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With our churches closed and many of us sheltered at home, many are staying connected through Zoom, a videoconferencing platform. At the diocesan level, we have been using Zoom for over two years. Through all of this we have compiled a list of best practices and settings to help make your Zoom meetings and webinars a success.

Basic Definitions

A Zoom meeting is a Zoom event where one person hosts and all other participants have equal footing. All participants can display their video images in the meeting and control their audio settings, or microphone. The host can share hosting responsibilities with other participants. Any participant can share their screen. In the free Zoom meeting account, you can host unlimited one on one meetings and host up to 100 participants at a time. The time limit for these meetings is 40 minutes. With a paid subscription, the time limit is increased to 24 hours, and there are other management options that are available in the free account.

A Zoom webinar is a more controlled environment. This is a separate add-on feature. While there is no minimum size for a webinar, many more people can attend (up to 1,000 with appropriate licensing). Webinar roles are separated into hosts, co-hosts, and panelists, who are all able to present in the webinar, as well as attendees. Attendees are not visible on the webinar, cannot share their screens, and their microphones are muted. They can communicate with the panelists through live polling, chat, and Q&A.

Scheduling a Meeting

When scheduling a Zoom meeting, here are the important things to know and what we recommend for settings:

  • Topic: Give your meeting a descriptive Title in the Topic Field. You can give a longer description in the optional description box below the Topic Field.
  • When: Select a date and time for your meeting. You can start your meeting at any time before the scheduled time.
  • Duration: Choose the approximate duration of the meeting. Note that this is only for scheduling purposes. The meeting will not end after this length of time but remember that the maximum time for a meeting with a free account is 40 minutes and a paid account is 24 hours.
  • Time Zone: By default, Zoom will use your computer’s time zone. Click the drop-down menu to select a different time zone.
  • Recurring Meeting: If this box is checked, you can have recurring meetings with the same meeting ID. You will be given the options for setting frequency and number of meetings.
  • Registration: You can set up registration if you want. If this is selected, the registration information will be in the meeting invitation.
  • Meeting ID: The ID can automatically generate a unique number, or you can select the Personal Meeting ID which will us the predefined ID for the account. In either case, a password needs to be set.
  • Meeting Password: If this is selected, you can set up to a ten-character password, using letters and/or numbers and/or symbols. All meetings must have a password associated with it. The password can be embedded in the link to the meeting.
  • Video:
    • Host: Choose if you would like the host video on or off when joining the meeting. Even if you choose off, the host will have the option to start their video.
    • Participant: Choose if you would like the participants’ videos on or off when joining the meeting. Even if you choose off, the participants will have the option to start their video.
  • Audio: Choose whether to allow users to call in via Telephone only, Computer Audio only, or Both.
  • Meeting Options: Click on the arrow to view additional meeting options.
    • Enable join before host: Allow participants to join the meeting without you or before you join. The meeting will end after 40-minutes for Basic (free) users if 3 or more people join the meeting. This can be enabled, but only if a password has also been set up for the meeting.
    • Mute participants on entry: If join before host is not enabled, this will mute participants as they join the meeting. Participants can unmute themselves after joining the meeting.
    • Enable waiting room: If join before host is enabled, this should be disabled to avoid a looping situation.
    • Record the meeting automatically: Check this if you want the meeting to be automatically recorded. These can be recorded locally on your computer or to the cloud.
  • Alternative hosts: Enter the email address of another Zoom user who is licensed for your account. This will allow them to start the meeting in your absence.

Click Save to finish.

You will then see a page where there will be a link to “Copy the invitation.” By clicking on this, you will get all of the meeting information to paste in an email which you can then email to all of your participants. You will also see the URL link which you can copy and paste as well.

When setting up meetings for groups that you do not need to attend, you can go into your Zoom account and click on Profile. At the bottom of the page you will see “Host Key.” Click on Show to see the key and copy this. You can then send this key to whomever has been designated as the host for this meeting. Once they connect to the meeting, they can enter the host key to take charge of the meeting.

There are some caveats to this. For any meeting where you want to use Host Key, you need to ensure that the setting “Enable join before host” is turned ON. Also, note that when you as the account owner are in the meeting, you will always be the host by default. This will prevent others from pressing “Claim Host Role.” It only works when there is no Host logged in.

Settings

In the Settings section of your Zoom account there are some items that should be looked at to ensure a smoother Zoom experience:

  1. Turn off host and participants video when they first connect to the meeting.
  2. Turn on Embed password in meeting link for one-click join.
  3. Turn on Mute participants upon entry.
  4. Turn off Private Chat. This may be a personal preference, but it is something that should be done on any youth zoom meeting.
  5. Turn off Play Sound when participants join or leave.
  6. Allow Host only sharing. If the host wants to allow others to share, they can do that as the meeting progresses.
  7. Turn on Nonverbal Feedback.
  8. Make sure log out of all devices is set in profiles.
  9. Generate a new meeting ID for each meeting. If you use the same Private Meeting ID (PMI) for multiple meetings, anyone who has joined a meeting with this number can join any subsequent meeting with the same PMI.

Further recommendations

The following are recommendations to not only make the meetings smoother, but they can also help minimize disruptions to your meetings (otherwise known as zoombombing).

  1. Do not publish or share a direct link (https://zoom.us/j/1234567890), share only the ID (1234567890). If you want to have a link to a meeting on your website or email, mask this with the link embedded in the text or image.
  2. Make sure the settings are set before the meeting starts. Setting these up after the fact opens you up for more potential problems.
  3. The following settings Waiting Room – OFF, Password – ON, Join before Host – ON do not give the best security but it will provide some security. The Waiting room feature prevents being swarmed by Zoom vandals, but if it is ON, it means a host or co-host must actively monitor the waiting room, and you will not be able to Join before Host or Claim Host through the Host Key.
  4. If this is a new meeting or a recurring meeting with different people attending, a good practice is to announce the meeting’s housekeeping norms, such as video, audio, chat and recording at the beginning of the meeting.
  5. There is currently a flaw in the chat function. Apparently, this needs to be set manually by the host in every meeting. By default, when you open the room, the chat is open to everyone. A good function for chat is to let people communicate to the host if they have tech issues or specific questions not pertinent to the meeting. However, this is a personal preference based on the host and the meeting situation.
  6. Have the host mute everyone and lock the ability for anyone to unmute themselves at the beginning of the meeting. You can change this after the meeting has started, but most attacks occur a few minutes into the start time. If the meeting should be disrupted make an announcement that everyone should mute themselves and remain quiet. This helps to find any disruptors and remove them from the meeting.
  7. A good practice is to have a host and at least one other co-host at every meeting. The co-host can monitor the chat, raise hand feature, and any possible disruption.
  8. Use the raise your hand feature instead of just unmuting and speaking. This can be done at the beginning of the meeting as an announcement or possibly a demonstration as to how to use.
  9. Make sure the hosts and co-hosts know what to do about possible disruptions to the meetings. Have a training beforehand and learn of the options in the Security tab which is only available to hosts and co-hosts. Have some others attend this training meeting to act as disruptors so that you can see what the Security features do and practice scenarios so that you are not learning on the fly if a crisis occurs.
    The above recommendations will be very helpful in ensuring that the meeting is a safe place for your participants. We need to protect ourselves, but we also cannot let fear or anxiety cloud our judgement. We do not want to make unnecessary barriers to hamper the stranger and seeker who come to our door.
Zoom Best Practices

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