Skip to content

Clever tricks with Zoom

Zoom has some clever tricks available to make a meeting more efficient and fun. Virtual Backgrounds, sharing screens, files, chatting on the sidelines, raising your (virtual) hand and changing the boss of the meeting (aka Host).

Also an important tip for PowerPoint in a Zoom meeting.

Here’s some Zoom tricks we’ve found and used. As usual, tips includes suggestions not in the official documentation.

Exact features in Zoom and where they’re located depends on the app (Windows, Mac, iPad etc).

Get ready to Zoom ….

Protecting yourself and others on Zoom

Virtual Backgrounds

Virtual Backgrounds are one reason Zoom is so popular.  It’s like the ‘green screen’ that TV weather presenters use to appear in front of the map.

In the trade it’s called Chroma Key or ‘Green Screen’ (even if the background isn’t green).

Zoom lets you choose any image for your background.

Source: Zoom

Setup at Settings | Virtual Background. Zoom provides a few images but the real fun comes in selecting your own.  Peter Deegan uses one of his own photos from Antarctica.

I have a green screen – Zoom’s ‘Chroma key’ is pretty good but you’ll get better results with a uniform background.  Regular hosts/presenters get an all green background, either a special product or a sheet that’s the right color.

Mirror my video – flips the image vertically.

Host control – Meeting hosts can disable virtual background for participants.

Virtual Background tips

A few suggestions.  Uniform lighting is necessary, no glaring lights or windows behind you.

Watch what you wear

Make sure nothing you wear is the same color as your background.  Zoom might not be able to distinguish between your clothes and the background.

Even your hair could be a problem! MaryJane Almer discovered that her lovely blonde hair blended into the glam background.

Thanks to MJ for permission to use this photo

Try another camera

A different camera can make a difference to the result with virtual background.  MaryJane discovered that her hair troubles (above) were fixed by switching to another webcam.

Too distracting

There’s a risk having a distracting virtual background which draws attention away from you.  It’s supposed to be ‘background’ not a ‘conversation piece’


Settings | Preview lets you check the look with you and the virtual background before any call.

Always show video preview dialog when joining a video meeting – lets you check your hair and background before showing up for the meeting.

Other Video Settings

Settings | Video has some other options to consider:

Touch up my appearance – is a ‘soft focus’ effect which smoothes out skin tones.  A film effect popular in the 80’s, supposedly with Vaseline on the lens.  Zoom’s version is very subtle and a lot less messy.

Enable HD – if your camera supports it, switch to high-definition video.  Use this with care, if at all.  HD adds a lot to the bandwidth for you and others in the meeting.  It’s usually not necessary and often more trouble than it’s worth.

Turn off my video when joining a meeting – a simple way to reduce congestion and bandwidth. You can turn video on when needed.

Video Background

Videos can be used as a background instead of a still photo.

That can be distracting and it’s definitely a bandwidth hog.  Video streaming is clever at figuring out the static parts and only sending data for what’s changed from the previous frame.  Adding action to the background increases the amount of video data sent.  On a slow or congested link that should be avoided.

On the other hand, for more social calls, a video background can be a lot of fun.

Roller coaster rides, surfboard riding, scuba diving anyone?

Raise Hand in a meeting

A simple, polite way to get a word into a group meeting is to click the Raise Hand button. It’s under the More … menu for everyone except the Host.

A raised hand appears in the list of Participants.

Group Chat

A wide text messaging thread is available with any meeting. Click on Chat.

Messages can be to the entire group or to one person.

The host cannot see private messages between participants.

Save Chats

Chats can be saved for later reference, look under the three-dots menu for ‘Save Chat’

Chatting with pictures

Zoom chat can send pictures but they don’t appear in the chat as they do in WhatsApp and other messaging apps.

The host can control what file types can be transferred.  If you see a error “File is blocked for security reasons” ask the host to update the Meeting settings for File Transfer.

There’s no clipboard option, to send a current screen image you have to take the screen-shot, save as file then send the picture file.

Share Screen, Window and more

Under the Share Screen option are many choices beyond sending video of your current computer screen.

On the Basic tab, choose any open window, program or the Zoom whiteboard.

Share PowerPoint on Zoom

To Zoom, PowerPoint is just another program or window.

Start PowerPoint and open your presentation, the Slide Show tab and start the presentation.

In Zoom choose Share Screen and choose the PowerPoint window.

Turn off Presenter View

Warning! Zoom displays the Presenter View to other callers!  Even though the presenter is seeing the full screen slide, the others in the call see that, the next slide, notes and other presenter controls.  They see something like this …

Fix that by turning off Presenter View from the Slide Show tab.

Advanced Sharing

The Advanced tab lets you send computer sound only or from another camera attached to the computer.

Share Content

Also under Share Screen is a Files tab that lets you share files on popular cloud services, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive or Box.

IMPORTANT: Setup links to your cloud service BEFORE the online call.  There’s a login and setup process to deal with on the first connection.

iPad Share Content

Similar options are on the Zoom app for iPad under Share Content.

Who’s Talking?

Look for the ‘Talking:’ box to see who is currently talking.  Very handy on large meetings and audio only group calls.

Change Host

The host of a meeting is the controller of overall settings.  Usually it’s the person who started the call or meeting but can be changed, by the current host, to someone else.

Look on the list of Participants, click on More … then choose Make Host.

The original host can resume their role by choosing ‘Reclaim Host’.

Attention Tracking

A somewhat controversial option is at Settings | Meetings | In meeting (Advanced) | Attention Tracking.

‘In focus’ does NOT mean the camera focus.  It’s the computer term for the currently used program, in other words the program ‘on top’ and in use.

If the Zoom program isn’t ‘on top’ for more than 30 seconds the host can be warned with a little ‘clock’ icon next to their name on the Participants list.

Of course, there can be very good reasons for not having the Zoom app in focus.  People could be taking notes in another program or checking something for the group.

The controversy comes from a misunderstanding. Attention tracking does NOT check if someone is looking at the camera.  As long as the Zoom app is in focus on the computer, you can go for a walk in the park.

Browser only meeting is possible

It is possible to join a Zoom meeting without installing their software.  A browser interface is available though it’s limited, tucked away and hard to find.

At the start of a call or test in your browser, look for the tiny ‘join from your browser’ link.

We could not get the browser interface to start at all, you might have better luck.

If you’re starting a call or meeting, offering the browser link is a very hidden option.  The host can turn the browser option off completely from Settings | Meetings | In meeting (Advanced) way down the bottom “Show a ‘Join from your browser’ link

Get ready to Zoom ….

Setup Contacts on Zoom

Zoom ‘1 to 1’ calls – making and answering

Protecting yourself and others on Zoom

About this author

Office Watch is the independent source of Microsoft Office news, tips and help since 1996. Don't miss our famous free newsletter.