Zoom’s 2 most useful features to improve virtual meetings

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In the highly competitive world of enterprise video collaboration tools, Zoom offers at least two features that stand out: Breakout rooms and mobile screen sharing.

Breakout rooms

Zoom breakout rooms enable groups to move smoothly from a single large gathering into several smaller groups, then return to a single group session. To do this, the meeting host moves participants from the central meeting room into many smaller meeting rooms. The host may either assign each participant to a specific group or let the system assign people to rooms.

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During the breakout session, any group may ask the host to join a breakout room for guidance or help. The host also may choose to drop-in on any group to listen to a discussion or gauge group progress.

People in a breakout room may exit at any time to return to the main meeting. Or, if the host chooses to end the breakout session, all participants will receive an alert that indicates each group has a minute to wrap-up, after which everyone will be automatically returned to the main meeting.

Screenshot taken during a Zoom meeting of the Chromebook app showing a person pointing at the breakout room configuration screen that allows the host to message people in all rooms

Create and manage breakout rooms, which allows a host to move participants from a main meeting into several smaller rooms, then return everyone to the main meeting. The photo shows this feature managed on a Chromebook.

Screen sharing

Zoom supports desktop screen sharing not only from Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS systems, but also from Android and iOS devices. People who use Zoom on Android, iPhone, or iPad devices can share their screen to the entire group. This isn’t limited to simply showing a static file or image: You can navigate your system to show settings, demonstrate apps, as well as display documents. People who use Zoom can share content from a variety of local and cloud storage services to other participants during meetings.

Zoom also enables what it refers to as “co-annotation” during meetings. This lets people draw on, mark on, or highlight meeting content on the screen during the meeting. Co-annotation works from desktop and mobile devices, but is not supported from Chrome OS (as of early October 2018).

Photo of Screen shared from an Android phone to a Chromebook and iPad, all participating in a Zoom meeting.

Zoom lets people who join a meeting with an Android or iOS device share the screen of their mobile device. Zoom supports screen sharing from laptop and desktop devices, as well.

Mobile: Driving modes and virtual backgrounds

Zoom offers “driving mode” in the Android and iOS apps. With a swipe from left-to-right, the app will turn off all video, mute your microphone, and display a single large “Tap to speak” button. The app will play audio from the meeting, but you’ll need to tap the button to be heard.

Screenshot of driving mode screen with "Tap to speak" button.

The Zoom apps on Android and iOS both include driving mode: During a meeting, swipe from left-to-right and the app will turn off video, mute your microphone, and display a large “Tap to speak” button.

And, on iPhone and iPad, the Zoom app includes a green screen feature that lets you select a background image that will display in place of your actual surroundings. You could use this to fill the background with a logo or product image, or select a scenic background to replace an otherwise mundane wall.

Free with upgrade options

Zoom offers a Basic version for free, which you may use for meetings of up to 100 people. However, meetings of 3 or more participants will be limited to 40 minutes or less. The 40-minute limit doesn’t apply to 1-on-1 meetings. The Basic version also lets you share voice and video, chat, and virtually raise your hand to indicate you have a question. All versions also allow you to choose to either see only a presenter or switch to a group mode, which lets you see several participants’ video streams.

The features above, along with breakout rooms, screen sharing, driving modes, and virtual backgrounds, are all available in the free Basic version, provided they’re available on your device. Some features are “off” by default. For example, to use breakout rooms, you’ll need to sign in to Zoom.us in a web browser, select My Meeting Settings from the left menu, then scroll down to the advanced section to enable the Breakout Room feature.

Paid upgrade options start at $14.99 per host per month and remove time limits on your meetings. Upgrade options include cloud storage of recorded meetings, more dial-in options (e.g., toll-free numbers), and additional administrative management of accounts.

Most organizations use a video conferencing app bundled as a part of an office suite. So you’ll often see people use Microsoft Teams in organizations that use Office 365 or Hangouts Meet in organizations that use G Suite. And that makes sense, since there’s little reason to incur additional cost for a relatively standard collaboration solution.

But if your team finds features like breakout rooms and mobile screen sharing useful, Zoom Cloud Meetings is a tool worth adding to your collaboration kit.

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