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Top Tips for facilitating Zoom meetings and workshops

Zoom Tips – to help you optimise your virtual meetings, coaching and training sessions!  

If you find yourself suddenly having to use video communication tools like Zoom as you adjust to life working from home, you are not alone!  Many of us are now using Zoom video calls to stay connected with teams, colleagues and clients.

To help you avoid an embarrassing moment or two, as you get to grips with new tech, we have compiled some simple tips and tricks to help you keep your virtual meetings, coaching and training sessions polished when working from home! 

Ahead of the session taking place, here are some things to do and to think about to ensure everything gets off to the best start:  

 

1 Starting Off

  • Send good instructions in advance including the contingency plan – e.g. a mobile to call if they have any issues. State the obvious like the equipment they’ll need, the need to be in a quiet environment where they’ll be undisturbed, be comfortable, etc. 
  • Explain that the video needs to be ON (so you can check they are actually attending).
  • Tell them what they need to bring – e.g. anything they should print off themselves, pens, paper etc (keep in mind that they may have limited resources if working from home, such as no access to a printer).
  • Make sure you have a spare device and the host login details to hand in case your computer dies/reboots, etc. 
  • Check your own Wi-Fi/4G signal beforehand and if possible, get closer to the router, or if the signal is variable, you might want to get a good old ethernet cable, and directly plug into the hub.
  • Before the meeting, to maximise your Wi-Fi signal, put phones onto airplane mode, and close down any unused devices. You can even put tin foil behind your router to focus the signal.
  • Think about your own environment.  What’s the background? Lighting? Ambient noise? Your comfort? 
  • If it’s the attendees’ first time, get them into the session early to check the technology at their end.  
  • Here are some videos you may find helpful:
  • If you want to record the session tell attendees in advance, and for what purpose.  Reassure them that you will ask their permission in the session although they can say ‘no’ now.
  • Breakout rooms need to be set up in advance of the meeting: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206476093
  • When setting up a meeting, we would recommend the following settings

Once you have done all your preparation work, you will be feeling organised, set up and ready to go.  Here are some things to do and to be aware of during the session itself:

 

2 In Session

  • The ‘host’ controls the meeting. However, the host control can be passed to others using ‘manage participants’, selecting the new hosts name, and using the ‘more’ drop down menu.
  • Begin by getting everyone focused on the session and explain the ground rules – e.g.
    • Stop doing what you’re doing. Shut your eyes, think of all the things you have to do. Think of you writing them in a book. Now close the book. You can return to it in an hour.
    • Ground Rules – one screen only.
    • I will use silences to give you time to think, then I’ll call on some of you for your thoughts.
    • Participate, be open.
    • Going to use slides, chat and whiteboards.
    • Have your video on if possible. It’s like going into a meeting with your eyes shut otherwise.
  • Ask permission before recording and offer the opportunity for anyone to email you afterwards if they don’t want the recording to be used for the purpose outlined.
  • Explain the technology if they are new to it – the different viewing options (top right of their screens – gallery view, speaker view etc); the mute facility; the video on or off option etc. 
  • Tell them about the Zoom ‘hand up’ facility if they want to say something or ask a question whilst you are talking. 
  • If there is background noise or quite a few people, ask them to mute themselves and if they don’t, you can mute them by clicking on the blue box in their picture.
  • Give yourself time to check the chat box, especially if you have a big group where someone wants to communicate something but doesn’t get a chance to speak.
  • Use the ‘annotate’ function to get people to interact, vote and draw things.
  • If you can, appoint a co-host to manage some of the functions like recording, muting and chat.  A co-host can’t put people into break out rooms nor pop into them to see how people are getting on.
  • When using breakout rooms on the auto function, sometimes it appears to automatically continue to put people in the same groups if you use it multiple times in a session. Print a grid of attendees and columns to note breakout sessions they attended. Manually reassign people if there are repeats – or assign them all manually.
  • When in break out rooms people can’t see any slides or the chat box, so if possible, give them any complex instructions in advance (e.g. handouts) or encourage them to photo or screenshot the instructions you have put up.
  • There is a pin video option on your own picture which you can use particularly while running slides.
  • As soon as you have used some slides, stop screen sharing to get back to the group before the energy drops, then start it again when you need to (anyone can screen share so others can do so if they have something to offer). 

Delivering a training session virtually is a different experience to facilitating one face-to-face.  Here are some things to be aware of: 

 

3 The Learning Experience 

  • It can take a little longer for people to warm up and feel comfortable. Icebreakers may help but we think it is a good idea to spend a bit longer getting people building online rapport through ‘chat’ whether that is introducing themselves, sharing experiences around technology, the current situation or whatever before going into an icebreaker.
  • Ideally break the event up into chunks – e.g. spread them over several days, with a max of 2 hours per session including a break, and homework in between each session. This could be tasks to complete or getting delegates to pair up to coach each other online between each event, swapping partners each time etc. 
  • If possible, give them reading or other prep materials in advance as ‘homework’ to focus them, and ensure they come to the next session as prepared as possible. 
  • Have plenty of breaks especially if it’s a long session and encourage them to get up and move around. Suggest that they turn their mic and video off at breaks (although you can do this) so you don’t have to hear their conversations with their spouse!
  • When there are more than around 6 people in a meeting or session, you may want to go around the room naming who should speak next for input and/or feedback on exercises.  Alternatively ask them to nominate the next person to speak, as this encourages interactivity. If they are a quiet group, ask three people the question, and hopefully at least one should answer.
  • If it is a larger group you may not notice if people use the Zoom hands up feature, so you may wish to instruct them to physically wave their hand to increase your chance of seeing them and inviting their contribution.
  • If you demonstrate something with a volunteer, give the rest something to do to hold their attention.  For example, instruct them to pay great attention and notice the process being used, then discuss that with all at the end so they work it out collectively.  Alternatively, you could ask them to write down the questions you are asking and responses you get, or listen out for certain things. Do this to help stop anyone drifting off or checking their emails etc.
  • Position your screen so you are looking into it. Possibly raise your laptop on some books so it’s higher, and you don’t have to look down.
  • With your notes, if you need to refer to them, you may find a music or recipe book stand useful. You can place this near to your screen, so you don’t have to continually look away.
  • For a background view, something interesting, but not too distracting is good. You can create your own virtual background, and even be sitting on a desert island if you choose.  Do make sure your image is still clear, and weird things aren’t happening with your eyes, so you don’t look like an excerpt from a horror film!

 

Follow these Zoom virtual meeting tips and you will be sure to succeed and hit the ground running.  You’ll be a Zoom pro in no time!

 

Originated by Lynne Cooper @Five-minute Coach March 2020.
Further additions by Tony Lamb – Tony@nua training.co.uk and Madeline Shearer at Vibrance Works  

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