10 Unexpected Hacks That'll Kick Your Zoom Calls Up A Notch

#7 is genius!

by Syeda Khaula Saad and Siena Gagliano
Originally Published: 
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As we approach a post-pandemic era, the world is beginning to open up. However, virtual happy hours and working from the couch may still be a thing for many employees. In fact, about 22 percent of the workforce is expected to continue or transition to remote work by 2025. By now, you’re probably accustomed to and onboard the Zoom train, but there's always room to learn more about the conference call app. Whether you're on the clock or just catching up with your friend group, consider testing out some of Zoom's not-so-obvious hacks during your next meeting.

The significant spike in Zoom app downloads in the start of the pandemic this past year was due to the nationwide "shelter in place" orders that encouraged people around the country to stay put. As the world was placed on lockdown, companies transitioned to the conference call app in order to make working from home possible during a global pandemic. Zoom became a defining part of 2020 — companies and employees began to realize work can be completed successfully in the confines and comfort of one’s own home. Jessica Naziri, founder of and technology-lifestyle influencer, believes that remote work is here to stay. “The consensus is clear: Workers don’t want to go back to the office full-time,” she tells Bustle. “We’ve seen some companies try to cancel remote work, it’s funny how quickly they forget how we all made it work during the pandemic. Flexibility thanks to technology is here to stay. This is the future of work, along with a hybrid approach,” she says.

Thankfully, whether you're at home, no matter the location, video chat apps make it possible to stay connected with the people who matter most. If you are new to the Zoom — though, it’s likely most are not by now — or have been using Zoom for a while, and are looking for a few tips and tricks, here are some of the most useful hacks to remember next time you join a work meeting or chat with family:

Change Your Virtual Background On Zoom

If your bedroom wall isn't cutting it as a backdrop for work calls, or you just want to make your friends laugh, Zoom gives you the option to change your background to any image you want. Go to Settings on either your desktop or mobile and then click on the Virtual Backgrounds tab. From there, you'll see all the pre-installed backgrounds Zoom has, like the New York Skyline, Golden Gate Bridge, and even outer space. But if you're not too fond of the options that are available, you can upload pictures of your own, from pretty landscapes to your favorite memes.

Use Zoom's Annotation Tool

If you're a big notetaker during meetings, there's no need to bring out the pen and paper. Zoom lets you make annotations and take notes right on your phone or even your desktop with its whiteboard feature. Just go to Settings, hit Meetings, and double-check that the Annotations option is checked. Then, using your finger, a stylus, or your mouse, you can make as many notes as you'd like, either for yourself or for everyone in the meeting. Jot things down on slideshow presentations for work or draw up funny doodles to your friends in the middle of video calls.

Share Your Screen On Zoom

If you're giving a presentation or want to share a funny Instagram post or Tweet with your friends during a virtual happy hour, Zoom's screen sharing feature is key. All you have to do is tap the Share Screen option at the bottom of your screen. You'll be able to choose whether you want to share your entire computer desktop screen or just your screen when you're on specific applications like Microsoft Word. Plus, you can pause your screen sharing so your coworkers don't have to see you awkwardly fumble between apps.

Share Multiple Screens On Zoom

If there are multiple people trying to give a presentation or get their points across, test out Zoom's multi-screen-share feature. That way, more than one person can share their screen in a meeting — it's perfect if you're trying to compare documents or complement each other's points. Just make sure that the host clicks on the arrow icon to the right of the Share Screen option (on the bottom of the screen) and turns on the "Multiple participants can share simultaneously” option.

Record Zoom Meetings For Later

Zoom users have the ability to record meetings to a Cloud or their computers so that important points and discussions are always on file. Just tap the Record button at the bottom of your screen and click where you want to save the video. Afterward, you can access the video and any others you recorded by logging into your account and going to the My Recordings page.

