How to Get Started with Zoom: Have Your First Video Call Today

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
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Zoom is a video conferencing service that you can use to virtually meet with other people, either one-on-one or in large groups. During normal circumstances, Zoom is mostly used by small and medium businesses in order to help remote employees keep in touch.

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic has been on the rise, though, Zoom has become one of the go-to apps for business meetings, as well as for schools and colleges around the world. If you’ve never used the app before, but are pressed to do so by present circumstances, this article will teach you how to get started and host or attend your first video call, step-by-step.

First Things First: How to Navigate the App on Different Platforms

The easiest way to get started with Zoom is to download the desktop app. To use the app, though, you’ll first have to sign up for free on Zoom’s website. Don’t worry: the process is super quick and you only need an email address and a password. If you prefer, you can even sign up using a Google, Facebook, or SSO account.

Once you’ve downloaded the app and signed in, you should see this clean, streamlined interface to begin with:

Image Source: Zoom Desktop App

At the top of the window, you should have the following four options:

  • The Home screen button.
  • The Chat button, which takes you to Zoom’s messenger.
  • The Meetings button, which takes you to your Meetings overview. From here, you can view any scheduled meetings, as well as start and join video calls.
  • The Contacts button, which takes you to your list of contacts and channels.

Image Source: Zoom Desktop App

In case you don’t have access to a desktop or you’d rather attend video calls on your phone, you can download the Zoom app for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Once you’ve signed in, you’ll notice that the options menu is now located at the bottom, rather than the top of your screen.

The four available options are:

  • Meet & Chat, where you can quickly start a messenger chat or a video call.
  • Meetings, where you can view scheduled video calls, as well as start and attend meetings.
  • Contacts, to reach your list of contacts.
  • Settings, where you can easily make changes to your account and set your preferences for chatting and video calls.

Both the desktop and the mobile versions of Zoom will ask you to create and use an account in order to host or attend meetings. But you can also access Zoom via your browser, where you can join a conference without signing in.

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If, for example, you just want to attend a lecture from your school, you can go to Zoom’s homepage and click “Join a Meeting” at the top of the screen. Then, you enter the Meeting ID and you’re in!

Hosting vs Joining a Meeting

Depending on whether you’re a host or an attendee, you have different options prior to and during a meeting. With a free account from Zoom, you can host meetings with up to 100 attendees and lasting no more than 40 minutes. If you represent a school or a college, however, you’ll be happy to know that Zoom has lifted the 40-minute restriction for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis for all educational activities.

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To host a meeting on the desktop app, go to the Meetings tab and press “Start”. Zoom will then connect to your mic and, in case you’ve selected the video option, to your web cam. You’ll also get an invite URL address to help others attend the conference, together with the password that they need to join.

As a host, you can do the following things during a meeting:

  • Mute and Unmute your mic.
  • Start and Stop your video feed.
  • Manage current participants and invite others to the meeting.
  • Create live polls.
  • Share your screen with participants.
  • Open the chat window to talk to some or all of the participants in text form.
  • Split the meeting into multiple breakout rooms and alternate between the latter.
  • Record the meeting.
  • End the meeting for all participants.

Image Source: Zoom Desktop App

If you’re a teacher or professor using Zoom to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, you might want to schedule meetings and let your students know about them ahead of time. Plus, you can create recurring meetings for specific time intervals so that you don’t have to constantly send students a new URL address. You can do all of this from the Meetings tab in the desktop app.

The easiest way to join a meeting on the desktop app is to navigate to the Home tab and click “Join”. Then, you’ll be asked to provide the meeting ID and, in case this is enabled by the host, the meeting password.

In addition, you’ll be able to create a name tag for yourself, as well as turn off your video feed and disconnect your mic prior to entering the meeting. These setting are especially useful if you’re a student looking to join a lecture from one of your professors.

Image Source: Zoom Desktop App

As an attendee, you have the following options during a meeting:

  • Mute and Unmute your mic. You can also enable the “Push to Talk” option in Settings, which lets you activate your mic by pressing Space only when you speak.
  • Start and Stop your video feed.
  • View current attendees and invite others.
  • Share your screen, but only with the permission of the host.
  • Record the meeting, but only with the permission of the host.
  • Leave the meeting, although the meeting will continue for the other participants. The only person who can properly end the video call is the host.

Zoom has plenty of advanced options for both one-on-one and group meetings, but if you’re new to the app and you only intend to use its free version, this is enough of an introduction to get you started.

Overall, this is one of the easiest to use video conferencing services. The interface is simple and intuitive and you can access all your in-meeting options directly from the meeting screen, so you don’t have to worry about hidden buttons or features.