Zoom For Dummies book cover

Zoom For Dummies

Phil Simon
Published: August 11, 2020


Zoom into the new world of remote collaboration

While a worldwide pandemic may have started the Zoom revolution, the convenience of remote meetings is here to stay. Zoom For Dummies takes you from creating meetings on the platform to running global webinars. Along the way you'll learn how to expand your remote collaboration options, record meetings for future review, and even make scheduling a meeting through your other apps a one-click process. Take in all the advice or zoom to the info you need - it's all there!

  • Discover how to set up meetings
  • Share screens and files
  • Keep your meetings secure
  • Add Zoom hardware to your office
  • Get tips for using Zoom as a social tool

Award-winning author Phil Simon takes you beyond setting up and sharing links for meetings to show how Zoom can transform your organization and the way you work.

Zoom into the new world of remote collaboration

While a worldwide pandemic may have started the Zoom revolution, the convenience of remote meetings is here to stay. Zoom For Dummies takes you from creating meetings on the platform to running global webinars. Along the way you'll learn how to expand your remote collaboration options, record meetings for future review, and even make scheduling a meeting through your other apps a one-click

process. Take in all the advice or zoom to the info you need - it's all there!

  • Discover how to set up meetings
  • Share screens and files
  • Keep your meetings secure
  • Add Zoom hardware to your office
  • Get tips for using Zoom as a social tool

Award-winning author Phil Simon takes you beyond setting up and sharing links for meetings to show how Zoom can transform your organization and the way you work.

Zoom For Dummies Cheat Sheet

At present, Zoom’s most popular feature is its ability to let people host and participate in meetings. With a few clicks of your mouse, you can quickly talk to anyone in the world with or without video. Zoom’s suite of communications tools includes the following products:

  • Zoom Meetings & Chat
  • Zoom Video Webinars
  • Zoom Phone
  • Zoom Rooms
[caption id="attachment_272205" align="alignnone" width="556"] ©Kate Kultsevych[/caption]

Articles From The Book

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Zoom Articles

9 Great Zoom Tips

This list provides some quick advice on getting started with Zoom, maximizing its benefits, and minimizing the issues that you experience with it. No, the following pages do not represent a comprehensive list of what to do and not to do, but I have condensed my suggestions into a snackable list.

Try Before You Buy

Just about every popular software vendor has embraced the freemium business model to one extent or another. Zoom is no exception to this rule. As such, anyone can begin using Meetings & Chat and many of its features within minutes and at no cost. Employees can unlock additional goodies when their employers upgrade their plans with useful add-ons. Consider Grohl Records, a fictitious company new to Meetings & Chat. I can see Grohl’s rationale to kicking the tires, especially on a small scale. For example, Grohl purchases a few licenses for employees in its sales department. For whatever reason, though, the sales reps and customers struggle with Meetings & Chat. (Remember that no technology sports a 100-percent success rate.) After a few months, Grohl can then search for another videoconferencing tool with minimal cost and disruption.

Consider Upgrading Your Firm’s Existing Zoom Plan

To be sure, Zoom’s Basic Meetings & Chat plan offers robust features and generous limits on call length, the number of meeting participants, and more. Plenty of individuals and businesses find this plan sufficient for their relatively limited needs. I don’t fault them if they choose to take advantage of the company’s no-cost Meetings & Chat offering, especially in difficult economic times. For two reasons, there comes a point for most companies when upgrading just makes sense. Zoom’s additional features often more than justify their nominal costs. Companies on the Basic plan cannot use roles, user groups, and IM groups. They also lack the ability to record meetings to the cloud, receive meeting transcriptions, and tighten up security. Although many garden-variety Zoom users may not fully appreciate the significance of these features, IT folks worth their salt certainly do. If that argument doesn’t sway you, then perhaps this one will. By upgrading, you cease being a Zoom user and become a Zoom customer. Trust me: The difference is more than a matter of semantics. By way of comparison, if you consider yourself a Facebook customer, then you’re sadly mistaken — unless you pay the social network to advertise on it. Google Hangouts, Facebook’s new Messenger Rooms, and other free videoconferencing alternatives may seem sexy. Just remember, though, that if you pay nothing for a company’s product, then its product is you. You are merely a means to an end.

