Zoom Tips that will Save Your Online Meeting (and your sanity)
Unless you were lucky enough to live in a remote tropical cave for the first half of 2020, there’s a high probability that your work environment was somewhat impacted by the Coronavirus lockdown extravaganza.
As a work-from-home employee and entrepreneur with over 10 years of presenting online under my belt, this transition didn’t really affect me (other than taking me off the road for exotic speaking engagements).
But based on the rapidly growing subculture of epic Zoom fails, it’s clear that this drastic change in our meeting environment has resulted in more than a few series of unfortunate events.
It’s a challenging — and hilarious — new landscape, from employees being forced to dial in from bathrooms and basements, to extricating flung spaghetti from your hair by tiny bored humans, to partners walking up to your desk in their skivvies.
Not to mention my personal favorite: a boss irreversibly transforming herself into a potato for the duration of her online team meeting.
Luckily, Zoom has risen to the occasion with a slew of new features to help alleviate the brewing frustration across the remote corporate landscape. And, these features are not all immediately obvious.
So in addition to my 3 tips for surviving online presenting from home podcast episode, I’ve gone deep with this list of the most helpful Zoom tips, tricks, and settings that will help you keep your online meeting (and your sanity) on track. We’re gonna do this countdown style:
My Top 10 Most Useful Zoom Tips for Sane Online Presentations
The settings you’ll see listed here are located in either your Zoom desktop app preferences, found here:
…or in your Zoom.us web account settings, where you’ll need to access your account in a browser here:
#10: Present your slide deck using a second monitor
Ok, so this first tip isn’t a Zoom tip, per se. But presenting my slide decks using dual monitors was a game-changing move in my virtual meetings because it enabled me to use my favorite PowerPoint feature: Presenter View.
Presenter View (available in PowerPoint and Google Slides) allows you to privately display your current slide, your next slide, your Speaker Notes, and a storyboard of future slides. You also get a prominent clock and timer to stay on point.
This is an incredibly valuable feature while presenting in an online environment because it prevents you from getting distracted with remembering your next slide, or having really awkward transitions when you didn't see the next slide coming.
Presenter View allows you to stay present with the content on your current slide and smoothly transition to the next one…and even build some anticipation along the way!
But if you only have one monitor for your online meetings, the audience will see all of that too, which completely defeats the purpose.
If you use dual monitors, you can set Zoom to share your full-screen presentation deck to the audience while your second monitor displays Presenter View only to you:
To do this, you would plug in a second monitor, activate Presenter View in PowerPoint (or Google Slides), and then select the presentation application window that shows your deck full-screen. Here you can see the full-screen version of my slide deck to the right of Presenter View:
So, dig up that gaming monitor your teenager abandoned after upgrading his Fortnite battlestation or find a super cheap unit online. Your online presentation ante will be forever upped, trust me.
#9: Turn off audio, video, and the notification chime when you and your attendees join the meeting
When I’m presenting online during a meeting, I like to dial in a few minutes early to get everything set up. But because I live in a busy home, sometimes my background environment isn’t completely settled.
Keeping audio and video off upon entry allows you to get your home presentation environment under control while prepping your slides.
To mute your audio and video when joining an online meeting:
- Open your Zoom desktop application and go to Preferences >> Video.
- Under Meetings, check the box labeled “Turn off my video when joining a meeting”.
- While you’re there, check the box next to “Touch up my appearance” under My Video, which provides a subtle and delightful airbrush effect to your skin. I was shocked to see how many search engine searches there are for “how to look good on Zoom”. There you go, insta-smooth!
- Next, go to the Audio menu.
- Make sure the setting that says “Mute microphone when joining a meeting” is checked.
How to turn off everyone else’s video and audio upon entry:
- Go to Zoom.us in a browser >> Your Account >> Settings (you won’t find this in your desktop application).
- Under In Meeting (Basic), look for the Scheduling section.
- Toggle both the Host Video and Participant Video setting to OFF.
- Scroll further down the menu to Mute Participants upon Entry and toggle this to OFF as well.
