Zoom Hacks to Help Make Virtual Meetings Easier and More Efficient
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Zoom Hacks to Help Make Virtual Meetings Easier and More Efficient

You may be one of the many who had rarely – if ever – used Zoom before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But the chances are that you have been making use of it a lot since.

While there are other options available Zoom has emerged as the leader in the remote meeting space by far, in part because its basic functions are free and in part because the learning curve is not very steep, as this charming video of the UK's Anne, Princess Royal teaching her 93-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, to use it demonstrates.

There are a few 'hacks' however you may not know that will help make your next Zoom meeting easier, more efficient and maybe even a little more fun:

Apply a virtual background to your Zoom video conferences.

If your workspace at home isn’t quite so tidy, or you just want to protect your privacy, you can apply a background to virtually clean up the real clutter. It’s like being a news anchor sitting in front of a green screen and Zoom’s selection of landscapes can add a bit of whimsy to your meetings too.

Executives who need to portray a more professional appearance on video calls with clients can even upload their company’s logo for use as a background, making it look like you’re back in an actual conference room at work.

The feature is simple to use, and the camera on your handset or computer can apply the background even if you’re not sitting in front of a green screen. Here’s how:

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Step 1: Launch Zoom on your computer

Step 2: Go to the cogs button on the upper right-hand corner of your display to launch the Settings menu.

Step 3: Select Virtual Background in the left menu pane.

Step 4: You can then choose from a number of built-in backgrounds, including a beach, a view of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge, or even the Aurora Borealis. A live preview will show how you will look in front of the background.

Step 5: To choose your own custom background, click on the + icon next to Choose Virtual Background. The option will let you upload your own custom video or photo for use.

If you have a video of an aquarium, you can conduct your meeting in front of what would appear to be a live fish tank for example. If you need inspiration for some fun animated backgrounds to use, Lightricks, the maker of popular photo editing app FaceTune, has uploaded some content to Dropbox that you can use.

Using a live background will reveal some items around the edges, which can look choppy if you’re moving around a lot during video calls. Additionally, virtual backgrounds shouldn’t be used if you’re planning on demonstrating or pointing to things with your hands — hands get canceled out with the use of virtual backgrounds.

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How to use shortcuts in Zoom

After years of using a computer, we all know the popular keyboard shortcuts for copy, paste, and undo etc. Zoom has its own set of popular shortcuts that help you quickly mute and unmute the microphone, start or stop your camera, and more.

There are a number of shortcuts that you can enable and use, but here are some of the most popular:

  • Mute or unmute audio: Alt + A
  • Start or stop video: Alt + V
  • Pause or resume screen sharing: Alt + S
  • Pause or resume screen recording: Alt + P
  • Switch camera: Alt + N
  • Raise or lower hand: Alt + Y

The shortcuts commands are listed for Windows PC users. Mac users can substitute the Apple or Command key for the Alt key above. A full list of the keyboard shortcuts can be found by navigating to the Zoom settings menu and choosing Keyboard Shortcuts on the left pane.

Touch up your appearance in Zoom

You may not really be a newscaster on the evening news, but you’ll still want to look your best during your virtual meetings with colleagues. A feature that’s borrowed from the beauty modes of the selfie cameras on many popular Android smartphones, Zoom’s Touch Up My Appearance helps to smooth out your skin, remove the dark bags under your eyes, and help you look your best.

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Best of all, the results look fairly natural, so you don’t look like an over-sharpened blob of pixels when viewed on the screens of fellow collaborators.

Step 1: Go to Zoom’s settings menu

Step 2: Click on the Video option in the left panel

Step 3: Under My Video, select the option for Touch Up My Appearance.

How to record and transcribe your Zoom call

If your business subscribes to a more advanced Zoom plan with cloud recording, you can record your meeting’s audio to the cloud. Zoom’s A.I. will help transcribe your meeting — complete with timestamps — and save the transcript as a .vtt text file. The meeting notes can be edited, if needed, for accuracy.

When you review your meeting video, there’s even an option to display the transcription directly within the video, making it look like closed captioning.

Step 1: Open the Zoom web portal and sign in.

Step 2: Click on the Recordings tab on the left-hand side and choose Cloud Recordings. You’ll need a premium Zoom account to use this feature.

Step 3: Enable Audio Transcript under Cloud Recordings, and save your changes.

Step 4: When you start a meeting, be sure to hit the Record button and choose Record to the Cloud.

Step 5: After the meeting ends, you’ll get an email alerting you that the transcript is ready.

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