When your Small Group can’t meet in person, you can still gather digitally by using a video conferencing app like Zoom. There are other video conference services out there as well, such as Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and FaceTime (which is the built-in standard on iPhones). However, this article will only cover some top questions about how to use Zoom.
1. How Do I Get Zoom?
2. How Do I Set Up a Meeting?
You can start a new meeting by clicking the “New Meeting” button, and then you can invite others into it. Or, more commonly, you can schedule a meeting using the “Schedule” button. Scheduling a Zoom meeting will create a meeting invitation in the online calendar program of your choice (like Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar) so you can add others onto that meeting invitation. They will receive a calendar invitation for that time with the link to join your Zoom meeting.
When you schedule the meeting, you can:
- Change the name of the meeting (in the “Topic” field)
- Set the amount of time for the meeting (be aware, if more than two computers are involved, the free version will cut your meeting off at forty minutes)
- Choose whether you want to require a meeting password (and create that password), which prevents outsiders from entering the meeting
If someone else has scheduled a meeting for you to join, just click the link they sent you for that meeting, type in the password (if there one), and you’re in! If they haven’t sent you the link but just the meeting number, you can click “Join” and type in that information.
3. How Do I Use the Video and Audio?
When you enter a meeting, you will want to make sure that your audio and video are both on and functioning.
When it launches a meeting, Zoom has an in-built test function so you can hear whether your audio and video are working or if you need to select another audio or video option (by clicking the up arrow next to the audio microphone icon or video camera icon).
4. How Do I Make the Best Use of the Time?
Typically, those who are not speaking should click the microphone icon to mute themselves. This prevents distracting audio feedback. The person setting up the meeting has certain controls such as muting people or logging off people.
It’s best for users to have their video on so you can see their faces. If users are experiencing a lag in their video or audio, they can always type their responses in the chat section (the speech bubble chat icon in the bottom tray). Members can always type questions or responses in the chat area, but try to be careful not to overuse this section in a way that’s overly distracting.
If you are speaking, talk loudly and clearly for everyone to hear. Make sure your video is set up to see your entire face and shoulders with lighting that allows them to see your face well. If you are leading the gathering, you will need to facilitate it like any other gathering: making sure to ask good questions and invite feedback and potentially calling on specific individuals to contribute (although you don’t have to). Then you can click “End Meeting” when you’re done.
What should you do about the free version closing your meetings at forty minutes (if more than two computers/users)? Here are a few options:
- Keep your gatherings to forty minutes, and clearly communicate when that time is approaching
- Set up back-to-back Zoom meetings for members to log into a second meeting when the first one ends
- Have someone in the group purchase a Zoom plan (about $15/month), and they can set up the meetings, so you have unlimited time
- Use that as the time for breakout prayer: where women can connect during a second Zoom meeting and men can use another Zoom meeting (or another app like FaceTime) on a second device to connect
5. Anything Else?
If you are the one leading the meeting, it’s wise to log into the meeting about five minutes early to welcome others when they jump in (or help them make sure their audio or video is working properly). Make them feel as comfortable and valued as possible.
Don’t feel the need to keep your meetings to the same length of time that you usually have Small Group, there may be an efficiency in going digital, and that’s okay. Just make sure you create a good amount of time to truly connect.
For more information about how to use Zoom, check out their online support page or contact someone who uses Zoom.