09 Jun 2022
June 2022 disclaimer
The information below is provided by Friends of the Earth and designed to help grassroots groups use Zoom to host online meetings. Friends of the Earth is currently experiencing issues with its Zoom accounts, meaning we unfortunately can't offer our grassroots network access to our Zoom service at this time. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
While we investigate these issues, we suggest you set up your own Zoom booking to conduct meetings. You can create a free account at https://www.zoom.us/signup
Please be aware that a free account has a 40-minute time limit for Zoom calls with 3 or more people. If your meeting goes beyond 40 minutes, you'll need to restart the call. Why not factor that into your agenda and use the time to have a quick tea break?
Zoom is a video conferencing tool that allows you and your colleagues or friends to take your meetings and events online. In this guide to using Zoom we’ll cover:
- Zoom’s capabilities
- How to set up a Zoom meeting
- How to access our paid accounts for more features
- In-meeting controls (we've made a short video to demonstrate these).
Throughout this guide, the images used are from a Windows machine. Things may appear slightly differently on other operating systems or devices, such as Macs, tablets or smartphones.
What can Zoom do?
The main benefit of Zoom is that anyone with a meeting link can join your call, without needing an account, making meetings or online events easy and accessible. The only person that needs an account is the person setting up and running the meeting: the ”host”. Caveat: you can also set up the meeting so that it runs without a host, for instance, if you create the meeting with your account but you’re not able to attend the meeting yourself. In this instance you won’t be able to use host controls such as muting participants or recording the meeting.
Zoom has useful features for both group meetings and bigger, online events:
- Screensharing – useful for sharing a presentation or a meeting agenda
- Recording – a great way to make an online event accessible to people who couldn’t attend
- Host controls – mute participants, record the meeting, create "breakout" rooms, remove attendees
- Chatbox – good for managing who’s turn it is to speak, or as a backup for those who can’t
- Up to 100 people can join the call
- Dial in – to allow people to call in via their phone (they will be charged at their normal call rate)
- Breakout rooms – if you want to break into small group discussions.
While you don’t need an account to join a Zoom meeting, you will need one to set up meetings. We encourage you to create and use a free Zoom account for your meetings. You can do this by heading to Zoom.us.
There are some limitations to free accounts, most notably, calls are limited to 40 minutes. You can easily get around this by ending the call and restarting it immediately, which refreshes the limit. This is usually manageable for group meetings, but in cases where you need unlimited call times – such as open or formal meetings or online events – we have a few paid accounts that are available for groups. If you’d like to use one of our paid accounts you can email us at [email protected].
Setting up a meeting
There are 2 ways you can set up a meeting. You can use your Personal Meeting ID link or set up a unique meeting (instructions below).
For security reasons it's strongly recommended that you set up a unique meeting. However if you're finding this difficult, you can use your Personal Meeting ID.
Your Personal Meeting ID is a permanent meeting link that you can use over and over for different meetings. It’s a quick and easy way to set up a meeting but it's also easier for uninvited people to join and 'Zoombomb' your meeting as the same link (and password, unless you manually change it) is used multiple times.
Using your personal meeting ID
Head to "Profile" in the left-hand panel. The link under your personal meeting ID is your personal meeting room. You can send this to anybody who wants to join the meeting, along with the date, time and password (if enabled). When it’s time to start the meeting, log in and head back to this page and copy and paste the link into your browser. When sending out details for your next meeting you can just re-use the same link.
If you'd like to change your personal meeting room settings, including the password, head to meetings in the left hand pane and then select "Personal Meeting Room" at the top. For other options click on "Settings" in the left hand pane.
Setting up a unique meeting
Once you’ve logged in, click on "Schedule a meeting" in the top menu.
You’ll then be shown the meeting set up options. We've explained what each of the options means, and what we’d recommend, so you can set up your Zoom meeting in a way that’s best for you.
Topic: insert the title for your webinar. This is displayed on the holding page if attendees join the call before you, so it’s important to use something that will be understandable to them.
Description: optional and only for your personal use.
When: choose the time and date of your meeting. Note: you can still start the meeting outside this time window if you choose to sign in a bit early or want test it out in advance.
Duration: enter the duration of your meeting. Again, your meeting will not be technically constrained to this length.
Time Zone: you’ll probably want to leave this as GMT
Require meeting password: this means people need a password to enter the meeting. With the increase of 'Zoombombing' it's recommended that you set a meeting password. You can customise the password.
