Productivity

Zoom Hacks to Keep Your Meetings Productive

Avatar of Molly Stoneman Molly Stoneman | Mar 25, 2021
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Before the coronavirus pandemic, most people had never heard of a “zoom” meeting, and perhaps would have thought it was a trendy term for a rapid team check-in. A Gallup study even found that only 43% of Americans regularly worked remotely prior to the pandemic, while now the pandemic spread has pushed the majority of U.S. workers into staying home. Millions have been plunged into a new world of virtual meetings, remote calls, and setting up a home office.

This means that many are newly familiar with Zoom, a video conferencing platform that quickly became one of the most popular alternatives to in-person meetings. Zoom was already increasing in popularity before the pandemic spread, but has become the top choice for virtual communication. (In fact, its stock price has risen over 100% this year, even while the market as a whole dropped down 24%.)

Even still, video-chatting with Zoom can still feel like new territory for many workers. Those who have become familiar with the basic features may not know the extent of more advanced features which could save time and effort, leading to higher productivity and more efficient meetings.  

Automatically pause video and audio when entering a Zoom meeting

Zoom meeting

Often, it's difficult to determine whether your colleagues will plan to appear on video for any given meeting. You save yourself the awkwardness of being the only one entering a call with a visual in the "Video" tab of your Zoom Settings. Check "Turn off my video when attending a meeting." If it ends up being a real video call, after the meeting has begun, you can always turn your camera on.

You can also do this for audio, so that at the beginning of any meeting you will be immediately muted. Simply check "Mute microphone when attending a meeting" under the "Audio" tab in Settings.

Try shortcuts

In your Zoom Settings window, you can find a comprehensive list of useful keyboard shortcuts, including those that mute and unmute your audio (Shift+Command+A on a Mac), start and stop screen-sharing (Shift+Command+R), and invite participants (Command+I). If you find any of them to be particularly hard to recall, you can come up with your own instead by customizing the commands.

Quickly mute and unmute yourself with the space bar

Even if you enter a call automatically muted, another useful feature is to quickly be able to unmute to react or cut into the conversation. In the “Audio” tab of Settings, simple check the box "Press and hold space key to temporarily unmute yourself”. In this way, you can be heard as long as you hold down the space bar, and as soon as you let go, Zoom will instantly mute you again.

Use the beauty filter

Use the beauty filter

Slept through your alarm and don’t have time to spruce before the meeting? A hidden lifesaver might just be the “touch up your appearance” feature. This setting will apply a filter to balance out your skin tone, improve your lighting, and make your overall appearance more professional.

Add a whiteboard

In addition to the numerous screen-sharing options that can be used for spontaneous conversations or brainstorming, Zoom features a built-in whiteboard just like you would have in a conference room. The host can allow all users to mark the board, or use the “annotate” function to digitally share their thoughts and ideas with everyone. Furthermore, you also have the option to save the whiteboard when the brainstorming is finished, so you can use it again later in the meeting or afterward for reference.

Mute everyone

Some meetings may have upward of 10, 20, or even 30 people. If even a few of those people have background noise, the whole meeting will be a waste of time for everyone due to unclear communication.

The meeting host can hit Cmd+Ctrl+M on a Mac (or for PC users, Alt+M) to mute everyone on the call at once. This shortcut can single-handedly save headaches for everyone on the call and keep meetings short and efficient.   

Password-protected meetings

Many people use the same Zoom meeting room for multiple meetings, but what if you are discussing sensitive topics or even HR-related information about coworkers? To avoid an awkward run-in, protect your Zoom meetings with a password, ensuring no one can gain access except those who are supposed to be there.

Set upcoming meetings reminders

If your daily calendar is overwhelmed by a glut of birthdays, personal appointments, and other miscellaneous meetings, notifications about Zoom calls might blend in with the rest. Zoom will give you separate notifications to prevent you from missing any important conversations. Simply go to the “General” tab of your Settings section, and you can opt to be reminded 5, 10, or 15 minutes before upcoming meetings.

Keep guests organized with a Waiting Room

Waiting room

Many Zoom meeting hosts prefer to use the same, easy-to-remember zoom link for all meetings instead of creating a new room with every meeting. This makes it particularly easy for recurring meetings, since participants can always go to the same bookmarked link from week to week.

However, it can get awkward if meeting members do not crash into each other or turn up early for a meeting when one is already in progress, especially with back-to-back meetings. One little-known Zoom feature is the “Waiting Room” to help make this a seamless process where if the next meeting attendee shows up early, they'll be placed in a waiting room instead of interrupting the current meeting.

They'll see a screen in the waiting room letting them know that they will soon be admitted, which includes a title, logo, and description which can all be customized. As the host, you will be notified when someone is in the waiting room and you can manually admit them to the main meeting space when you are ready.

Virtual name tags

Zoom attaches a tiny name tag to the video boxes of each participant. When people do not know each other, the name tags become especially important. You can go beyond expectations by customizing these name tags with more than just names, such as including positions, locations, or other helpful facts. You will look like a Zoom pro with this feature.

Automatically copy the invite URL when a meeting begins

Once a meeting has begun, it will almost inevitably be followed by someone sending “What is the meeting link again?”

You can pre-empt this by using a keyboard shortcut to automatically copy the meeting invitation URL once a meeting has begun so you do not have to go searching for it. Under the "General" tab in settings, there is an option to "Copy invite link automatically." Check that box, and as soon as you enter a Zoom meeting, the URL will magically be copied into your clipboard. Then, you can use Command+I on Mac, and Alt+I on Windows operating systems to quickly invite guests from your Zoom contacts, by email, or by copying the meeting URL and sending it to them from another platform.

Split participants into smaller groups for side discussions

The “Breakout Rooms" feature of Zoom enables teachers and managers to split participants into smaller groups without forcing them to leave the meeting, set up their own meetings, and then rejoin the original meeting.

First, use your web browser to sign into Zoom and make sure that the "Breakout Room" button is switched on under Settings > Meeting > In Meeting (Advanced). You will see a breakout room icon in the lower menu bar when you host a meeting, and you will be able to manually select groups or let Zoom do it for you. If you want to sort groups before the meeting, there is also an option to "Allow the host to delegate participants to breakout rooms” when arranging this feature.

Automatically record the meeting

Automatically record the meeting

There are several reasons why you may want to document your Zoom meeting, such as if you are holding a media interview, recording a virtual comedy show, or attending an academic lecture that you're going to need to research later. You can easily capture this if you are the meeting host by clicking the "Record" button on the bottom menu bar of your Zoom screen. If you are not a meeting host, you can do this by logging into your web browser's Zoom account, going to the "Recording" tab in your personal settings, and switching to the "Automatic Recording" button. (If you only need to record one meeting, you can always switch it off later.)

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WRITTEN BYMolly Stoneman

Freelancer passionate about design, travel, and innovation.

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