Core features and tips and tricks
  • The best plan for your needs

So, what is Zoom? Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing service that enables users to virtually meet with others – either by video, audio or both, all while conducting live chats; it’s also possible to record those sessions to view later. Zoom is available in both desktop and mobile versions, making it possible to stay in contact with colleagues and classmates, and providing all the tools needed to complete work remotely.

Calls can take the form of either a Zoom Meeting or a Zoom Room. A Zoom Meeting refers to a video call meeting that’s hosted using Zoom and that can be joined by any device – desktop or mobile. Zoom Room on the other hand is the physical hardware setup that lets companies schedule and launch Zoom Meetings from their conference spaces.

Zoom Rooms require an additional subscription and is designed to minimise the commonly identified meeting room pain points of starting and booking meetings and sharing content.

How to get started with Zoom

For remote workers, Zoom Meeting can provide a quick and easy way to keep in contact with teams and other stakeholders, and joining a Zoom call is a largely intuitive experience – you don’t even need to have an account.

If you receive an invite to a Zoom meeting, simply click on the link to join and the app will automatically begin to download.

While you can participate in a call as a guest without an account, you do need to register to host a call. This can be done for free at the Zoom website – zoom.us – or by downloading the app. From here, there are a few differences in user experience, depending on the device you’re using.

How to use Zoom via a desktop or mobile device

From the My Account section of the site it’s possible to join, host or schedule a
meeting. Simply click on the relevant option and you’ll be guided through the steps.

Also within My Account you’ll find a number of options under the headings Personal and Admin. The Personal section is where you can add a profile picture, view your meeting activity and set up new calls, access recordings and view your
settings. There is also a webinars tab that is only available if paid for.

Under the Admin heading, you can manage users and rooms, upgrade your account and manage your payment information.

All of this is also accessible via Zoom’s desktop app. This intuitive tool offers four options via the Home page on launch – New Meeting, Join, Schedule, Screen Share, offering one-click access to key features of the platform.  You can also click your profile in the top-right hand corner at any time in the same way as you can via the desktop version. This will open a dropdown menu to make quick changes, such as updating your status, changing your picture or signing out of your account.

Much of the key information you’ll need is accessible via the top navigation bar of the desktop app. By clicking on Chat, you can read messages, see contact requests and view any shared files. The Meetings tab is where you can find a summary of any upcoming meetings, organised by date; and finally Contacts is the place to browse or add contacts.

The Zoom mobile app offers a very similar user experience to the desktop version,
although the main navigation is at the bottom of the screen in this scenario.
Here Meet & Chat offering quick and easy access to meetings, schedules and
screen sharing along with your chat history and any contact requests.

Meetings lists any upcoming events; simply tap on one to view its details, delete it, or add invitees. This tab is also where you’ll find your Personal Meeting ID – the unique code you’ll need to start an individual meeting. 

The Contacts tab works in much the same way as the desktop version, allowing you to search and add contact details. You can search for specific contacts using the box at the top, either by contact or channel – contacts are individual people while channels are groups of these contacts.

Finally, Settings is where you can make changes to your profile, update your profile photo or change your password. It’s also where you can sign out of the Zoom app.

How to join a Zoom call

The main reason for having a Zoom account is to schedule and join calls, and the good news is the platform makes this super easy. There are a couple of different ways to join a call. By far the simplest way is to click on the link sent to you by the host. You’ll then be given the option to join using video, audio or both. If the host
isn’t online when you join you may be held in a waiting room until the call is ready to begin, otherwise once you hit join, be ready to participate.

The other way to join a meeting is via the Join dialogue box, which is useful if you don’t have a link and either know the meeting ID or are joining a call to a host you’ve called before.

Core features of Zoom

In addition to one-on-one meetings it is also possible to host group video conferences of up to 500 participants, depending on the plan you’ve signed up for. Another useful tool is screen sharing where you can share documents either one-on-one or with groups so they can see what you see. You can also Pause Share if you don’t want participants to see you preparing your presentation slides. However, there’s a lot more to the platform than this.

