Make your Zoom meetings more interactive

Zoom logo on a post by Nepeta Consulting

We have all got used to using Zoom for business and leisure. As well as using Zoom to meet with colleagues and clients, I have been running Guide meetings. In this setting with young people, I have explored what Zoom offers in order to make the time more exciting and interactive. In this post, I suggest how some of these ideas can be used in a business context.

Breakout Rooms

Perhaps the single most useful option we have found has been breakout rooms. Conversation in Zoom can get stilted once you get more than a few people in the meeting. Breakout rooms allow you to split the meeting into small groups and will allow easier conversation. You need to make sure you enable breakout rooms for the meeting (look under Settings > Meeting > In Meeting (Advanced). You can pre-assign people to rooms when you schedule the meeting or do it on the fly once it has started.

A host can move between breakout rooms and the main meeting but other participants need to be assigned to a room. One Gotcha is that the host can only see the waiting room if they are in the main meeting. We have had problems of someone leaving the meeting due to technical issues and not getting back in!

Whiteboards

Annotating a whiteboard from an iPad as discussed by Nepeta Consulting
Annotating a whiteboard from an iPad

One of the Share Screen options in Zoom is a whiteboard. This brings up a blank screen. Look for the pencil icon to access drawing tools – at the top of the laptop screen and bottom of a tablet. Participants can now write and draw on the whiteboard using the tools available. To bring up the tools, look for the pencil icon at the top of a desktop or bottom of a mobile screen. Note that there may be a bit of a delay before the annotations appear on everyone’s screen.

Zoom annotation controls explained by Nepeta Consulting
Zoom annotation controls on a laptop

Zoom remembers the content of the whiteboard if you stop and restart sharing, but you must save it before you finish the meeting if you want to refer back to it later. You can find the file in Documents/Zoom on a PC.

You can open multiple whiteboards: there is a button bottom right to add another and then access the navigation between boards.

Annotating screens

Once you find the whiteboard, on of the first questions is “can I paste a picture” and the answer appears to be “no”. To annotate an existing image:

  • Open the image using a suitable app.
  • Share the window containing the image.

Make sure that the window contains the whole image and there is no scrolling. If you are using a browser, open a fresh window rather than another tab. The annotation is on a layer over the window so changing the underlying content can be disconcerting.

Zoom security controls as explained by Nepeta Consulting.

I would recommend that you use a view only app to display the image. If you open it in (for example) Paint, you may find yourself editing the image rather than adding an annotation!

If another participant has the image, you can allow them to share their screen under Security on the toolbar.

Keeping control

While all this sharing is good in a meeting, you may want to switch it off in a more formal situation: think smiley faces appearing on a presentation.

You can change the settings at different levels:

  • On the account to set overall defaults.
  • By the individual host.
  • For a particular meeting or meeting template.
  • In the meeting.

If you regularly run different types of Zoom events, I suggest you set up different meeting templates for each.

In the meeting, you can disable participant annotations under More on the toolbar.

In conclusion

It is worth exploring the tools available in Zoom to make your meetings more enjoyable and productive.