Meeting ID: Select "generate automatically". Do not use your Personal Meeting ID.
Video: tick "on" for both host and participant. It’s useful to have your video automatically turned on and it’s a nice way to nudge participants to have their webcams on too. Being able to see each other is an important way of improving online communication and making it more natural. If you're experiencing poor connection once the call has started, you can always turn your webcam off.
Audio: if you know nobody will be dialling in by phone, or that the meeting won't work for people joining in this way you can select "Computer audio". If people need to join by phone, select "Both". Now click "Edit" underneath and change the default country to United Kingdom. Participants dialling in by phone will have to pay their normal call rate.
Enable join before host: if you’re organising a webinar or event-style online gathering, it’s a good idea to leave this unticked. Leaving it unticked means that attendees will receive a holding screen until you join. If you’re just having your usual group meeting, it might be nice to tick this box so people can join and have a chat before the meeting actually starts, or go ahead with the meeting if the host can’t join. However, if you tick this it does remove an aspect of security from your meeting as anyone could join the link at any time.
Mute participants upon entry: it’s a good idea to keep this ticked as it helps avoid unnecessary noise and feedback when people join.
Enable waiting room: leave unticked. It’s unlikely that you’ll want this feature, but if enabled it allows you to invite people into the meeting one at a time.
Record the meeting automatically: tick this if you’d like to record your webinar. You should let attendees know that the meeting is being recorded and check if they’re comfortable with that. If you don’t tick this, you can also choose to record the meeting once you’ve started the call.
Inviting people to your meeting
Once you've scheduled your meeting you'll be taken to a page that looks like this.
Here you'll see the meeting link (and password if you enabled it), which you'll need to share with others so they can join the meeting. If you’re expecting people to join by phone, you should share the meeting ID and dial-in number too. You can access these by clicking "copy the invitation".
We've created a 7 minute video demonstrating how to make the most of the in-meeting controls, including screen sharing and breakout rooms.
If you can’t access breakout rooms as illustrated in the video, there might be separate icon for it in the tool bar, rather than being in the ellipses. You also might need to enable breakout rooms in your account settings. To do this, log in to your account and head to settings in the left-hand panel.
Then scroll down until you find the breakout room option and turn it on.
Privacy and security
As the use of video conferencing tools like Zoom rapidly increases, so is the number of people joining meetings to which they haven't been invited. Often the people doing this "Zoombombing" share explicit or graphic videos with the call, disrupt the meeting and sometimes share files containing viruses in the chat box.
In all likelihood your meetings will be completely fine and hopefully really successful. But if your meeting is disrupted by someone gaining improper access, please let us know – no matter how minor it felt. We 're keeping a record of all incidents and we need this to be as complete as possible. Please contact [email protected] and we’ll arrange for someone to get in touch and get the details.
If you follow the steps below, the chances of this happening will be extremely low.
Do not publicly share your meeting link
Instead of sharing your meeting link on social media or public platforms, you should email it to the people you are inviting to join. Similarly, if you share any photos of your meeting, make sure the meeting ID is blurred or cropped out (it will usually be at the top of the window).
Add a meeting password
Some people might Zoombomb your meeting by creating random Zoom links until one of them leads to a live meeting. Enabling a password that you have shared privately with your invitees prevents people who have stumbled across your meeting in this way from joining it. Instructions for this are in the ‘setting up a meeting’ section above.
Do not use your Personal Meeting ID if possible
Although the personal meeting ID link is a quick and easy way to set up a meeting, it also comes with some risks. This link isn’t randomly generated and remains the same for each meeting, making it easier for people to remember your personal meeting ID link and try it again in the future. You also can’t enable a password on this link.
Check your meeting settings
Head to "settings” in the left-hand pane when you’re logged into your account.
From there, make sure:
“Allow removed participants to rejoin” is disabled
“File transfer” is disabled
Only the host can share their screen
What to do if someone is disrupting your meeting
If someone has managed to disrupt your meeting, you can remove them from the meeting. As long as you have disabled "allow removed participants to rejoin" (see above) they should not be able to re-enter the call.
To remove a participant open up the “manage attendees” screen.
Next hover your mouse over the name of the person you want to remove and select “more”. You can then select “remove”.
For additional tips on how to prevent zoombombing, read PC mag's article on "how to prevent zoombombing".