What is Zoom and how do I use it?

Chances are, if you’re one of the tens of millions of people working from home or out of school due to the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve quickly become familiar with teleconferencing software. Indeed, these days, there are many video conferencing platforms available to choose from and it can be difficult to know which one might be right for you. Below we explore one option ‘Zoom’, so you can determine if you should download the app.

What is Zoom?

Like many other video chat platforms, Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing service where you can virtually meet with others. The live chats can be conducted either by video and audio or, audio-only. To access Zoom, simply download the Zoom app on your computer or phone and join any meeting with a supplied meeting ID. (The desktop app is available for Windows, Linux and macOS, while the mobile app is available for Android and iOS.)

Zoom is especially popular in enterprises, with over half of Fortune 500 companies reportedly using Zoom in 2019. This is largely because, one version of the platform, Zoom Enterprise can provide group calls, and global video meetings with up to 1,000 participants and as many as 49 on-screen videos.

However, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools and universities have also started using Zoom for virtual lessons, in order to finish the semester.

On the Basic plan (the free version) you can host up to 100 participants and unlimited meetings, but the meetings only last for 40 minutes. The app is also user friendly and is said to glitch less than other similar platforms.

To join a Zoom meeting, you will need a host (the leader in the group) to provide the others with a meeting ID, this will be sent to the email address they used to sign-up. Once you have the meeting ID, they can type this directly into the app, or, if easier, click the link in the email and they will be directed straight into the chat.

Cool Zoom Features and how to use them

Add a fun background

If you want to jazz things up a bit on your calls, you can use one of Zoom’s virtual backgrounds. These include things like space, cityscapes and ocean-side views. If you want, you can also upload an image of anything you want to customise your background.

To do this on a Desktop App:

  1. Go to ‘Preferences’
  2. Click on ‘Virtual Background’ on the left.
  3. You can use one of the virtual backgrounds that Zoom provides, or you can upload your own photos.

To do this on a Mobile App:

  1. While in a Zoom meeting, tap ‘More’ in the controls
  2. Then tap ‘Virtual Background.’
  3. Tap the background you’d like to apply or tap ‘+’ to upload a new image.
  4. Tap ‘Close’ after selecting the background to return to the meeting.

Record your meeting

With Zoom you can record your meeting sessions, should you wish to view them at a later date. However, it is worth noting that video recordings can only be taken for free on macOS, Windows, or Linux systems and will be saved on your computer itself, unless you have a paid subscription that allows you to save it into the Cloud. Please be aware that mobile recordings are also only available with a paid subscription. To record a call on your computer:

  1. Log into your Zoom account
  2. Click to view Account Settings/Meeting settings
  3. Navigate to the Recording tab and click to enable video recording

Breakout Rooms

If you are educator or trainer, breakout rooms are really useful for dividing chats into smaller groups for discussions. To create a breakout room:

Start the meeting and select the “Breakout Rooms” option.

Choose the number of rooms to create and assign participants to the rooms. This can be automatically done by Zoom or manually. Then click ‘Create Rooms.’

Zoom can automatically split the participants up evenly in each of the rooms or you can choose which participants you would like in each room. Up to 50 breakout rooms can be created. The host can also broadcast a message to all groups, by entering your message and clicking ‘Broadcast’.

Finally, you can check the option ‘Breakout rooms close automatically after XX minutes.’ If this option is checked, the breakout rooms will automatically end after the configured time. After this time everyone will be returned to the main room. For more information on how to use this feature see the Zoom website here.

Obviously, there are many video conferencing apps out there, it is about choosing which one is right for you and the intended use case. If you have any questions about Zoom, please leave a comment in the section below and we will do our best to help you out.

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