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Be a Zoom expert with these tips and tricks

BY TETTLEMA – NOVEMBER 5, 2020

By Sophie Jones

The transition to remote work and school has not been without its perks: pets at your feet, the couch as your office desk, pajama pants as your new business-casual. However, one feat in particular — mastering the craft of The Zoom Call — can be a delicate art. Few are more familiar with using video calls to remain engaged and connected than the Sun Devil community, having consumed well over one million hours of Zoom time this semester. This comes as no surprise when over 900 classrooms have been enabled for ASU Sync classes, as well as having Zoom part of the 21st century tools available to all students as part of the ASU Digital Backpacks, prompting students and staff alike to hone their skills and become Zoom aficionados.

Despite the millions of minutes we have poured into Zoom, to err is human, and we are all susceptible to the occasional mishap. Peruse this guide to common Zoom slip-ups to arm yourself with tips and tricks that will ensure future calls are smooth sailing!

1. The "Little Mermaid"

Lost your voice in an ill-advised bargain? Not exactly — you’re just on mute. To avoid this, ensure your Zoom settings are not set to turn off video or audio by default when joining a meeting. That way, you can enter your call loud and clear, and avoid wasted time as your participants scramble to discern if you’re on mute or if their audio settings are the issue. 

2. The Siren Song

Conversely, if you’ve got a child with a new favorite word or a dog on the lookout for any moving shadow, remembering to mute yourself upon joining the session (or after you finish speaking) is best practice. And, if you forget to re-mute after speaking and a shrill squeaky toy resonates throughout the webinar, just remember to make amends by holding your dog up to the webcam for a team appraisal. 

3. The Robot Voice

Proactivity is the key to avoiding garbled audio. To avoid giving your audience an award-winning imitation of the Terminator, always test your speaker and microphone before launching into your meeting. A pop-up window will automatically generate prior to every meeting that allows you to listen to a playback of your voice — giving you time  to gauge whether or not your microphone is too close, too far, or if you’re experiencing interruptions. Furthermore, securing a strong wifi connection and having a back-up headset handy to troubleshoot audio distortion ensures crisp, clear communication.

4. The Unexpected Guest

Your roommate careens into your office, plate of hot wings in hand and a day’s worth of gossip to catch you up on. A welcome intrusion in any other context — less so in the middle of your boss’ performance evaluation of your work this quarter. This is another instance in which proactivity reigns supreme: lock that door, and let those in your living space know you’ll be in a work meeting. Communicating a solid window of “Do Not Disturb” time can ensure a productive and professional session. 

5. The Horror Movie Setting

We’ve all had to use Zoom in less-than-ideal conditions. Maybe you’re staying with family, stuck in a hotel, or perhaps crammed into an office chair shoved next to the wifi router in hopes your connection stabilizes. To conceal crumbling drywall from an old paint job or a poster from your heavy metal days, consider using a background. And they’re not just for concealing crumbling drywall; bring the ASU campuses with you anywhere!

6. (Blinded By) The Light

Speaking of distracting, nothing is more bothersome than the flicker of a dying fluorescent light overhead. To make matters worse, your features, facial expression and even gestures might become indistinguishable in poor lighting. To avoid washing yourself out or vanishing into the shadows, set up your computer in an area with plenty of natural or indirect light. If the sun is down and your lamp’s lightbulb finally gives out, you can also utilize the flashlight on your phone (combined with the brightness of your desktop) to illuminate your face in a pinch. Just remember to prop your phone up a few feet away to avoid casting unflattering shadows or prompting an uncomfortable squint.

With tools like Zoom, ASU is navigating all of the bumps along the road to success in a difficult time. 

ASU's transition to remote work has been a success, with a cumulative 1,564,258 Zoom sessions, which include classes, meetings and webinars, having taken place since March. Empowered by the advice above, here's to another million sessions (with added ease this time around) — and perhaps another couple thousand instances where we lift our children and/or pets up to the camera to “say hi.”

Special thank you to the UTO Communications Ambassadors, who brainstormed the idea behind this article!

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