Take Security Seriously

I’ll be the first to admit that many of Zoom’s security- and privacy-related features add friction. That is, they collectively make it harder to sign in, communicate, and collaborate. For example, enabling 2FA takes time, as does having to find and enter a six-digit verification code when you log in to the Zoom web portal. Ditto for enabling meeting waiting rooms and requiring meeting passwords. Zoom doesn’t compel its users and customers to enable many of these features, including the preceding three. Depending on your role in the organization, someone above you may have already set those options globally, ultimately making moot your choice to activate them. Brass tacks: You and your colleagues would be wise to err on the side of caution. Your business and personal communications are far too important to do anything else. Unfortunately, far too many people have historically acted as if hackers would never care about them, only to find their sensitive messages and photos on 4chan or the Dark Web. Whoops. To paraphrase Cher, “If they could turn back time.…”

Keep Zoom Updated

In the mid-1990s, software vendors typically released new versions and upgrades once every year or so via snail mail no less. Installation involved inserting floppy or compact discs into your computer. The manual process could take an hour or more. Today, it’s a much different story. Software vendors routinely release new versions, upgrades, and patches at lightning speed. (This trend has made writing For Dummies books challenging, but that’s a conversation for a different day.) Bottom line: It’s incumbent upon Zoom users and customers to keep abreast of software updates. Ignore those red badges on your devices at your own peril.

Create a Personal Zoom Account

Chuck is a partner at HHM, a prestigious law firm based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. HHM has purchased a Zoom license, and Chuck uses Zoom frequently to hold videoconferences with clients when he has to work from home. Could Chuck use HHM’s Zoom account for decidedly non-HHM matters, such as when he holds video chats with his ex-wife Rebecca and his brother Jimmy? Sure, and he may even get away with it. Still, it would behoove him to create a separate Zoom account for his personal use.

Zoom admins and owners can easily run a variety of member-usage reports. Historically, many firms have terminated employees for using company property and services for their own personal ends. I’m no labor lawyer, but you’re unlikely to find a sympathetic judge if you use Zoom’s services in this way.

Measure Twice and Cut Once

Say that you’re about to noodle with Zoom functionality with which you’re not familiar. Perhaps it’s a large group meeting or your first Zoom webinar. In both cases, a trial run is in your best interest. Case in point: In April 2020, I held a webinar for my alma mater Carnegie Mellon University on remote work. It went smoothly for a few reasons. First, after I agreed to do the webinar, I connected with webinar emcee Melissa Turk. Over the course of a few weeks, the two of us exchanged basic information via Slack and Google Docs. (She shares my aversion to incessant email threads.) Second and most germane here, a few days before showtime, we held a trial webinar for 30 minutes in Zoom. (Turk’s knowledge of Zoom webinars is extensive.) We worked out the audio, video, and screen-sharing logistics and kinks beforehand, not in front of hundreds of attendees.

Develop a Contingency Plan for Important Meetings

Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.


Say that you’re going to be using Zoom to interview for your dream job. Maybe you’re pitching a prospect on your own company’s products and services. For good reason, you don’t anticipate any technical issues. After all, in your experience, Meetings & Chat has been remarkably reliable for such a popular tool. Would you bet your life, though, that your call will take place without incident? More specifically, what happens if you lose power? What if Zoom isn’t available, or the call latency is surprisingly high? How about if a key call participant can’t figure out Zoom or her computer crashes? What do you do? Think quick. The clock is ticking. After hundreds of Zoom calls, I’ve yet to experience any of these catastrophic scenarios. If they ever do occur, though, my blood pressure won’t double because I’m already armed with a suitable backup. Long before I started using Meetings & Chat in earnest, I relied upon Free Conference Call, an (obviously) free service that lets its users hold individual group audio calls, record them, and save and distribute them at will. (By the way, plenty of similar tools exist.) Make no mistake: My default preference these days is to hold all of my audio and video calls via Meetings & Chat, and not just because I’m researching Zoom. It’s downright silly, though, not to have a backup communications tool at the ready in case things break bad. I always keep my credentials for the service Free Conference Call handy just in case.

