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Screen grab of some of the participants on a recent NANPA Zoom call for professional nature photographers.
Some of the participants on a recent NANPA Zoom call for professional nature photographers.

By Teresa Ransdell, NANPA Membership Director

Connecting electronically has become the norm during the past few months. If you owned stock in Zoom prior to the beginning of the pandemic’s various quarantine orders, you’re likely counting your earnings as opposed to reading NANPA’s blog posts.

For those of us who had never heard of and didn’t own stock in Zoom, we’re now having to learn how to best use that or similar platforms in our business to keep us connected with clients, followers, members and fans. During a recent Zoom videoconference with a number of NANPA’s nature photography pros, a suggestion was made to share some tips and best practices to help photographers use the platform more effectively.  So, here we go. (See also Friday’s blog on how to look and sound your professional best on Zoom.)

Some of the features below are only available on the paid version of Zoom, but many are also options in the free version.

Schedule a Meeting page on Zoom.

Tips for Setting Up Your Meeting

  • Don’t use your personal room information for the videoconference. When you’re scheduling a Zoom call, you can use your Personal Meeting ID or you can automatically generate an ID or link for your call. It’s an extra step, but scheduling a meeting and using a specific meeting link for attendees is much more secure and helps minimize the chance of being Zoombombed. (Zoombombing is having uninvited guests join your videoconference, take over the screen and show inappropriate pictures or say inappropriate things to your attendees.)
  • Don’t post the details of how to connect to the call or your meeting ID on social media. This makes the information easily accessible for uninvited guests who may have unpleasant ulterior motives for joining your call.
  • Use the Register feature. This allows you to set up a Zoom call in a way that automatically sends to those who register the information they’ll need to join the call. Plus, you will have a list of registrants for follow up. Find out how to use the register feature via Zoom Help.
Zoom controls appear at the bottom of the screen when you move your mouse.

Using Zoom Features

  • Muting. You can set up the call where everyone to is muted when they join (see first image above). They then have to either unmute themselves to speak, or you can ask them to raise their hands (see below) so you can unmute them. Muting the lines helps minimize background noise. If you want complete control over muting and unmuting lines, consider having an assistant on the call to help you manage those controls.
  • Chat – If you don’t want the hassle of muting and unmuting attendees have them type their questions in the chat box instead. Questions and comments in the chat box can be difficult to keep up with and, if too many are submitted at once, the questions will continue to scroll up and off the screen. That’s why many Zoom presenters have an assistant manage the questions. You can’t delete questions once you’ve answered them, which would help with organization, but you can type in “answered” as you reply to each.
  • Raising Hands – Ask attendees who want to speak/have a question to raise their hands and then you can unmute them (or they can unmute themselves) as you “call” on them to talk. A participant can raise their hand by clicking on “participants” in the Zoom control bar and click “Raise hand.”
  • Save Chat Messages – It might be helpful to have a transcript of the conversations/questions/comments made in the chat box during the meeting. Especially if links to other resources or important information are given, participants often want a copy. Saving the transcript can be arranged in advance of the meeting or during the meeting itself. Check out how to save the chat log.
  • Sharing Screens – In Zoom, the host can share his/her computer screen with the audience. Just click on “Share Screen” in the Zoom toolbar. You can choose what window/application you have open on your computer to share. There are also some self-explanatory features available that help optimize what you share, for example if you want to show video with audio during the meeting. Another available option is to share a whiteboard instead of your computer screen which would allow you to take notes based on what the group is discussing, draw a diagram or picture. You can save a copy of what’s drawn or typed on the whiteboard, too.
  • Share Someone Else’s Screen – If someone else in the meeting needs to share his/her screen, the host must first click on the arrow next to “Share Screen” and choose the option to allow multiple participants to share their screens. Then any participant can click Share Screen and share his/her screen with the group.
  • Break off into subgroups and then come back together – An interesting feature that might be unique to Zoom is the ability to break the group up into smaller subgroups and give each subgroup a separate “break out room” within your meeting.  In their breakout room they can talk about or resolve an issue and then come back to the larger group to share what was discussed. Learn more about how to use the breakout room feature.
  • Polling – Zoom offers polling during videoconferences. Polls you want to use during the Zoom meeting need to be set up prior to the start of the meeting. You can poll the audience and share results with them pretty easily by clicking on the polling icon in the Zoom toolbar. A report of the polling results can also be downloaded after the meeting has ended. Learn more about polling.
Sharing Screen Dialogue Options
Sharing Screen Options
Annotation tools in Zoom.
Annotation tools in Zoom.

After the Videoconference

  • Recording – If enabled, a recording of the meeting will be automatically downloaded to your computer as an mp4 file once the meeting has ended. Learn more about setting up automatic recording. If you plan to offer registrants or those who missed your presentation the opportunity to see it later, make sure you’re recording!
  • Download a Final Registrant List – If you enabled the register feature for the meeting, you will be able to download a list of those who registered for up to 30 days after the meeting. The report does not tell you who attended, just who registered. Find details about this feature.

There are a number of videoconferencing platforms available but Zoom seems to be the most popular right now. It’s a powerful and fun way to stay in touch during times of social distancing, and when other circumstances prevent a group getting together in person.  Zoom lessons, demonstrations, workshops, presentations to camera clubs and critiques can keep you in front of your past and future clients and maybe bring in a little income as well.