I have attended quite a few Zoom meetings as a participant, but not as a host or co-host. I belong to a birding organization that hosts monthly Zoom meetings, and have been interested in helping out as a co-host, but felt I didn’t know enough to try.
So, I was delighted to attend the January Ohio STC monthly meeting, presented by Alicia Smith-Kirk and Tricia Spayer, who have both used Zoom through their work with Toastmasters International. They covered many of the basics of hosting or co-hosting a Zoom meeting.
They discussed some of the basics of Zoom, such as the differences between the Zoom experience on a laptop or desktop compared to a pad or phone. One of the key differences to be aware of is that the number of people you see in the gallery view is limited to 4 on a phone, but is more on a larger screen.
Co-hosting was another topic covered. They discussed some of the advantages of having a host and co‑host. A co-host can be responsible for tasks such as letting people into the meeting, controlling the slides, muting disruptions, and monitoring the chat so the host can focus on the presentation. Co-hosts are especially helpful for large meetings.
If a host cannot complete the meeting, the co-host can also take over as the meeting host. The host role must be transferred to the co-host before the host leaves. Otherwise, the meeting will end.
They also discussed using Zoom for judging. Alicia helped transition nearly 100 Toastmasters clubs to go to an online format during the pandemic. The meetings included online contests. To keep the judges anonymous, they hid their pictures and changed their screen names.
Breakout rooms were also discussed and we experimented with using them. Alicia provided a practical tip — it’s best to create extra breakout rooms you don’t need. Once the meeting starts, you can’t add more breakout rooms on the fly.
Another feature that we experimented with that I had not seen used before is Annotate. This allows participants to comment on the slide that is displayed. This can be a powerful tool for keeping users engaged.
Alicia and Tricia left us with a tip to make sure you have a means for hosts to communicate with each other in case something goes wrong. Whether it is phone, texting, or an app like What’s App, make sure you have some sort of back channel.
My next step is to take what I learned in this meeting and become a Zoom co-host for my birding organization!
Reviewed by Barb Philbrick (she/her)