Expect Some Resistance to Zoom at Mature Firms

If I’ve learned one thing in my years around enterprise technology, it’s that people typically hate change. Say that your work at a large, successful, and conservative pharmaceutical company. Call it Hogarth Drugs. Its 40,000 employees have used Webex as its primary videoconferencing tool for a decade or more. Immediately forcing all of them to use Zoom because Hogarth purchased an Enterprise license is likely to ruffle some feathers. Odds are that Roger, Syd, at least a few other curmudgeons will find a minor difference between Webex and Zoom and make a fuss about it. Organizational politics at its finest. Should Hogarth hold off on Zoom because a few squeaky wheels have made some noise? Of course not, but its management should expect at least a little employee disaffection.

Avoid Zoom Fatigue

Zoom has simplified and improved the process of holding videoconferences. Coupled with its innovative tech, robust features, and superior call quality, you may be tempted use video for every meeting and conversation with your customers, colleagues, friends, and family members. Don’t. Dr. Jeremy Bailenson is a bestselling author, virtual-reality expert, the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and an overall smart dude. His extensive research suggests that defaulting to videoconferences results in what he terms nonverbal overload. (Read his insightful Wall Street Journal op-ed.) Occasionally, unplugging your webcam gives your brain a much-needed respite.

Zoom Articles

How to Share Content with Zoom Meeting Participants

Screen-sharing and annotation tools have been around for decades. In fact, if Zoom had failed to include these valuable features, many people would rightfully consider them glaring omissions, including yours truly. Meetings & Chat is more than up the task. You can share your screen with others and even allow them to control your computer’s mouse and keyboard. What’s more, you can allow others to mark up your screen — and vice versa.

Share your screen with others

As the meeting’s host, you can easily share your screen with participants by following these steps:
  1. During your meeting, drag your mouse to the bottom of the screen. Zoom displays the in-meeting menu.
  2. Click on the Screen Share icon. Zoom displays all your computer’s currently open programs, as you can see here.

    If you’re using multiple monitors and programs, then expect a wide array of choices.

  3. Click on the specific screen, desktop, or application that you want to share with meeting participants. You can also select Zoom’s whiteboard or your tablet or smartphone if you've connected them to your computer via cables.
  4. (Optional) If you want to share your computer’s sound and/or optimize your screen-share session for playing videos, then select the corresponding checkboxes in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.
  5. Click on the Advanced tab at the top of the screen to do the following:
    • Share a portion of your screen
    • Share music or computer sound only
    • Content from a second, external camera
  6. Click on the blue Share button in the lower right-hand corner.
Zoom adds both a green You are screen-sharing notification and a red Stop Share indicator to the bottom of the in-meeting menu, as shown. Zoom also places a green enclosure around the specific screen that you are sharing as a subtle reminder.

Just because another meeting participant can control your screen doesn’t mean that you are at his mercy. That is, you can still move your mouse, type your keyboard, and perform other normal computer functions.

