Zoom

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Zoom is a platform for online meetings. Zoom is really easy. Especially if you have experience with Skype or WebEx, you might be pleasantly surprised to come across a solution that just works.

Installation

Zoom is available for pretty much any platform:

  • As an app, called the Zoom Client, for Windows, Mac and Linux
  • As an extension for Chrome and Firefox webbrowsers
  • As a mobile app for Android and Apple mobile phones and tablets.

Go to https://zoom.us/download for downloads.

How to join a meeting

To join a Zoom meeting, you need:

  1. A Zoom Meeting ID, consisting of nine or ten figures, like 123-456-789 or 123-456-7890
  2. Sometimes a Zoom Password
  3. Naturally, the day and time that the meeting takes place
  4. The app or plugin installed on your computer or mobile device
  5. A microphone and headphone (or loudspeakers) on your device.

No zoom account needed

You can create a free Zoom account, but you don't have to: You can participate in meetings without an account. That's good news:

  • It makes it just a bit easier to participate in meetings
  • It enhances privacy.

Meeting ID, Password & URL

Zoom Meeting ID & Zoom Password are often incorporated in a Zoom URL, like

https://zoom.us/j/123219123?pwd=NUdTbmt1cUt6VmZxN3liR29SMGZ12345

When following this link, Zoom will open in your browser (provided you have a Zoom plugin installed).

Alternatively, Meeting ID and password can be provided seperately, like

* Meeting ID: 123 219 123
* Password: BlubBlub

In this case, open the Zoom app on your device, or go to https://zoom.us/join in your browser, and enter the Meeting ID.

Be early

Meetings usually "open" some 15 minutes before the official starting time. Some reasons to make use of that extra time:

  • The Host has to let people into the meeting by clicking on a button. When the meeting has already started, the host is busy with hosting the meeting, and letting people in, becomes a hassle
  • Participants often forget to give themselves a name, so you may have some people in a meeting called "Galaxy" or "Android". The host can rename these people, but that takes name. Therefore again this is best done before the actual meeting starts
  • Use the time to check your microphone, headphone and video.

Headphones vs. Loudspeakers

The trouble with loudspeakers is, that they may cause feedback: The sound from the loudspeakers are picked up by the microphone, send again to the loudspeakers, picked up again by the microphone, etc. Before you know it, you just have a wall of sound.

With a headset, you don't have this issue. So do yourself and others a favor, and get a headset (if you didn't have one yet). Changes are, that the headset for your Android mobile phone, will also work on your computer.

Mute!

You can easily recognise the veterans in online meetings: They are the folks that never have their microphone activated when they aren't speaking.

It often takes a bit of time to get this habit, but it is really usefull:

  • It's quite annoying for others to have to listen to your noice or whatever
  • It also makes you look not as smart as you really are.

Zoom makes it really easy to mute and unmute:

  • Keyboard: Alt a (Command a on Apple?)
  • Mouse: Click the microphone icon left in the Shortcut Bar.

Additionally, the Host can mute/unmute everyone at once with Alt m

Video?

Video is a nice extra, but by no means necessary, and surely not mandatory. Only use video when you are comfortable with it.

How to start a meeting

  • Create a Zoom account (or use somebody's else's account)
  • With creating a Zoom account, you automatically get a 'default meeting', like https://zoom.us/j/3860386123 - Anyone to whom you give this URL, can join you in your meeting, as long as you are there. Since it's your account, you're the so-called host, which means you have several superpowers
  • When you start with a free Zoom account (called Zoom Basic), there are two limitations:
    • Meetings can have max. 100 participants
    • meetings with 3 or more participants, are limited to 40 minutes
  • When Zoom Basic is too limited for you, you can upgrade to various paid plans. Amongst others, you can pay with PayPal.

Parts of Zoom

Most of the stuff in this chapter is only relevant if you want to be a really, really good chair. If you just want to participate in a meeting, you can dispense with all of this.

Main Window

The Main Window is where you usually spend most of your time during a meeting. Some parts that usually live here:

  • Gallery View: Video feeds of participants
  • Speaker View: Video feed of the speaker, maybe combined with some video feeds of participants
  • Shared Desktop
  • Whiteboard

The Main Window can be a split screen with various objects - Really handy!

