Hosting Zoom Gatherings with Lots of People
Tips from quick learning, lots of listening, and trial and error.
Written for the United Church of Christ (and friends!)
by Chris Davies[a], Faith Education, Innovation & Formation Team Leader
(this is okay to share with anyone. Hold Grace for each other.)
Digital video meetings don’t always work like in-person meetings; especially with lots[b][c] of people online. Again and again, I experience folks trying to make the digital space function like incarnate space, and I am writing this to help us all adapt and grow into some possibilities we didn’t have access to, before. For example, the chat function lets more people contribute to the conversation! The visual cues! The break out rooms! The real time polling! And more that I know I don’t know yet, but will add in as I go.
If you know a better way, please comment. (That function is currently on for this doc!)
I am requesting special help with the Closed Captioning stuff. If you know that and have used it, please add in below where it is mentioned!
I don’t know all the features, and I keep trying new things. And, as I learn, I’ll update here for all of you. I will also say that there are so many others gathering info like this, and I am learning from them, and adapting for congregational contexts, with the primary audience on the zoom calls likely being older folks or folks inexperienced with Zoom in general.
This is written for you, the host.
If you’ve got the tech confidently, skip ahead to INVITING YOUR PEOPLE. I think the most important part there is about setting expectations beforehand.
Be clear about the purpose of gathering. (And, no purpose but hanging out, IS a purpose! 😊 )
Sometimes it is really simply, content-sharing.
And sometimes it’s generative, and conversations and input are expected.
1- Download Zoom
and get yourself a pro account. Yes, this is an appropriate church expense. Yes, it will be worth it. Download Center
2- Sign in on the web browser
to schedule a call. Here’s a few things to consider:
3- Schedule a meeting.
Click “Schedule a New Meeting”
It can be a once- off-- which is a particular time, with a start and end time, (e.g. Monday the 30th at 3pm EST) *if you are having worldwide meetings, ADD TIME ZONES to your invitations.
A Recurring meeting, with a particular time, (eg. Mondays at 3 EST for the foreseeable future)
Or with no time (e.g. THIS LINK: all the time, open whenever you’re on.) This one functions like a unique meeting ID for a particular purpose, but the same one every time. So if one committee moves around a lot, this might work for them, as long as there is NOT overlap.
NOTE: You can have one meeting at a time. So if you have a recurring, anytime, meeting, and people are on that-- and then you move to the particular time-- someone gets kicked off. Plan carefully.
Name your meeting. If you have multiple meetings/ committees using it, then be sure and be specific for your own sorting things out. (E.g. Flower Arranging Committee)
The settings where it says, VIDEO & AUDIO are for what it looks like when everyone logs on. If you have people unfamiliar with zoom, you may want to have both Video and Audio off. You can communicate to them exactly what to expect when you invite them to the meeting, but we’re still in set-up phase. (While password is clicked above, I generally don’t use it. )
Audio- I click both. It’s helpful. However, again, expectations will come into play here. It’s especially helpful to have both if you are having issues with internet, and people can first connect their best with the internet, and then switch to audio with phone, video with the ‘net. This way, no one misses anything. (more about this later, in INVITING YOUR PEOPLE.)
This next part is important in set up:
As you can see, I clicked “enable join before host.” If you are the host, and setting up a meeting where you don’t need to be there, (e.g. the Flower Arranging Committee), then this makes sure it can go smoothly without your presence.
I also clicked “record automatically.” … in the cloud. If you need to have awareness with what is happening, then this saves it in the account, which is accessible via the web platform. There is an option to have TRANSCRIPTS recorded as well, in the settings, which I will run down what I know shortly*
(soon- I can’t find it easily right now, and my account looks different than the Zoom tutorials. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
This makes it easy to skim over as the leader and then delete if it’s not needed.
You DO want to delete what is not needed. There is a limit to what’s available in the cloud. You can record onto the local computer as much as you want--- but…. These files are big. :)
Then click save. Boom! Meeting scheduled.
4- Notes on recordings
When zoom is recording, there is a red dot in the top left hand corner for everyone. Hosts have recording power.
See, you got the power! You can pause recordings as well, and then pick it up again.
If you set it up to record automatically, you’ll get lots of people figuring it out at the beginning and the tops of many folks’ heads.
Here’s where you can find recordings:
And when you click on the meeting, in this case, some general silliness as I was trying out platforms in a digital Irish dance mode….
And when you copy a sharable link, the user end looks like this:
You can see the recording from the speaker view here. And, note that the chat is all there, with timestamps! *note, My nibbling Andrew is just fine.*
I believe that if you are logged in, your PRIVATE chats show up as well. I believe there is a way for admins to see ALL private chats, but i’m not sure about the details at this point.
