How to Navigate Zoom

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Since many of us are pivoting to online teaching, coaching, and casting meetings, learning video etiquette is essential these days. I’ve got some tips on how to best prepare for a Zoom call. In order to have a smooth experience, I highly recommend working on these technical details ahead of time. You can use a friend or family member to test them out!

I recommend logging on about five minutes before the beginning of the meeting to ensure all your technical details are in working order. Close out unneeded applications on your computer to keep the video chat running smoothly; clear out the barking dog, screaming kids, and naked husband; set up your laptop at eye level; and adjust your camera so we can see you—but not too close. We don’t need to see your nose hairs or that your roots have grown out!

Concerning your eye line, this is one of the few times as an actor that you should look into the camera. It will be more personable for those that you’re speaking with. Just as with a good self-tape, make sure you’re not backlit. Natural light is fine, as long as you’re facing the light. Otherwise, there are many lighting devices available for purchase online.

If you’re the host, make sure you introduce everyone if you all don’t know each other. Proper business etiquette should still be adhered to. Do a quick summary of housekeeping rules for the chat; you can request that participants mute their mics when they’re not speaking, or do it yourself! The meeting’s host has the power to run the show. To better dictate a speaking order, use the chat box feature to talk to others and physically raise your hand to speak or use the raised hand icon.

However, you should know that your privacy in the chat room isn’t always protected; a host who records the session may be able to see your private chats, depending on their settings.

A pinned video allows you to disable the active speaker view and only view a specific speaker.  It will also only record the pinned video if you are recording locally. Pinning another participant’s video will only affect your local view and local recordings, not the view of other participants, and it will not affect cloud recordings.

When you’re on the call, treat it like a meeting! Dressing professionally will make you feel more professional. But if you decide to be business from the waist up and party from the waist down, be sure you know exactly how low your webcam is pointed if you know what I mean. Many reporters have been caught wearing only their boxers during Zoom interviews!

As far as other distractions: Keep them minimal! Avoid noise pollution from overhead fans, window air conditioners, and more. And take a beat to listen yourself. Talking over each other in this medium just causes confusion. Don’t multitask, either; the temptation is huge, but your focus should be on the call. And mind the clock. Stay on task and don’t waste others’ time. Zoom fatigue is real for those working from home with a schedule full of meetings.

With that last point in mind, only invite those people who are essential to the call. If you can loop someone in with an email with bullet points rather than have them sit in, you probably don’t need them there. Fewer participants make for a smoother meeting.

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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