Now you can rest assured that if you or your attendees dial in with a rogue child screaming and running naked behind your chair, you have time to shuttle them out of the room without causing an online scene. (True story, not mine.)
I also suggest disabling that cheery “Ding dong!” entry notification for attendees, especially for larger meetings with a formal presentation.
Hearing when someone joins is useful for small or 1:1 meetings, and absolutely exasperating for quarterly business readouts and department-wide town halls.
To do this, go to your Zoom web account settings and toggle the “Sound notification when someone joins or leaves” setting to OFF.
#8: Appoint someone else to monitor the Waiting Room and take notes
The sudden explosion in quarantine Zoom meetings gave rise to an unintended consequence: Zoom bombings. Suddenly, meetings around the globe were unintentionally — and unfortunately, intentionally — interrupted by people who do not belong in those meetings.
So, Zoom implemented the “Waiting Room” by default to prevent would-be bombers from wreaking online meeting havoc. When someone attempts to join your meeting, they show up at the top of the Participant window with a blue button labeled “Admit”.
The downside of this feature, however, is that if you’re not watching the Participant window while you’re presenting online, people will get stuck in virtual limbo.
This happens a lot because attendees frequently lose their internet connections and try to rejoin. Trying to monitor the Waiting Room while staying focused on your slides is a recipe for distraction disaster.
That’s why my Zoom tip is to appoint an attending colleague to stay vigilant on the Waiting Room and admit attendees so you can stay laser-focused on your presentation.
You can appoint the same person to take detailed notes during your meeting, a strategy I recommend in my Data Presentation + Storytelling Boot Camp course. This way you can feel confident that no important questions, concerns, or follow-ups are missed while you’re dropping your brilliance on your online audience.
#7: Spotlight your video when you’re sharing your screen
If you’re presenting online with a slide deck, it’s helpful to keep everyone’s screen locked onto your screen.
This will ensure that attendees stay focused on your slides or videos and aren’t getting distracted with spying on the hottie from Email Marketing.
During the meeting, roll over your own video window to show three dots and click Spotlight Video.
Note: You must be either the Host or a Co-Host in order to Spotlight screens. This is a powerful feature, so wield it wisely.
#6: Automatically save the Chat Log
When the Host ends a Zoom meeting, the Chat history is completely lost unless you take measures to save it. It’s vital for follow-up that important questions and comments don’t get lost.
Zoom can automatically save your meeting chat logs in your web account settings under In Meeting (Basic):
- Go to the Chat section >> Auto saving chats
- Toggle the very concise “Automatically save all in-meeting chats so that hosts do not need to manually save the text of the chat after the meeting starts” setting to ON.
NOTE: This Zoom tip also saves all messages sent privately, so make sure your audience knows that before they make secret virtual dinner date plans during your meeting.
#5 Know whom you’re messaging in Chat
Many people don’t seem to know yet that when you message someone privately or they message you privately, your next message will be sent directly to that person. I can’t tell you how many times people have sent me private messages intended for other attendees or the whole group.
Depending on the message’s subject matter, this can get embarrassing quickly.
Be mindful of whom you’re about to message by keeping your eye on the prompt above your Chat message window. If the word (privately) is in red, you’re about to send a private message to whomever is in the dropdown.
#4: Use Zoom keyboard shortcuts outside of Zoom
There is an smorgasbord of Zoom keyboard shortcuts to make presenting online go more smoothly. I highly recommend getting acquainted with the ones you may find most useful.
But none of them are available if you are actively presenting from PowerPoint, Google Slides, a dashboard tool or a website.
Zoom gives you the option to enable “Global Shortcuts”, which are tremendously helpful for controlling audio while you’re in other windows.
You'll find this Zoom setting in your desktop application preferences and the Keyboard Shortcuts menu. Click to enable all of the shortcuts available:
This feature is especially important if you’re going to use the three most killer Zoom keyboard shortcuts in the world, starting with…
#3: Quickly mute your audio and video
Often meeting hosts neglect to mute the whole meeting and struggle with relaxing ambient noise from the participants like construction, potato chip munching, or in my case, bored kids buzzing around our property on ATV's like giant mutant bumblebees.
