Just because you Zoom, doesn’t mean you should

We’re all using it.

Zoom has provided something of a lifeline during the coronavirus crisis, not just for businesses working remotely, but families and friends as well.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has even been using the technology for his cabinet meetings.

But here’s the thing - I believe that one of the best ways to incorporate Zoom into your work during these challenging times is actually to limit how you use it.


Consider who you invite

Video technology like Zoom allows you to have hundreds of attendees. The free Zoom account lets you have 100 participants and the business accounts let you have 500+ attendees on a single meeting.

But just because you can do that doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

I mean, think about it, just because your boardroom can hold 50 people, it doesn’t mean that it should be full for every meeting you hold.

We apply the same logic to our training by videoconference courses. With the package we have, we could, in theory, have hundreds of delegates on one training course.

But we don’t because we believe that, just like our face-to-face training, it works best on a much smaller ratio, such as three delegates to one trainer. This helps us to keep the courses interactive and practical.

The same applies to online meetings. You have to work even harder than usual to keep people engaged and to get your messages across.

That’s why they work best with delegates who will play an active part and who will help to shape the conversation and the outcomes.

If you want to invite people just so that they can hear what is being discussed, a better option could be to record the meeting and send it to them to view in their own time – just like you should with meeting minutes and notes.

And, let’s face it, I’m sure your team will welcome such a move when they are having to balance work and childcare, or just trying to book that pesky online food order.


Breakout rooms

One great feature of Zoom is that it allows you to split your meeting into separate sessions with breakout rooms.

This is ideal when you are facilitating group discussions or need to split the group to work on smaller tasks.

But just because you all of a sudden have access to almost unlimited meeting room real estate, it doesn’t mean you have to use it.

While there are clear benefits, they only exist if the breakout rooms are used for a clear purpose.

You need to be clear on what you want those in the breakout room to do and what you expect them to achieve and how that fits into your overall aims from your meeting. This takes planning and practice.

Over the years we’ve helped hundreds of our clients become more confident, capable, authentic and efficient at chairing meetings. If you think your business could do with our help then please get in touch.



Zoom’s screen-sharing capability allows the host, or chosen participants, to share their screen with the attendees.

But is that such a good idea?

I believe that normal presentation rules still apply online.

Only add a slide if it adds value. People don’t come to an online meeting to read slides containing huge paragraphs of text – this will only serve to turn the audience off and distract them from what you are saying.

Instead of text-heavy slides, opt for ones that show the odd headline statistic or tagline which will support and underline the message you are aiming to get across.

As we mentioned during our recent webinar on online meetings, aim for a maximum of 12 slides in a 30-minute meeting.

Good animations, photography, cartoons and infographics will also add colour.

And if it’s a particularly important meeting, please get the comms and design team involved.



Zoom also has a feature that allows you to write on a virtual whiteboard, much like how you would use a whiteboard or flip chart in a physical meeting room.

The tech sounds nifty and it could be a great way to get key points and messages across.

We’ve tried it and for us, when delivering communications training by videoconference, it doesn’t really work.

In fact, we continue to use traditional physical whiteboards for our online training because our trainers feel the Zoom version prohibits free-flowing conversation.

So, while the technology might sound tempting, you don’t have to use it.

If you are happy using a traditional whiteboard or flip-chart in your meetings and presentations, stick with it online – just make sure your webcam can focus on it properly.

Side note: I do think that the whiteboard function in Zoom (and other video conferencing software) works better in breakout rooms when the meeting host has set a task or clear instructions to a smaller group. The reason for this is that all participants can collaborate and write/annotate on the whiteboard at the same time which can, for example, make for free-flowing brainstorming style sessions.


Sharing spreadsheets and documents

You will have probably seen someone share a spreadsheet or some other detailed document on Zoom or Microsoft Teams

I find this weird. I wouldn’t encourage you to do this using a boardroom TV or projector and I’d encourage you to be careful about doing it when presenting online.

If you have documents that you feel it is important for your attendees to see, send it to them beforehand so they can take a look and understand the information first and then focus on what you have to see in the meeting.

Just because you have a dual-screen monitor set up and an HD webcam at home doesn’t mean that all of your attendees will. Perhaps they have joined the meeting on a tablet, phone or laptop.

Screen size aside, the quality of the broadcasted image on video conferencing software is rarely as good as the preview that you see of yourself.


Green screen

Should you use a green screen?

It’s certainly fair to say that the green screen feature is a social leveller. If I pop a photo up behind me of the world from space then you wouldn’t be able to see my overflowing washing basket in the corner of my dining room.

You also wouldn’t know whether I was in a one-bed flat or a massive mansion.

So, there are definite advantages to the green screen function.

But the tech isn’t perfect and if you have curly hair expect to be given some weird virtual haircut as the software struggles to ‘cut around’ your curly locks.

Although the green screen has its uses, I would encourage you to try and find a more natural, but equally uncluttered, background. A magnolia wall will work fine. And you can always brighten it up with a strategically placed pot plant.

There are many advantages to Zoom and other such video conferencing software and it is proving invaluable in the current climate. But only use it, and its features, when you are sure they are going to add value.


Get in touch with your account manager to find out more about how we can help you with your internal and external communications challenges.

Our bespoke, online training can help you make the most of online technology, whatever your experience level, ensuring you get your personal branding right and that you continue to communicate with confidence and clarity – wherever you are.

Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.

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