Gallery View during a meeting with 37 participants. There are maximally 25 video feeds per page. Hence the control at the right side of the screen, to go to the second page with video feeds
A split Main Window with a Shared Desktop, Gallery View and Participants List

Shortcut Bar

The Shortcut Bar is the horizontal black bar, in this case at the bottom of the screen. It contains all major controls, including links to the Participant List and the Chat Box

Shared Desktop

  • Zoom has a desktop share or screen share function, where you can choose which part of your desktop is shared - really handy!
  • When sharing your screen (e.g., to share literature), for people who join through a mobile phone, stuff is still readible, as they can zoom in.

Participants list

The Shortcut Bar has a link Participants. When you click on it, a separate windows opens with a list of all participants, with several attributes. For business meetings, this list is indispensable. In large meetings, I would move this window to a separate computer screen.

The Participants List can be merged with the Main Window.

A Participant List of a meeting with 36 participants. Some of the things you can see here: The person on the first row is me. I have video and a muted microphone. The person on the second row is sharing his or her screen. The person on the fifth row, probably has an actual Zoom account, as he or she has an actual icon. At the bottom you can see, that you can raise your hand - Indispensible in large meetings! You can also rename yourself

Invite button

The Invite Button in the Shortcut bar produces a text like this, ready to be texted or emailed:

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/123219123?pwd=NUdTbmt1cUt6VmZxN3liR29SMGZ12345

Meeting ID: 123 219 123
Password: BlubBlub

One tap mobile
+13462487799,,123219456# US (Houston)
+16699006833,,123219456# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 253 215 8782 US
+1 301 715 8592 US
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Meeting ID: 123 219 123
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/123DHxoBs 

Raise hand

Zoom has a function to raise or lower your hand. It might take some time to find and use this function, but it might make meetings with lots of participants or lots of interaction, much more comfortable.

In the Participant List, you can see who has raised his or her hand. Even better: The names of people who raised their hand, is on top of the list - That's very useful when the list of participants doesn't fit on the screen.

In the Participant List, you can raise or lower your hand. Participants with raised hands, are automatically displayed on top of the list. Like in this example on a computer, with one person who raised her hand
Participant List on an Android-mobile phone, with one person with a raised hand

How to raise or lower your hand:

  • On a computer: Go to the Participant List: You'll find the button at the bottom of the screen
  • On an Android-moble phone: Click on any screen → "More" → Raise (lower) hand

Some other functions

Record

  • Only participants with the record privilege can record the Main Windows of the meeting, including audio
  • A sign Recording will be displayed on all participants' screens - So no secret recordings.

Host

A meeting has a Host, usually the person who started the meeting. The Host has various functions that others don't have, like muting participants.

Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts seem to differ from platform to platform.

Default keyboard shortcuts according to Zoom:

Shortcut Description
Ctrl \ Always show meeting controls
Alt v Start/stop video
Alt a Mute/unmute my audio
Alt m Mute/unmute audio for everyone except host (host-only shortcut)
Alt s Start/stop Desktop Sharing
Alt t Pause/resume Desktop Sharing
Alt r Start/stop local recording
Alt c Start/stop cloud recording
Alt p Pause/resume recording
Alt n Switch camera
Esc Enter/exit full screen mode
Alt u Show/hide Participants Panel
Alt i Open the Invite Window
Alt y Raise/lower your hand
Alt Shift r Begin remote control
Alt Shift g Revoke/give up remote control permission
Alt Shift t Make a screenshot
Ctrl w Close current chat session
Esc Close the Participants Pane or Chat Window (when they have the focus)

Verified keyboard shortcuts on Linux (Ubuntu, March 2020):

Shortcut Description
Alt a Mute/unmute my audio
Alt s Start/stop Desktop Sharing
Alt u Show/hide Participants Panel
Alt i Open the Invite Window
 ? Raise/lower your hand
Alt h Show/hide chat window

Reclaim host role

How to reclaim the host role:

  • On Android: With the menu bar at the bottom of the screen » "..." - Doesn't seem always to be present
  • Desktop/Linux: Participants pane » Button at the bottom Reclaim Host.

Share a Zoom-account

Two scenario's concerning sharing a Zoom-account:

One administrator - Multiple users

E.g., a company where the IT person schedules meetings for various departments, without being present him-/herself in those meetings.

Multiple administrators - Multiple users

E.g., on organisation with tens of people, and a staff of five people that can all schedule meetings for others.

