While Zoom and other platforms have allowed many churches and small groups to stay connected during lockdown, they can also present challenges. We reached out to a few of our expert friends to give us their best practices for successfully running small groups on Zoom.
How do I view everyone on the call at once?
The problem: By default, Zoom displays a call in “Speaker View” where the active speaker dominates the screen and a few other participants are visible across the top. In larger groups, this means you can only see a fraction of the participants at any given time.
The solution: Much like checking your mirrors while driving a car, it’s important to be able to scan the room and see what’s going on. To do this on Zoom, take advantage of the Gallery View. Hover over your screen and you’ll find a button labeled “Gallery View” in the top right corner of your Zoom window. Select this to change from “Speaker View” to “Gallery View.”
How do I handle sound issues, background noise and interruptions?
The problem: Muting attendees may feel rude. After all, you wouldn’t reach across a conference room table to put your hand over someone’s mouth! But the truth is that people aren’t naturally very conscious of how much noise they might be making in an online setting. Otherwise benign actions like tapping fingers, eating, or simply changing position in their chairs can get picked up by sensitive computer microphones.
The solution: To manage noise on your Zoom call, don’t be afraid to mute attendees! Rather than interrupt the flow of your conversation, simply click on the disruptive attendee and select the option to mute their audio. If you aren’t sure where the noise is coming from, look for the yellow highlighted video. If you’re in gallery view, this makes identifying spurious noise quick and easy. Need a quick fix? Zoom also allows you to simply mute all participants.
How do I navigate conversation struggles on Zoom?
The problem: There are some subtle, but tricky differences between speaking together in person vs. on a video call. For one thing, there’s a small delay between when someone speaks and when listeners hear his/her voice. Though this delay is typically small, it’s just large enough to occasionally impede normal conversation and cause unintentional interruptions.
Furthermore, any sound coming from the call is coming to your ears from just one place – your headphones or speakers – which means you don’t have the same ability to differentiate between speakers easily you would if they were located in different parts of a room.
The solution: To deal with all of these potential setbacks, have a plan for orderly communication. When possible, call on people by name to contribute, and encourage them to share any questions or concerns in Zoom’s chat feature. Consider asking people to raise their hands (since you can see everyone in the gallery feature). If you’re meeting consistently with the same group of people, you could implement something like the hand queue to help maintain order. Though it requires more effort on your part, preventing awkward interruptions or unintelligible cross-talking will help all of your participants feel more comfortable engaging in the meeting.
How do I do breakout groups?
(This option is only available in the paid version of Zoom).
In an online setting where minds will wander more quickly, breakout groups are one way to keep participants actively engaged. Here are a few tips on using Zoom breakout groups:
1) Have two separate people running the meeting – one who is leading the meeting and the other who is running the technical side of the call. Inform your attendees that this person will be available to answer their questions in the chat box. Remind attendees to switch their chat box from “Everyone” to the name of your technical assistant. This way you can get the rest of the group going while not ignoring the person who is having technical trouble.
2) Choose between random and assigned groups. If you’re okay with people’s discussion groups shifting week-by-week, randomized groups are the easiest to use. You simply tell Zoom how many breakout rooms to create, and then Zoom divides people into equal-sized groups in those rooms.
If you need discussion groups to have the same participants each week, you’ll want to use assigned groups. Zoom allows you to pre-assign people to breakout rooms in advance by using the email addresses of each attendee. Alternatively, the person running the technical side of the call can manually assign participants to breakout rooms while the speaker is introducing things or the video is playing.
3) Be aware that some people will not have used the correct email address when they logged in or not identified themselves to Zoom in a way that it can associate them with pre-assigned groups. To avoid “group”-less attendees, the person running the technical side of the call should stay in the main meeting during the discussion groups. Anyone who also remains in the main meeting can then be manually assigned to his or her discussion group. This also allows people to return to the main meeting if they need technical help.
How do I keep my call secure?
Unfortunately, unwelcome or hostile attendees may enter your Zoom calls. Learn how to keep your Zoom call safe with the practices in our previous blog.
Check out other blogs on evangelism during lockdown.
Special thanks to Bill Fullilove and Tommy Morgan for contributing to this article.