Like everyone else, those of us here at the GIS Lab have been forced to work remotely and have embraced the Zoom lifestyle. While there are plenty of blog posts about Zoom best practices, I’ve had a few specific use cases that I haven’t seen mentioned as much. So if you are planning on using a Zoom meeting for a virtual guest speaker, business meeting, or to give away door prizes, read on.
Virtual Guest Speakers
Because every possible conference and meeting was cancelled this spring, none of my students were able to attend, present, meet professionals, etc. So I decided to bring the professionals to them through a series of Zoom-side chats. Here is how we have organized those so far.
- I send the guest a list of questions to start with and have them edit, add, or delete questions as they see fit
- I ask the guest for 4-6 pictures that I can put into a PowerPoint slide or two to have on display as people are signing in to the meeting.
- I ask the guest for links to their LinkedIn page as well as examples of their work online. I share these through the chat so participants have access to them.
- I have someone else help me manage the chat, keep an eye out on the participants for “raised hands”, and as a back up recording in case my connection drops out.
- I advertise like crazy to my undergrads and send a reminder the day of the session or the day before with the Zoom details so it is fresh on their mind (assuming they are checking their emails).
- During our time together I have an informal question and answer session with the guest and ask the attending students for their input and questions as well.
Virtual Business Meeting
Every year TNGIC has a business meeting at the annual spring conference. We had to cancel the conference but still needed to host the meeting so we could announce new officers and transition to the new board president. Here is what we did.
- I was in charge of hosting the meeting and asked another board member to co-host with me to manage the chat, help sort out any technical issues, record the meeting as a back up, and be there in case I lost my internet connection.
- We had about 70 people on the call.
- I had everyone who was presenting send me their slides in advance and I combined them all into a master PowerPoint deck. This way we didn’t fumble through trying to have different people share screens. That part went well (except for the “next slide please”).
- Poll questions didn’t work exactly as I intended. In Zoom, a poll has as many questions in it as you want, and they are all visible at the same time. If you want the questions to show up one at a time, each question has to be its own poll. I didn’t realize that so didn’t test it in advance. Oops.
- We had people both use their computer and call in from their phones. I picked a custom password for the web meeting (which is different than the numerical password for the phone call in). That caused confusion because people were trying to use the phone password for the web meeting. It was clearly stated in the email communication about the meeting, but some folks missed it. I won’t make custom passwords again.
- I didn’t force everyone to be muted through Zoom but almost everyone kept themselves muted. A few people didn’t so I just muted them on my own and sent them a private message in Zoom so they knew. I *think* if you force mute someone in Zoom they can’t un-mute themselves, the host or co-host has to do it.
- We probably had three different test sessions to make sure everything was working in the week leading up to the meeting.
- I was signed on thirty minutes early to give people a chance to sign in early to check their audio and video set up. Because I was on the Zoom session, I wasn’t checking my email to help sort out password issues people were emailing me about. I’ll need to work on that problem in the future.
- I developed a housekeeping slide deck for the start of the meeting to explain how to use the chat, how to raise their hand, how to un-mute themselves, etc.
Virtual Door Prizes
Every year during out TNGIC business meeting we give away a few door prizes. We needed a strategy to select door prize winners who were attending our virtual meeting. Below is what we did and it worked surprisingly well.
- To be eligible for the door prize you had to complete a simple Google Form prior to the start of the meeting (name and email address). We only shared the link to the form with our members.
- We viewed the results of the form as a spreadsheet within Google so that each person had a row number
- We used Google’s random number generator to pick a row number and that person was the winner.
- We were able to show my screen so everyone could see the spreadsheet and random number generator results for full transparency
- The winners sent their mailing address to the co-host in the Zoom chat box.
So Nathan thinks I’m starting a YouTube channel because of all the new hardware that I’ve added to my office recently. And that makes sense because I googled what hardware YouTubers use when recording themselves and screen captures for software demonstrations and lectures. Below are the different components I’ve recently purchased and my justification for each.
- I wear glasses and the cheap USB headset I already had gave me a headache long before I was done recording my content or before my Zoom meetings were over. I upgraded to a pair of Sony MDR 7506 over ear headphones and they are much more comfortable. The pair I ordered from Amazon came with an adapter to work with 3.5 mm and 1/4″.
- Microphone, Stand, and Accessories
- Like most people, I hate the sound of my own voice. But because I was recording lecture videos and screen captures, I was doing a lot of editing so it was inescapable. In an attempt to make my voice less grating on my nerves, I bought a Blue Yeti microphone as part of a kit that included a Blue microphone stand. I also bought a shock mount and pop filter. The mic sounds good to me, but unfortunately it still sounds like me. I have yet to figure out how to arrange the mic stand and pop filter in such a way that they do not block part of my face when using my web cam. I don’t know anything about sound equipment so I may not even have the mic in the right physical location.
- Ring Light
- I started losing my hair in my twenties so I’ve been shaving my head for a while. Unfortunately, this leads to serious glare from overhead lights and even sometimes blows out the rest of the image from my web cam. So I bought an inexpensive ring light that I have positioned behind my monitor and web cam. I still look like I desperately need some sun, but at least I don’t have the glare anymore. I didn’t know this at the time, but many ring lights (maybe all of them) do not connect to a standard camera tripod. Instead they connect to a speaker/light stand. So I had to buy a separate stand. Some ring lights also have a cold shoe so that you can place your camera directly inside the ring light. I didn’t realize I would want that so also ordered it separately. There are kits with everything together. Just buy a kit.
- Web Cam
- I bought a separate USB web cam from Logitech last year and it works much better than the built in web cam on my laptop.