Have a multi-user account

When you schedule a meeting on a non-free account, you have the possibility to add alternate hosts. However, these alternative hosts need to be part of your account, like they are some kind of sub-account. Even then, I couldn't get it to work. Worse: I couldn't schedule any meeting anymore, because of this 'illegal' alternate hosts, which I couldn't delete anymore.

When I finally succeeded in deleting that alternative hosts from this account (it was a payed account from a friend, and my free account was the alternative host), it turned out that I lost my own Zoom-account.

I couldn't get beyond this screen, and even lost my Zoom-account!

Share the Host Key

Once a meeting is set-up, and others than the host can enter before the host, he or she can use the Host Key to become host. See the separate chapter about this.

Make someone co-host (one administrator - multiple users)

Once you're logged in and you have the Host Role, you can make other participants Co-host, but this is only possible if this function is enabled under Settings

Share the account credentials (multiple administrators - multiple users)

Probably the most intuitive way to enable multiple people to manage a Zoom account: Share the account credentials (email address & password) amongst several people. Equally intuitively, this sounds like a really bad idea, but it doesn't have to.

An example of how I did this in March 2020:

  • Created a Gmail-account for this purpose (more precisely: I used an old Gmail-account that I still had lying around for something similar). This Gmail account contained no personal information about me
  • Created a Zoom account with a "non-personal" email address. This account too, was as impersonal as possible
  • Shared these Zoom credentials with a few people.

Concerning privacy, this is ok. But do people now have the power no mess or hijack the Zoom account? I don't think so:

  • You can't change the password without having access to the Gmail account - No worries concerning hijacking
  • They can mess up the account, but I don't have the impression that any real damage can be done - Besides: You need to have some trust in people.

And lastly, does this violate the Terms of Usage or whatever of Zoom? I didn't check it out. It's only a video-conferening app ;)

Using the Host Key

Every meeting has a so-called Host Key: A code of 6 to 10 numbers to claim the Host Role.

Finding your Host Key

This is for the administrator/owner of the account:

Find your host key: Settings » General » View Advanced Features » Log into your online account » Profile » Scroll down to 'Host Key' » Show
Schedule a meeting. Make sure to check Enable join before host. Now give your host key to the person who is going to chair the meeting. Or just to everybody: You can't do much harm with only a host key. BTW: As you can see, this also works with a free (Basic) Zoom-account
If desired, you can later change your host key, at the same page as where you found it (it's hidden behind that pop-up thingy)

Claiming the Host Role

Both on computers and mobile devices, there are buttons to claim the Host Role:

  • This button is only available as long as nobody has claimed the Host Role yet. E.g.: Nobody claimed the Host Role, and the owner of the account enters the meeting, then he/she automatically gets the Host Role and the button disappears
  • Need to get the Host Role but somebody already has that role? → Ask that person to make you Host (=transferring the Host Role to you) or to make you Co-host (you're now both host)
  • If someone claims the Host Role, and the owner of the account subsequently enters the meeting, the Host Role isn't automatically transfered - Which enables owners of accounts to participate just as other participants. It's unclear if in this case, the current person with the Host Role, can still make others Co-Host.

Use the Host Key - on a computer

Go to the Participants List and click Claim Host - Remember: This is only possible if there isn't someone with the Host Role yet
Enter the Host Key

Use the Host Key - on a mobile device

On the button bar, tap on More » Claim Host Role...
Enter the Host Key

Marathon meeting

Could you schedule a meeting with no end time, where anybody can just enter? Like a marathon meeting?

Well, not directly, as the limit of the duration of a meeting is 23 hours and 45 minutes.

But you can get close, by simply making it a recurrent meeting, or restart the meeting every day around the same time.

Zoom-bombing & throlling

At the end of March 2020, Zoom-bombing or Zoom-throlling became a thing: Uninvited guests that disturb meetings through abuse of the means of interaction: Screen Sharing, Whiteboard, etc. Zoom-bombing can be done by individuals or groups that overtake a meeting in a coordinated fashion. On a more subtle level, throlling includes individuals sending inappropriate 1-on-1 chat messages to other participants.

How to throll

There are probably two main ways, that throlls find meetings to disturb:

  • Zoom Meeting IDs are easy to guess: Take an existing Zoom Meeting ID, and change the last figure: Quite a change that you now have the Zoom Meeting ID of another meeting. And if not: Try again
  • Zoom Meeting details are easy to find: If you search in Google for Zoom Meetings, changes are that you'll come up with hundreds or thousands of publicly available meetings, including passwords and Zoom URLs - I suspect this is the most common way for throlls to find Zoom-meetings.