People can download recordings. (see top right corner of screenshot.)
This is all part of the set up still! But this part you only have to do once. I think. Go to the settings. There are so many to choose from, in there. Here’s where that button lives, and I’ll note a few that I have found helpful so far, and add things in as I learn more.
Starting with MEETING, I like:
No passwords. Nobody wants to crash my meetings, generally. **EDIT** that’s not true anymore.
Zoom has changed their settings so there is automatically a password on all meetings. SO, make a password that only your people will know, and communicate it carefully.
I have heard that people are signing up for church newsletters with the intent of gaining zoom meetings to zoombomb, and that this is targeting LGBT and/or women pastors more.
I like this one, because often people unfamiliar get in the meeting and take some time to get oriented. I’ll have helpful suggestions in invitation for this in a bit.
In meeting- what’s standard is generally okay here. Here’s a bunch of fun bits:
This is all still set up, you’re doing great.
NOTE ON SCREEN SHARING: If you do not anticipate any screen sharing from other people (already planned) then TURN OFF SCREEN SHARING.
Because people are people, and some folks lean into chaos as the highest form of communication during crisis, there is a thing that the New York Times calls “Zoom Bombing” wherein people enter zoom rooms, and take them over with shared screens of inappropriate material. To protect your people and your meeting, have anyone that you anticipate sharing a screen as a co-host if possible, turn of screen sharing for the masses, and makes sure that you are quick with your “mute/ un-mute” buttons.
(edit 3/24/2020. What a world.)
I REALLY like the Break Out Rooms feature-- so I have that on all the time!
I am still learning closed captioning, so that’s TBD. If you have experience, please comment here!
We have set up closed captioning-- it means that you assign someone to type in what folks are saying. (We haven’t yet figured out how to integrate the services you can pay to do it.) When someone is typing, it means that there will be typos and they are doing their best. I recommend saying upfront, that there will be typos and sometimes summaries if you have someone who is not accustomed to doing this.
The virtual background is interesting-- it has the possibility to delight, and also distract. Note this. Some of us have already ordered our green screens to make it easy. They are pretty easy to find online, and for me-- a worthy investment (at ~$10ish) for the foreseeable future.
This is good-- if you have something beginning at a certain time and you want to let people in in a certain order.
Okay, this is important:
You can live stream multiple people to facebook. So if you are having a church service, you can have it with your people in the meeting and share it out to the world!
So that’s the settings I have commentary on at this moment. I’ll add more as I learn more…. Which Lord knows I will. #zoomalldayeveryday.
6- INVITING YOUR PEOPLE!
This is where it is less tech and more fun.
*if you are having worldwide meetings, ADD TIME ZONES to your invitations.
I recommend setting clear expectations about how to have the best meeting possible. Here is an example of an email I sent (with some edits) to a group of about 30 people before an important gathering:
We will be meeting as the Working Group at 3pm EST (2pm Central, 1pm Mtn, 12noon Pacific, 9am Hawaii) on Monday via Zoom. I will open the window and be “hanging out” before the meeting at 2:45pm EST to have any pre-meeting chats and questions, and testing out Zoom together that may be needed… or if you’re excited and want to see each other!
If you have never used Zoom before, please explore the site, and download the app on your computer (preferred) or smartphone/ ipad (also works) here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362193-Joining-a-Meeting
(Computers are preferred, because it is easier to use the chat function. I anticipate using the chat function often as part of group facilitation on zoom with 30 people!)
If you think you might need extra Zoom support on Monday before the meeting, after testing it out via the link above, please join us at 2:45pm EST as mentioned above.
The zoom link we will use (for all three sessions*) is here: Join URL: (this is where I put the link!)
Before we arrive, you’d be directed to a waiting room. 😊
We will be utilizing Break Out rooms within the Zoom platform- and you can learn more about what that will be like, here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115005769646-Participating-in-Breakout-Rooms
We will also be utilizing the chat function.
So, see what I did up there? Clear expectations about what was going to happen, and how it will work. I also lifted expectations that videos would be on, we’d use the chat, and no multitasking.
For working meetings (not social meetings) this is going to be really helpful.
Be as clear as possible in your invitation about the purpose of the meeting. When people know what to expect, then they show up! If it’s content delivery, you’d want the people coming in to be automatically muted. If it’s collaborative, then there are some tips below. If it’s just hanging out, well-- go with the flow, y’all creative beings. 🥰
So far, I have found Chat and Breakout rooms to be invaluable.
Here’s some tips for IN THE MEETING:
7- Tips for the meeting itself, in no particular order:
8- Tips for the background
Thanks, all. Be blessed in this work. I am praying for you, every day. You were called for such a time as this, and you can do it. You are not alone. May the divine, however you experience her, surround you with care and love and encouragement.