So I’m mindful to go on mute anytime I’m not speaking, and the fastest way to do this is with the following keyboard shortcut:
To mute your audio:
- For Windows / PC: ALT – A
- For Mac: CMD – CTRL – A
And if you want to pause your video:
- For Windows / PC: ALT – V
- For Mac: CMD – CTRL – V
Even faster than those, however, is the ability to…
#2: Temporarily unmute yourself
If I could marry a Zoom keyboard shortcut, this one would be The One. As an attendee, I can’t count how many times I’ve been randomly called upon to chime in while on mute like everyone else.
Cue snapping to attention, scrambling for my mouse, trying to aim and click accurately on the Unmute button, and fumble through my response. No more, I say!
All you need to do to temporarily unmute yourself is press and hold the SPACE key. Then release to go back on mute. That’s it. Seriously.
Make sure this shortcut is activated in your Zoom desktop settings:
The only downside of this killer Zoom trick is that now, someone who wasn’t really paying attention won’t be able to rely on ye olde “Uh, sorry I was on mute” delaying excuse.
And last but not in the least of least of Zoom tips…
#1: Mute everyone at once (except the Host)
Bar none, this Zoom keyboard shortcut is the MOST useful and MOST underrated of Zoom tips.
When you’re presenting online to an audience of 10, 20, or 70, the last thing you want to have to do is individually mute every participant while making everyone wait.
Nor do you want to keep reminding everyone with, “Guys, I’m hearing some background noise / possessed children / circus music right, can y’all please mute?”
No, no, no. Very disruptive and distracting, which is the kiss of death during virtual presentations.
Here are the keyboard shortcuts for muting all attendees in one fell swoop:
For Windows / PC: ALT – M
For Mac: CMD – SHIFT – M
Note that this does NOT put you, or the host, on mute.
I guarantee that these final three Zoom tips will help you shave minutes of frustration and awkwardness off of your online meetings.
Keep Your Audience on Point with these Zoom Tips
To make these Zoom tricks easier to remember for everyone, you can paste all of this information into the Zoom chat window at the beginning of the online meeting like so:
Hey everyone! Thanks for joining today. Here are a few quick tips to make participating as smooth as possible:
- Open the Participants and Chat windows to see important instructions and information.
- If you have a question or comment, please use the Raise Hand feature by hovering over your name in the Participants window.
- If you message someone privately or they message you, remember that unless you change it, you will message them back directly.
- Note that we are recording this meeting and all messages sent through Chat for reference later.
Throw in an emoji or two to gain their attention and add some personality. Giving this information to your attendees in an organized manner like this will do wonders for your reputation as a virtual virtuoso.
Here is a list of a zillion more helpful Zoom keyboard shortcuts by OS if you wish to attain Zoom Black Belt status.
Download a Free Zoom Tip Cheat Sheet and Meeting Kickoff Script
Now, I realize this is a lot to remember, so I’ve created a few resources for you to keep handy at your desk for every meeting.
To download a keyboard shortcut cheat sheet with all of these ultra-useful Zoom tips — plus my invaluable Meeting Kickoff Superhero Script for how to engage your audience during an online presentation — click below to request your free copy:
And if you’re a team leader who’s ready to watch their team absolutely nail presenting online, book a call with me to create a customized training solution for successful and seamless online presentations and meetings.
Final Thoughts on Zoom Tips to Make Online Presenting Sane Again
I hope you'll find these tips for presenting remotely with Zoom helpful in these unique circumstances. In the dubious words of some ancient Persian dude, this too shall pass…sort of. While we will go back to work in full force one day, it will probably never look quite like the way it did before.
That’s because this extraordinary period in human history has set a precedent for companies to reevaluate their resistance to telecommuting. As a result, they will likely offer hybrid arrangements to their increasingly global workforce.
So, remote working is here to stay, and the most impactful thing you can do as a virtual presenter is empower yourself with Zoom tips like these to knock your next online meeting out of the park.
Or the broom closet, if that's your thing.
PS – Since remote work is the way of the future, you can look for your next role over at Jooble.
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