Defence in depth

In the following chapters, several measures are discussed to keep the impact of Zoom-bombing to a minimum. A good strategy is one that uses defence in depth: Don't rely on just one measure, but use several measures that reinforce eachother. E.g., measures to keep throlls out of meetings, combined with measures to expel them as quickly as possible, when they rear their ugly heads.

Account-level & meeting-level

Measures come more-or-less at three different levels:

  • Some measures are configured at the account-level, and effect all meetings from that account
  • Some measures are configured at the account-level, but can be overruled for individual meetings
  • Some measures are configured at the meeting-level, and are only relevant for that specific meeting.

This might be a reason to have separate accounts if your hosting very different kind of meetings from one account, like very small meetings and very big meetings.

No silver bullet

Unfortunately, there is no fixed set of measures that solve Zoom-bombing once and for all. An example to illustrate this:

Around the beginnig of April 2020, I attended a meeting with almost 500 participants, just days after Zoom-bombing became prevalent:

  • All mics were muted and could only be unmuted by the Host
  • 1-on-1-chatting and 1-on-everybody-chatting were disabled
  • There were several Hosts (and/or Co-hosts - I don't think the distinction is very important)
  • There was no Waiting Room
  • Screen Sharing and Whiteboard were disabled
  • To get the floor, participants had to raise their hand through the Zoom interface

I believe thesere were exactly the correct settings for this event:

  • There were hundreds of unfamiliar people visiting this event, so checking everybody in a Waiting Room, would have required maybe 20 Hosts
  • Mics were still enabled when there were around 100 people. That's too much to manually mute and too much noise already → Mute all at once by the Host
  • It was very likely that there were throlls. Therefore the only solution was to only allow the Host to unmute. Plus of couse, disabling Screen Sharing & Whiteboard
  • Tens of people raised their hands to get the floor, while only a limited amount of time was available for them.

The measures discussed below, are all tested for a Zoom Pro-account. They have not been verified for free accounts.

Maybe...

Lastly: Zoom-throlling came on us like an avalanche around the end of March 2020. Zoom-the-company took actions immediately (like requiring passwords on meetings). I have the impression that two weeks later, things got much more quiet. Maybe the problem has already vanished?

Zoom-bombing - Obvious measures

As already mentioned in the chapter before: There is no one solution that solves it all. Fortunately, you are a smart person with excellent judgement, so you'll easily figure out what is best for your situation. And to make it easy, we start with the most common solutions, and move down towards more exotic measures.

Don't publish the Zoom URL including password

Throlls probably find their Zoom-meeting by simply Googling for them. When a meeting has a password, the Zoom URL can incorporate this password. E.g.:

Probably an obvious first step: Don't publish Zoom URLs including passwords. Just state the password somewhere separately. Changes are that this will keep lots of throlls out the door.

Don't publish the password

A second, still rather obvious step: Don't publish the password in conjunction with the Zoom Meeting ID or Zoom Meeting URL. Some organisations require folks to email or text a contact person to acquire the password. Or the password is described in a cryptic way.

Do notice, that this may degrade the user experience, as they have to jump to an extra hoop to get to the meeting.

Don't allow removed participants to rejoin

Probably an essential step: Don't allow folks that have been removed from a meeting, to come back to that meeting:

Zoom-account » My Settings » In Meeting (Basic) » Allow removed participants to rejoin

One consideration: once someone is 'banned', he or she can never return. Maybe important to check here for mistakes, or reset this function once in a while.

Have an Co-Host

Another quite 'basic' measure to address Zoom-bombing: Don't chair meetings alone, but have a Host or Co-host as an assistant to address issues when they arrive. It's important that Co-hosts have the Zoom Host Role, in order to be able to e.g., mute microphones or expel people from the meeting.

Additionally, these Hosts or Co-hosts need to have their finger on the pulse of the meeting. It requires attention and it should be clear upfront what is considered inappropriate behaviour - Throlls can be subtle

Disable Screen Sharing for participants

If Zoom-bombers do make it to the meeting: Take away their stage. The option to disable screen sharing can be found here:

Zoom-account » My Settings » In Meeting (Basic)

This is a rather obvious and universal measure (unless Screen Sharing is an important part of your meetings), similar to disable Whiteboard, Disable file transfer and Disable annotation.