Zoom tips and tricks

Recurring meetings

Save time by creating recurring meetings that replicate the call settings you want
in each meeting and use the same URL to join each time. In the Zoom mobile app,
log in, click schedule, tap the Repeat option and select a recurrence. That’s it.

Record calls as videos

To do this go to Settings – Recordings and click to enable video recording. In this tab you’ll also be able to see where recordings will be stored. When the Zoom call begins there’ll be an option to record on the bottom of the screen, simply click that button and recording will begin.

If you don’t see the option to record, check your settings in the web app or have your account admin enable it – admins can activate recording for everyone, for users or groups.

When the call is over Zoom will automatically convert the recording into an MP4 video file. Meetings held via mobile can also be recorded, however, this is done via cloud recordings so requires a paid Zoom membership.

Virtual backgrounds

With Zoom being used by remote workers across the globe who are trying to replicate business as usual during the coronavirus pandemic, virtual backgrounds have become a perhaps unlikely talking point. From hiding less than ideal workplaces to creating a talking point in video calls, virtual backgrounds can be anything from cityscapes and scenic views to corporate backgrounds and even your own stored images.

On a Mac or PC, open up your Zoom client, click on the Setup icon in the corner, and select Virtual Background in the side menu. From here you can either select a background from the options provided by Zoom or click on the + sign and choose one from your own files. You can also add a virtual background during a meeting. In your Zoom client, click on the arrow next to the video symbol on the left, select ‘Choose a virtual background’, and you’ll be taken to the same Virtual Background page.

When joining a meeting via a mobile device, click the three dots at the bottom of
the screen and click the More menu. Then click Virtual Background and choose your preferred background. 

Touch up my appearance

As well as virtual backgrounds, Zoom also offers the ability to improve your own
appearance when you’re on a call, via Touch Up My Appearance, which uses a filter to smooth fine lines. Simply go to Settings and under the Video tab tick the box next to Touch up.

Extend gallery view

While you’re in the Video page of the Settings tab in the desktop app you can also
opt to see up to 49 meeting participants at once, rather than the
default 25, depending on your device. Simply click to enable the option
‘Display up to 49 participants per screen in Gallery View’.

Content share via mobile

As well as screen sharing via desktop it is also possible to share files directly
from your phone while in the meeting and use the whiteboarding feature on your
phone by writing comments with your finger. To annotate while viewing someone else’s shared screen, select View Options from the top of the Zoom window, and then choose Annotate A toolbar will appear with all your options for annotating, such as text, draw, arrow.

How to choose the right Zoom plan

Now that you know the basics of making, receiving and scheduling Zoom calls, it’s
time to decide which plan will work best for your needs.

Basic account

This free option is often enough for many users, offering unlimited one-to-one
meetings, active speaker view, whereby the video feed is focused on the person
speaking, video Breakout Rooms which allow you to split your Zoom meeting into as many as 50 separate sessions for discussion, projects and more, and many other features.

The biggest limitation is that meetings can last a maximum of 40 minutes
(although this restriction has recently been lifted for those in an education
setting).

Pro account

Designed for small teams, this option offers all the features of a Basic account plus additional tools such as reporting – which offers insight into how many meetings are taking place in your organisation, which days, number of participants, number of meeting minutes and so on – 1GB of MP4 or M4A cloud recording and Skype for Business (Lync) interoperability. The meeting duration limit for pro users is 24 hours.

Business account

In addition to all the features that come with a Pro account, Business users are
able to accommodate 300 participants (as opposed to 100 for Pro and Basic), and benefit from dedicated phone support, customised meeting URLs, branded email invites and auto-generated cloud recording transcripts.

Enterprise account

For large businesses, an Enterprise account includes 500 participants, unlimited cloud storage and a dedicated customer success manager. Account holders will also receive detailed trending adoption analysis, ROI tracking and product roadmap discussions as part of their Executive Business Reviews.

Now more than ever it’s crucial that people are able to keep in touch, keep working
and keep developing ideas. Zoom is a valuable tool in helping to achieve this,
and by exploring the features that it offers in just a bit more detail, you’ll
be able to communicate and collaborate more easily while ensuring that teams
remain connected and productive.