Zoom was our second home before the whole world moved in – here’s some stuff we've learned along the way.

The most important

  • Use headphones.
  • Don’t be backlit; make sure your face is illuminated.
  • Make sure you have a good internet connection.
  • Get somewhere quiet.
  • Don’t use your phone.
Zoom Cat Final Shadow

Zoom basics 101

  • You can download zoom here.
  • Test it, try it. Get comfortable with it. Click this link to join a test meeting to check your sound and video. Get on the meeting early if you're new to zoom.
  • Use a laptop, big tablet, or desktop. Not your phone or a small tablet (they’re not big enough to see everybody if you have more than 4 on a meeting).
  • Check you have the latest version of zoom running. Open zoom and check for updates.
  • If the connection is suboptimal, make sure you’re reasonably close to your router. You can check your internet speed with this link - less than 10mbps is likely to give you trouble. If it’s just too slow, turn your video off (bottom left there is a button "stop video").
  • Still doesn’t work? There’s a dial in method. You will need the meeting ID.
  • Once you’re in the meeting, click "Gallery View" (normally in the top right corner) so it switches. Then you'll be able to see everyone on one screen.
  • This article on video conferencing gets beyond basic, but it’s the best short piece we’ve seen on video conferencing.


  • Use headphones! Without them you always get some echo. Without them you usually get at least some reverberation. Make sure they have a good mic. Surprisingly, your basic Apple corded earbuds work really well. If using bluetooth earphones make sure you’ve got enough juice in them to last the whole meeting.
  • Unless you’re on with a small group and there’s lots of interaction, it’s best to default to mute (the little microphone icon, usually bottom left on your screen). Remember to unmute when you speak.


  • Lighting matters. Make sure your face is well-lit. The biggest mistake people make is to be back-lit – a dark blob with a halo. If you get on the call early you can see yourself on full screen and adjust the lighting (and position) accordingly.
  • If you want to go all-out, here’s Tom Ford holding forth on lighting for important calls “Put the computer up on a stack of books so the camera is slightly higher than your head. Say, about the top of your head. And then point it down into your eyes. Then take a tall lamp and set it next to the computer on the side of your face you feel is best. The lamp should be in line with and slightly behind the computer so the light falls nicely on your face. Then put a piece of white paper or a white tablecloth on the table you are sitting at but make sure it can’t be seen in the frame. It will give you a bit of fill and bounce. And lots of powder, et voilà!”
  • If you’re feeling particularly sub-optimal, you can activate a beauty filter on zoom.


  • Backgrounds are worth getting right. Aim to get 10/10 on Room Rater.
  • Virtual backgrounds are useful if you really can’t control your environment. They’re often glitchy and distracting for longer meetings, though.
  • Customize your profile so when you turn your video off your actual name shows up. Profile pictures are kinda distracting.
  • It’s nice if everyone’s head is more or less the same size in the meeting. It’s weird when one person is talking to you from way across the room.


  • Be mindful of where you’re looking when you’re lost in thought or talking. It helps to keep your own video visible on the screen. Conscious “active listening” body language - nodding, etc - helps.
  • Mute yourself when you’re in large meetings; don’t when you’re in small brainstorms. Call in from a quiet place and keep everything you need close by so you don’t need to leave the screen.
  • Pro tip: Always assume you’re audible. Especially if you’re eating or drinking.
  • Quit any apps you won’t be using in the meeting.
  • Prevent embarrassment by silencing desktop notifications. Especially when screen sharing (see muzzle app for hilarious examples).
  • Read Judah Pollack’s 3 rules for virtual meetings

Screen Share

  • To screen share or not to screen share? Most of the time it doesn't work well because it takes a few steps and you think it’ll just be click’n’go. If you’re not confident with it, don’t do it. Or send it to someone else on the call who is a whizz (rehearse transitions if you do this).
  • First click the Share Screen icon
  • Then select what screen to share (probably desktop 1 or desktop 2)
  • It works best when sharing a second screen so that the person sharing can see everybody on zoom at decent size:
  • Have an extra display (not mirroring your laptop).
  • Put the presentation up on presenter mode on the extra display.
  • Have zoom on your laptop display (you might have to hit f3 on a mac and click on zoom to get it to reappear on your laptop).
  • From zoom click share screen and share screen 2
  • Click on the second display so that powerpoint is selected and will move through your transitions when you click or use arrows.
  • Hit stop share at the top of screen 2 when you're finished.
  • Most common mistake when sharing a presentation - not clicking back on the presentation after you've gone to zoom to share it.
  • Play around with the video layout options when someone else is screen sharing. You can make their video bigger by dragging on the corners (recommended when someone is giving a longer presentation).


  • Paste an agenda in the chat to begin with so you don’t have to flip away to your calendar or other windows. Attention is everything.
  • Use chat to share links, names or additions to the agenda.

Advanced 201

Webinars / Bigger meetings

  • If you need, here's an easy guide for setting up webinars.
  • Check out this more detailed Guide from Acumen on webinars.
  • The Smithsonian recommend using these settings:
  • The registration option with automatic approval, so you can see who's interested in our session
  • Enabling the anonymous Q&A feature (so audience can't see the questions)
  • Record the webinar (in the cloud)
  • Make it available on-demand, so that those who missed it can still view it later
  • When you screen share you can also share sound. Check the “share computer sound” box and you can start your webinar with some upbeat music to get people pumped to be staring at another screen for 2 hours.
  • Use active speaker display for presentations by 1-3 people. If it's a wider back-and-forth conversation use gallery view so attendees don’t get whiplash.
  • If you don’t know who is going to be in the audience turn off chat for attendees. And limit attendee view of Q+A to answered questions only. Too much chatter can distract people from the main event.
  • How to prevent zoombombing in a few easy steps.
  • Did we mention test, test, test? It’s different to a meeting - really test your webinar settings; as host you are God (for the next few hours). Get some people to join as attendees.

Breakout Rooms

  • One of the major drawbacks of virtual meetings is that it’s hard to have side conversations. Breakout rooms allow you to split one meeting into 50 separate sessions.
  • First you gotta enable breakout rooms on your account.
  • Only the host can move people around. You can assign people randomly or manually. If you’re doing it manually, make more rooms than you think you’ll need. You can’t make more once you open the rooms.
  • The host can broadcast messages to people in the breakout rooms. The people in the breakout rooms can’t chat back.
  • Give people clear instructions and time limits before you break them out. Broadcast time warnings during the breakout. People get whiplash when you move them around without warning.
  • Test it out with 3 people in a meeting. Move people around, broadcast a message, join a breakout room as host, close the rooms, and reopen them.
  • One snafu that happens repeatedly is that people don’t click the “join breakout” room button if they come back to the main meeting room. As the host direct them to look for it on the bottom right on a mac and to the left side on a pc.

Any other great tips or resources please drop them in the comments below.