Disable Whiteboard

Another example of taking away the means for Zoom-bombers to express themselves: Disable the Whiteboard:

Zoom-account » My Settings » In Meeting (Basic)

Disable file transfer

In-meeting file transfer allows people to share files through the in-meeting chat. Toggle this off to keep the chat from getting bombarded with unsolicited pics, GIFs, memes, and other content.

Disable annotation

You and your attendees can doodle and mark up content together using annotations during screen share. You can disable the annotation feature in your Zoom settings to prevent people from writing all over the screens.

Zoom-bombing - Less-obvious measures

In the previous chapter, several 'obvious' measures were discussed. In this chapter, we get to measures that may not be suitable in all situations or that only have a limited effect, or that have a rather significant efect on the experience of legitimate participants.

Disable 1-on-1 chats

One major way that meetings can become unsafe, is through inappropriate 1-on-1 chat messages amongst participants. As this is less visible, appropriate messages are therefore even more urgent. Experience seems to indicate that this can happen already at relatively small gatherings.

The solution: Disable 1-on-1 chats. This still allows participants to chat to everyone and to the Host. You find this settings here:

Settings » In Meeting (Basic) » Chat » Prevent participants from saving chat

There is one problem with this: It's a major inconvenience for legitimate participants, as they can't do simple things anymore like exchanging telephone numbers, or just saying 'hi!' - Probably best to be restrained with this.

Waiting Room

Change the message that participants see when they enter the Waiting Room: Zoom-account » My Settings » In Meeting (Advanced) » Waiting Room » Customize the title, logo, and description

It may seem obvious, to start with a waiting room, which is like a virtual staging area where participants arrive before they enter the meeting. From here, the host can interact with the participants, allow him/or to enter, or reject them.

You'll find general Waiting Room settings here, including options to customise your waiting room (see screen shot):

Zoom-account » My Settings » In Meeting (Advanced) » Waiting Room

When setting up an individual meeting, you can choose to enable or disable the Waiting Room.

When using a Waiting Room, some suggested procedures around meetings:

  1. Check participants individually, and let them into the meeting one-by-one, rather than letting multiple participants into the meeting at once
  2. Ask participants to identify by name
  3. Ask participants to enable their video, if they haven't done so yet
  4. Still not sure? Ask a question that only legitimate participants know the answer to. E.g., what is the missing word in the sentence Experience, strength and or the missing word in the sentence Rarely have we see a person.

Although this may seem like the ultimate solution against throlling, there are some major drawbacks:

  • The option Allow participants to join before the host cannot be used in conjunction with a Waiting Room. So people cannot just enter the meeting half an hour earlier to chat with others, unless the Host is already there
  • It's labour-intensive to effective use a Waiting Room. What do you do when you get a whole bunch of strangers in your waiting room, and the evens is about to start in a minute? Go through the procedure mentioned above, or just let them all in? To start with, you probably need a separate host just for managing the waiting room. Depending on the size of the event, you may need lots of Hosts, to do it right.

Prevent participants from saving chats

When participants can save chats, they obtain the email addresses of all participants (might be at odds with the GDRP, but that's another discussion) plus information that might be private in character.

Disable participants to save chats:

Settings » In Meeting (Basic) » Chat » Prevent participants from saving chat

Disable all recording possibilities

Depending on the specific settings of the meetings, it might be relevant to disable all recording possibilities. Although mostly a question of privacy, this also disables throlls to record sensitive information.

Setting can be found here:

ADMIN » Acount Settings » Recording

There are only two relevant options to set:

  • Disable Local recording - Disables both hosts and participants to record meetings
  • Disable Cloud recording - Automatically disables automatic recording as well.

Disable 1-on-everybody chats

For exceptionally large gatherings, or gatherings with lots of unknown people: Disallow chats from participants to everyone:

Zoom-account » My Settings » In Meeting (Basic) » Chat » Allow meeting participants to send a message visible to all participants

A potential surprising side-effect: The Chair may not be able to communicate with the Hosts anymore → Use phones for this.

Only Host can mute/unmute

For exceptionally large gatherings, gatherings with lots of unknown people, or when it's likely that there are throlls: Only allow the Host to mute/unmute microphones.

Password?

And finally, a measure that might be less effective than anticipated: When the password to a meeting is published together with the Zoom Meeting ID, or as part of the Zoom URL, you could just as well not use a password at all.

Passwords can be set or unset for each individual meeting.

Sources