How to Maximize Zoom: Tips for Remote Team Activities

Zoom 101

So you want to use Zoom, but you haven’t had much experience with remote team activities. We use it all the time for our many virtual scavenger hunts and trivia games, for groups of all sizes. We’ve put together some pointers to help you plunge in.

How to update your Zoom app

If you’ve used Zoom before, remember to check for updates! Zoom is frequently improving its security and other features. On a desktop computer, launch the Zoom client. Click on your user icon on the top right, and click Check for Updates in the drop-down menu. If new updates are available, you’ll see Update Available, so click on Update to install. On a phone or tablet, check for updates in the app store or however you download updates for all of your apps.

And if you do use the Zoom client and haven’t upgraded to Zoom 5.0, you can do that here.

How to change your screen name

Your name appears at the bottom left of your video image. In our games, we usually find it helpful to have people change their onscreen name to include their team name or number. It’s easy to change your screen name.

  1. At the bottom of the Zoom screen, click or tap on Participants. A list of names will appear.
  2. On a desktop computer, move the cursor over your name in the list, select More, then select Rename. On a phone or tablet, tap on your name, then select Rename.
  3. Type in whatever name or team name you want to appear onscreen.

How to change your view of the other participants

There are two different views to choose from: Speaker View and Gallery View. Speaker View features a much larger view whoever happens to be speaking, while people who aren’t speaking are much smaller. Gallery View provides an even distribution of people’s images, in a grid.

If you are in Speaker View and want to see more of the other people…

  • On a desktop or laptop, find the words Gallery View in the upper right corner of your Zoom screen and click on it to toggle to the other view. And vice versa.
  • On a mobile device, swipe left to access the Gallery View. If you can’t see everyone, swipe left again. On a mobile device it’s hard to see everyone at once, which is why we recommend a large screen.

How to mute and unmute your microphone

This is especially handy if you need to have a quick private conversation with, say, your spouse. Or if your smoke alarm is going off. Or if your dog is on a barking jag. Just click the microphone icon in the lower left corner so you see a diagonal line going through it: That means the microphone is muted or turned off. Click it again to toggle it back on.

By the way, when you enter a meeting and no one seems to hear you, the microphone icon is the first thing to check.

How to use a Virtual Background

Maybe you’ve seen people on Zoom with crazy backgrounds behind them—a beach scene, say, or the Golden Gate Bridge. Zoom lets you select a scene to appear behind you, which is especially helpful if your computer is in your bedroom and clothing is draped all over the place. During our virtual games, our hosts often use a soft-white backdrop with the Watson Adventures logo.

There’s one catch: It doesn’t work on every device. You could review Zoom’s long list of tech requirements, or you can just give it a try.

  • On a desktop or laptop: If you’re in a meeting already, find the camera icon with the words Stop Video at the bottom left of your Zoom screen. Click on the upward-facing caret to the right of that icon. You’ll get a pop-up menu. If you see Virtual Background as an option, select it.
  • If you’re not in a meeting yet, before you hit Join with Video, you should see a preview of yourself on camera. In the upper-right corner, you might see a little landscape icon tat lets you choose a Virtual Background.
  • On a mobile device, tap the three dots in the lower right of the screen. From the pop-up, if you see Virtual Background as an option, tap it.

If you don’t see Virtual Background as an option anywhere, then unfortunately you don’t have that capability.

If you can select Virtual Background, you’ll get a pop-up screen with some images already available to try as possible backgrounds. Click or tap on one and see how it looks. If it doesn’t work—for instance, if your own image turns into a pixelated phantom—then you might be out of luck.

If it does work, then get creative! You can click the “+” symbol to upload an image file from your computer. The ideal dimensions of a Zoom Virtual Background are 1920 pixels wide and 960 pixels tall. Searching the Internet for a fun backdrop is easy, so join your next meeting at Avengers headquarters, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or Pawnee Town Hall.

How to share something on your screen

If you are discussing something you’re viewing on your device, you can use Screen Share (or Share Content) to let the other Zoom participants see what you’re seeing. You’ll basically take over the meeting, so use this wisely.

Here’s an example of how it might work: In some of our games, questions in our app send people to museum websites to search exhibits for answers to tricky questions. Let’s say one player, Sally, finds an image she wants to look at with her teammates. She can click on Screen Share or Share Content at the bottom of the Zoom window. A pop-up shows her options of what she can share. She chooses the window with the image and—presto!—it appears on the Zoom screens of everyone in the breakout room or meeting. If Sally then enlarges a detail in the photo, everyone sees that.

To exit Screen Share, click on Stop Share in a narrow red control bar at the top of the window.

How to hide yourself

If you need a bit of privacy, click on the camera icon at the bottom of the Zoom screen to Stop Video, which will turn off your camera but not your audio.

If seeing yourself constantly onscreen is distracting, the desktop version has a cure. In the upper right of your image, tap on the three dots in a blue box. From the resulting pop-up, select Hide Self View. Now you are invisible—but only to yourself! Remember that everyone else can still see you.

Other Quick Tips

Look your best: Try to have a source of light in front of you or to the side, but nothing too harsh. If the light is behind you—for instance, if there’s a window behind you—you will appear as a shadowy figure from the witness protection plan. And if you want that People-magazine-cover-ready look, the Touch Up My Appearance feature puts you in soft focus. Go to Settings > Video > Touch-up my appearance.

Place the camera properly: If you use a laptop or tablet sitting on a table, and the camera is aimed upward at you, you might look like a Gulliver with two giant nostrils to everyone else. Better to sit at a desktop computer that you can tilt to center yourself in the screen.

Check the “stage set”: Look around the room behind you and try to see it as strangers will. Close that closet door. Remove that laundry basket. Or review the section above about Virtual Backgrounds.

Mobile, schmobile: Generally speaking, we find that a desktop computer is always better than a smaller device when using Zoom. You’ll see more faces from the group, you’ll probably have a stronger Internet signal (on other devices you might lose the signal and drop out of the meeting), and people will have a better view of you.