Over the last few days, some of my family and I watched the complete Blue Ray DVD, extended version, of Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Yes we are nerds). In the last two movies, I noticed the extensive use of a Palantíri (or Seeing Stone) when the two overlords were practicing social distancing in their dark towers. It may well be the first use of a Zoom meeting in (fantasy) history. I found it interesting that, like Zoom or any other meeting software, things can go awry if it is not used correctly, as evidenced by Pippen’s impromptu meeting with Sauron in the Return of The King. With some proper protocols in place, we can avoid these kinds of embarrassing meetings.

Below is not an exhaustive list, but for those of us who need to conduct good online meetings with our evil or regular overlords, here, in no particular order,  are a few tips I have compiled from my experience. I am sure there are a lot more ideas so discuss amoung yourselves.

  • Have the meeting available before the official start so people can work out the kinks.
  • If you are doing a video chat, do it in a well-lit room and don’t have it too far or too close to your face.
  • Two people can’t be close to each other, both using a separate device to connect. Audio feedback is terrible.
  • If you have a computer or laptop to use, that is ideal.
  • Download the actual Zoom (or whatever app you use) application and not just use the web-based version. You can then see everyone, and it has more features.
  • You can use the phone app, but it works best if people have it oriented to landscape so we can see them well, and they have it standing a little away from themselves.
  • Don’t be handling your phone, microphone cord. It creates noise if you are not muted.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell someone if they are creating background noise, their dog is barking, or their kids are playing with the blender because it disrupts everyone.
  • As a moderator or admin, you have the power to mute people.
  • You can talk directly to people in the chat and not have the comments go to everyone, although this can be good and bad.
  • You can save the chat window to have a record of what people said for your notes.
  • You can record the audio and the video for referring to later.
  • Get a proper microphone or headphones with mic to avoid all kinds of background noise and clearer audio. If you think this is going on for a while, get a good USB webcam. They are not too expensive and increase quality significantly.
  • Be close to your wireless router, if possible. If the signal is weak, you will be blurry, and your audio will drop out, which is annoying.
  • Everyone needs to become mute-ants. For larger meetings, especially, learn to use the mute button. Familiarize yourself with it and make sure you use it when you are not talking.
  • In some situations, it is good to have a moderator who keeps everyone muted and asks people to use the chat if they want to comment – like raising a hand.
  • The pro version has a breakout room feature for getting people in smaller group discussions. Breakouts work well if you have a lot of stuff to talk about out. Then one person can represent the ideas of everyone when you come back to the larger meeting.