Understand exactly what you’re sharing

Zoom’s robust screen-sharing options can confound newbies and even experienced users. To eliminate this confusion, refer to the first figure in this article. Why did Zoom display all of those screens? To answer this question, I need to supply some background information about how I work. My current computing setup includes a MacBook Pro and an ASUS external monitor. At the time that I shared my screen, I was running nine different programs on my computer. Taken together, you now understand why Zoom offered me so many different sharing options. (When it comes to screen-sharing, Meetings & Chat doesn’t discriminate.) For the sake of simplicity, I’m highlighting only four of them:
  • Desktop 1: If I select this option (A), then I share any and all programs running on my MacBook Pro’s screen. Say that I hit Command+Tab on my Mac to toggle to a different program. (PC users use Alt+Tab to do the same thing.) Because I previously chose Desktop 1, all participants would continue to see everything on my Mac’s screen. Note that Zoom places a big white “1” on the left-hand side of my screen to remind me that I’d be sharing this desktop.
  • Desktop 2: If I select this option (B), then I share any and all programs that I have pinned to my external monitor. When I hit toggle to a different program, then participants continue to see everything that I’m showing that monitor. Note that Zoom places a big white 2 on the left-hand side of my external monitor to remind me that I’d be sharing this desktop.
  • Zoom’s whiteboard: Selecting this option (C) means that I am sharing my Zoom whiteboard only with meeting participants
  • Microsoft Word: Selecting this option means that I’m sharing Microsoft Word (D) only during my meeting. As a result, when I switch to a web browser or Spotify, then Zoom automatically pauses screen-sharing for all meeting participants because I have effectively moved Word to the background. That is, it is no longer the active program on my computer.

There’s nothing absolute about Zoom’s screen-sharing options. Your specific choices will hinge upon your hardware and the applications that you’re running. A simple example will illustrate my point.

Samir works at Initech and uses a Microsoft Surface and does not connect an external monitor to it. He’s currently noodling with both a Microsoft Word document and an Excel spreadsheet. This figure shows a crude mockup of Samir’s screen. It’s time for Samir’s weekly meeting with his boss Bill. Samir shares only Microsoft Word with him. In specific this case, the term screen-sharing is a bit of a misnomer. In other words, Samir isn’t sharing his computer’s entire screen. Rather, he is sharing only one specific program: Word. If Samir wanted to share Excel with Bill, then he would have to end his new screen-sharing session and initiate a new one. Of course, if Samir shared his entire desktop, then he could have concurrently shared both programs with Bill from the start.

Sharing a desktop with meeting participants can be very different than sharing a specific program.

When sharing your desktop, by default you cannot share the Zoom application itself. You can change this setting by following these steps:
  1. Launch the Zoom desktop client.
  2. Click on the Settings icon in the upper-right hand corner. Zoom displays your settings.
  3. Click on Share Screen on the left-hand side.
  4. Select the Show Zoom windows during screen share checkbox.

Perform different tasks while sharing your screen

Of course, you may want to do more than just share your screen. Zoom allows you to perform the following related functions during an existing screen-sharing session:
  • Pause your screen-sharing session
  • Stop sharing your screen altogether
  • Share a different one of your screens with users
To perform these options, follow whichever of the following directions you like:
  • If you want to temporarily stop sharing your screen, click on the Pause Share button. Zoom displays a message that reads, “Your screen sharing is paused.”
  • If you want to share a different screen with meeting participants, click on the New Share button.
  • When you want to stop sharing your screen, click on the red Stop Share button underneath the in-meeting menu in the center.

Those who don’t exercise caution when sharing their screens run the risk of embarrassing themselves and even losing their jobs

Let meeting participants control your screen

Peter works in IT, and he’s helping Bob diagnose an issue on the latter’s computers. For many reasons, Peter may want to control Bob’s screen remotely:
  • It’s just a more efficient way of working.
  • Peter doesn’t want to keep barking orders at Bob. (This reason is my personal favorite for granting others the ability to control my screen.)
  • Bob doesn’t care to know the exact steps required to solve it. He just wants Peter to take care of it for him.
Say that you want a meeting participant to control your computer. To let any current meeting participant drive (as the kids say), follow these steps:
  1. During your live meeting, drag your mouse or cursor to the bottom of Zoom. Zoom displays the in-meeting menu.
  2. Click on the Share Screen icon.
  3. After you share your screen, click on the Remote Control icon.
  4. (Optional) Select the Auto accept all requests option.