The only catch is that the type of account you pay for dictates how much storage you have within your Cloud. For example, a Zoom Education account (usually for educators) gives you 0.5 gb per user. If you have a free account, you have the option to upload the recordings to your computer as opposed to the Cloud.

And this isn't just for work meetings. If you're having a conversation with friends, you could always record your hangout and then post a snippet of it to Instagram or Twitter to show everyone how much fun you can still have while social distancing.

Record Transcripts Of Zoom Meetings

Being able to record a meeting is super helpful, but sometimes having a readily available transcript of your meetings is even better. Just go to your Account Settings, click Cloud Recording, and then hit the Recording tab. From there, go to Advanced Cloud Recording Settings, click Audio Transcript, and then Save your settings. Once you have your transcripts, you can even search them using different keywords.

Put Zoom's Touch-Up Feature To Work

Just rolled out of bed but don't want anyone to know? Zoom's Touch Up My Appearance option puts a soft-focus filter on your video feed, giving you the appearance of a good night's sleep (even if that's not really the case). “My hands-down favorite Zoom feature is the ‘touch up your appearance’ feature. This is a great filter to even out your skin tone, touch up your lighting and just improve your appearance on camera,” says Naziri. You'll look more polished, and you won't have to worry about wiping off any makeup once your virtual meeting is over.

Try Out Zoom's Gallery View

Whether you're on a work call or just chatting with friends, sometimes you want to be able to see everyone you're talking to on the same screen. Well, with Zoom's Gallery View, you can do just that. The feature lets you display up to 49 participants on one screen. Go to your Settings and then Video to open up your Video Settings options. There, you should be able to enable Gallery View. Then, all you have to do is start or join a meeting, and you'll be able to see everyone in the video call all at once. You can also just click the grid icon at the top right of your screen once you're in a meeting.

Create a Looping Video of Yourself

If you want to appear like you’re on camera, when you’re actually not, this is the hack for you. “You can use the feature to display a looping video of yourself — perfect for those times you are supposed to be in the meeting but really don’t want to be in the meeting,” says Naziri.

Naziri provides step-by-step instructions:

  • Open Zoom.
  • Create a “New Meeting.”
  • Wait for the meeting window to load, clicking to enable your webcam if prompted.
  • Make sure you’re in fame in the video.
  • Press Alt+R to begin recording.
  • Sit there, as you would if you were listening attentively to someone speak during a Zoom meeting.
  • After a few minutes, press Alt+R to stop recording.
  • Close the meeting window.
  • Find and open your Zoom recordings folder, which you can do by backing out to the main Zoom window in the desktop app, then clicking on the gear-shaped settings icon > Recording.
  • Copy and paste the recording to a new folder.

Snap Camera allows you to bring the magic of lenses that you have on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook stories, etc. to your live stream and video chats.

Download and install Snap Camera from its website. You’ll need a computer running Windows 10 or macOS 10.13 or later. During the installation, you’ll be asked for access to your computer’s camera and microphone.

  • If you’re running any active video or streaming apps, you’ll be asked to close them.
  • Start Zoom. On a Mac, use the top menu to go to “Preferences” > “Video.” On a PC, click on the gear icon in the upper-right corner and select “Video.”
  • Click on the drop-down menu labeled “Camera” and select “Snap Camera.”

And voila! All set.

Turn Off Auto Video & Audio

This has definitely happened to you at least once: you join a Zoom meeting with a ton of people, and your face is the only on-camera one there. However, with Zoom’s Video Or Microphone Off By Attendee feature, this doesn’t have to happen anymore. According to Naziri, this hack is perfect when you want to save yourself the awkwardness of being the only person to show your face. To do this, go to the Video tab of your Zoom settings and check the “Turn off my video when joining a meeting.” If it ends up being a true video chat, you can always turn your camera on after the meeting has started.

You can do this with audio, too, so you’re automatically muted at the beginning of every meeting. Under the “Audio” tab in settings, just check “Mute microphone when joining a meeting,” Naziri advises.

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