Zoom Tips for Church Meetings
Earlier this month we ran a free online workshop for those who suddenly found themselves having to figure out how to carry on the mission and work of their church while maintaining physical distance. We don’t claim to be experts by any means, but the Centre for Christian Studies has been using Zoom for a few years now – our students are spread across Canada and we have had staff working from Winnipeg, Hamilton, Vancouver, and London, England – so we thought it might be useful to share some of the things we’ve figured out.
Some Zoom Tips
- Muting makes for better listening – unless a zoom meeting has only a few participants, background noise creates a lot of distraction, especially with everyone working from home.
- Headphones with a built in microphone are usually a better choice than relying on the built in computer speakers and microphone – just watch for extra sensitive microphones that pick up too much background noise.
- Take a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting for sound checks and orientation – especially if some participants are new to the platform.
- Zoom has two views – Gallery and Speaker. Speaker focuses on the person speaking, Gallery gives you a Brady-Bunch grid of video windows. Each user can switch between the two depending on their preference. Gallery is good for “reading the room”, Speaker is good when someone is speaking at length.
- Remember that not everyone sees the same thing. The order of video windows in Gallery mode differ from user to user. Control buttons are in different places depending on your device. (On computers the controls are usually on the bottom of the window; on an iPad they’re at the top.)
- Explore the software settings – there are lots of options (like breakout rooms) that need to be enabled in settings before you can use them in a meeting.
- Find your light (and your face)! Find a set up that allows your face to be lit from the front, rather than backlit, creating a silhouette. Adjust your webcam or laptop to frame your face.
- Pay attention to your background – is there a high-traffic area behind you? A counter with breakfast dishes?
- Pay attention to background noise – and be ready to mute as needed!
- Hosting – the person who booked the meeting is the ‘host’ and can assign co-host and host roles to other people in the meeting. The host has more options in the meeting than participants (such as muting or renaming others).
- As a host, use the settings to increase the security of your meetings – settings can control screen sharing, passwords and registration. Take a few minutes to think about what makes sense for your group.
- Use chat – the chat box is really handy for meetings with lots of participants, but remember that the whole chat log can be saved (including private messages) so be careful what you say.
- Online community is real community – remember the apostle Paul who maintained relationships with communities through his letters.
- Online community can increase access and collapse distance, and it can also shut out people who don’t have internet access and comfort with technology.
- “Sharing circle” or “speaking circle” norms translate well to online gatherings – try inviting speakers in turn, keeping a speaker’s list, passing a turn to speak or indicating that your thoughts have already been spoken.
- Voting can be done with a show of hands. (If there are lots of people in a meeting, it may require scrolling through more than one video screen.) Voters who are in a minority on a vote (for example, “no” voters on a motion) can be encouraged to unmute themselves and say something, to make sure they aren’t lost in the sea of windows. There are also buttons for non-verbal feedback (thumbs up, thumbs down, etc.) that can be enabled by the host.
- Take time for check-in at the beginning of meetings – connection is important when community is distanced!
- Singing together is tricky. Using “share screen” to show a video or share music and invited others to sing along with their mute on usually works better. It’s not the same, but it’s something.
- Schedule a test call with new users, to coach them through the settings and functions.
- Try new things and make mistakes! You won’t break the internet and we are all on a learning curve.