    To let a specific individual control your computer, follow the same steps but instead select Give Mouse/Keyboard Control to: and click on the name of the participant to whom you want to give control of your computer.

  5. Advise others in the meeting that they can control your screen if they request access.
  6. Say that you don’t want to automatically accept all requests. When you see a participant’s request to assume control, click on the blue Approve button to grant her control of your screen.

Request control of a host’s screen

The following steps apply to meeting participants who would like to request control of the host’s screen:
  1. Move your computer’s cursor to the top of the Zoom desktop client window. When you do, Zoom presents View Options menu.
  2. Click on the View Options menu and choose Request Remote Control from the menu that appears. Zoom indicates that you are requesting control of the host’s screen.
  3. Click on the blue Request button.
Zoom displays your request to assume control on the host’s screen. At this point, the host needs to approve your request.

Regain control of your computer

If you’re the host and want to resume control of your computer, follow these steps:
  1. Return to the Zoom meeting. In other words, control the mouse and tab over from whatever other program or screen you were sharing.
  2. Mouse over the in-meeting menu
  3. Click on the red Stop Share button.

How to annotate your screen

Zoom lets meeting participants do far more than just share their screens with each other. With a few clicks, you can annotate others’ screens. In so doing, you can provide specific feedback, make insightful suggestions, or pinpoint a problem in a way that words alone often fails to do.

Using a dedicated whiteboard

Odds are that you’ve seen a physical whiteboard at some point at work. Using markers, people in the room can sketch any number of diagrams on dry erase boards. They can document business processes, redesign org charts, mock up logos, write code, or just about anything else. Why should Zoom be any different? After you do, Zoom displays its whiteboard in the following figure. The following table displays the whiteboard’s menu items and describes what they do.

Say that you lose track of Zoom’s the annotation tool menu. Just click on the Annotate button in the in-meeting menu. Zoom once again brings its annotation tools again to the front.

Zoom’s annotation tools are available only during screen-sharing sessions.

After you launch the communal whiteboard, others may want to add their own notes to it If you’re a participant and want to add notes to a communal whiteboard, follow these steps:
  1. From the desktop client, move your computer’s cursor to the top of the Zoom desktop client window.
  2. From the View Options menu that appears, choose Annotate.
You can now add whatever annotations to the whiteboard you desire. Note that everyone in the meeting can annotate at the same time.

Annotating a screen

Zoom doesn’t force meeting hosts and participants to use a dedicated whiteboard to make annotations. Everyone in the meeting can mark up a regular screen and the program running on it. The possibilities here are limitless, but here’s one common example. Geno is developing a new version of a website for his client Jerry. Geno invites Jerry to a Zoom video meeting and follows these directions:
  1. Share your screen with others.
  2. Click on the Annotate button in the in-meeting menu.
  3. From here, pinpoint design elements and changes in a far more specific way than mere words would allow. Returning to the previous example, Jerry can now show Geno exactly where he wants to move a picture or the logo in the header.

Invoking other meeting options

Hosts can invoke a few other options to control their meetings. Follow these steps to invoke these options:
  1. Launch the Zoom desktop client.
  2. Start a meeting and enable your video.
  3. Click on the Participants icon on the black in-meeting menu at the bottom of the screen. Zoom displays a new screen on the right-hand side.
  4. In the lower right-hand corner, click on the More button.
  5. Zoom presents the self-explanatory choices in the following table.

Zoom Articles

Look and Sound Your Best in Zoom Meetings

No one forces you to enable video during your Zoom meetings. You can always join via audio only. Still, from time to time you’re going to want the world to see you.

Looking your best in Zoom

A seldom-used Zoom feature called Touch Up My Appearance purportedly helps smooth out the skin tone on your face. No, it won’t transform me into Brad Pitt or Idris Elba, but think of it as the equivalent of putting on some digital makeup. Follow these directions to enable this feature:
  1. Launch the Zoom desktop client.
  2. Click on the Settings icon in the upper-right hand corner. Zoom displays your settings.
  3. On the left-hand side, click on Video.
  4. To the right of My Video, select the Touch up my appearance checkbox.

Refrain from looking at other devices and screens during your meeting, especially if you’ve enabled video. Others will quickly pick up on your lack of concentration.

Presenting a professional appearance in Zoom

Kerry Barrett runs a full-service, media-prep, training, consulting, and camera-readiness firm based in New Jersey. She is a 20-year veteran of the broadcast news industry and an Emmy-Award winning TV news anchor, reporter, and producer. People often ask me, “How can I make myself look as good as possible on my Zoom meetings?” Here are a few simple tips on improving your shot. By following them, you will subtlety encourage meeting participants to engage with you.
  • Lighting: If you sit in front of a bright window or lamp, then you’ll be in silhouette. Likewise, don’t sit directly under a bright lamp. Always place light directly in front of you.
  • Webcam: Place it at or slightly above eye-level. No one needs to see your nostrils, half of your face, or your kitchen ceiling.
  • Framing: TV stations deliberately shoot anchors from the mid-chest or mid-torso. By doing this, viewers can see the anchors’ eyes and begin to establish trust with them. The same idea applies to your Zoom meetings. Also, remove the dead space around you. Place your head slightly below the top of the video box. Finally, sit front and center in front of your computer or tablet. Your body should fill up the video screen.
  • Personal appearance: Avoid wearing red and white colors during your meetings. The first two notoriously cause lighting issues. Instead, consider a brighter hue that makes you pop against your background. Wear company-branded apparel if it fits into those parameters.
  • Background: Viewers tend to find neutral backgrounds less off-putting than dark ones. What’s more, they provide invaluable contrast. (Gangster move: If possible, hold your meeting in a room with light gray walls.)
If you take my advice, then you’ll look your best during your Zoom meetings. To enable video during on Zoom’s desktop client, you need to use your laptop’s internal webcam or an external one. Projecting a more professional visage isn’t hard — in other words, to avoid the nostril-cam previously mentioned. Just prop your laptop up on some books. If that doesn’t work for you, then consider purchasing a proper laptop stand. For years I’ve happily used an inexpensive AmazonBasics ventilated one. As for external webcams, arguably the hottest one on the market now is the Logitech BRIO.

How to optimize sound quality in Zoom

Of course, how you present yourself to others represents only part of the meeting experience. The other side is how you sound during your meetings — and, for that matter, how other participants sound to you. At a high level, a good deal hinges upon the quality of your computer’s audio components. Contrary to what you may think, newer computers don’t necessarily ship with better hardware in this regard than older ones did. Plenty of folks aren’t satisfied with the sound emanating from their computer’s native microphones and speakers. If you find yourself in this boat, you can tweak your computer’s audio settings. Still disgruntled? Then consider purchasing an external microphone. I’m a fan of the Yeti Blue. As for headphones and speakers, I have found tremendous variation among Bluetooth devices. Some models work seamlessly, while others cut in and out throughout meetings.

Ask a trusted friend for honest feedback on A/V situation.

Finally, don’t expect first-rate audio and video quality during Zoom meetings if your Internet connection is spotty. Zoom can only do so much. If you’re having a tough time hearing others and vice versa, consider disabling your video. Ask others in the meeting to do the same.

Your overall audio and video quality during Zoom meetings stem from a number of factors. If you’re experiencing problems, use the process of elimination. For example, try to connect to a friend’s network when taking Zoom meetings. Does performance improve? Use a family member’s computer instead of yours. Eventually, you’ll figure out what’s causing your issue.