Best Practices for Zoom Webinars & Virtual Conferences

Knowledge

For the foreseeable future, the virtual conference is king. As the corporate world adjusts to long-term social distancing, more and more companies are utilizing virtual workspaces and proactively preparing by hosting virtual events using tools such as Zoom. Planning these requires many of the same principles and procedures as planning in-person events—but online meet-ups also require a shift in thinking about how the event should take place and a willingness from participants to learn new, unfamiliar technology.

At Belief Agency, we’ve leaned into virtual communication with our team via Zoom, and we’re helping many of our clients do the same. This guide is a basic orientation for anyone new to Zoom conferencing and webinars—if you’re considering hosting one for your company, keep reading for information that might make the thought a little less intimidating. 

Step 1: Make sure you have the right setup

Set yourself up for success by ensuring you have the right tools at your disposal. 

  • Purchase a Zoom meeting license. Hosts need a Zoom Pro or Business meeting license—without one, participant numbers and meeting times are limited. With the license, meetings allow up to 300 participants for an unlimited amount of time. Only the host needs this license; attendees and speakers can easily join using the free version. For larger meetings (over 300 people) or if you need more webinar-specific functionality, you can purchase Zoom’s webinar add-on (scroll down to the “video webinar” section for pricing options).
  • Set up your workstation. Although you can host a Zoom meeting via mobile or tablet, we recommend managing these events through your laptop or desktop. Purchasing a webcam, microphone, and light will increase the production quality of your virtual conference or webinar.

Step 2: Determine roles and responsibilities

When it’s time to schedule your webinar, it’s important to determine who is doing what (and when).

  • Once you know who your speaker is, make sure to designate a host to run the show behind the scenes. The host—also known as the technical director—is responsible for starting and managing the livestream. It’s their responsibility to make live camera switches and adjust settings while recording, so the speaker can simply focus on their presentation (in other words, on speaking). The host should have their camera and microphone turned off so they remain invisible to the audience. Depending on the scale of the webinar, you may also want to assign a co-host who can help manage settings and mute/unmute speakers as needed.
  • If you’re hosting a webinar with several different speakers and a live audience, you may also want to assign a session chair. A session chair ensures each speaker is able to join the call. This person will also give an introduction at the beginning of the webinar, keep track of time, and field audience Q&As. 
  • Schedule your webinar using a single Zoom meeting ID for the entire time block. A single meeting ID for a continuous block of time is much simpler for managing multiple presenters and attendees who may want to drop in and out of the Zoom meeting. A single Zoom account cannot have two meetings scheduled at once, so be sure to designate a host who is able to stay for the entirety of the presentation. 
  • Send instructions and invites ahead of time. This will give your invitees a chance to download the app beforehand and be prepared. You may also consider having your attendees register for the event. (Registration can be helpful if you’re expecting a large number of attendees or if you need to capture specific information that will help with reporting and analysis.)

Step 3: Use the correct Zoom settings

Adjusting your settings is imperative to ensuring high-quality video and audio. 

  • Stabilize your internet connection. Zoom requires at least 3 Mbps up/down bandwidth to achieve clear audio, video, and screen sharing. For event broadband traffic and call traffic, we prefer a minimum of 10 Mbps up/down on a hardwired Ethernet or fiber connection.
  • Set up dual monitors for the host. If you’re hosting the session, we recommend using two monitors: one to watch the webinar to make sure everything is running smoothly and one to adjust settings on the fly.
    • How to adjust Zoom for the best settings:
      • Select “Use dual monitors” (listed under “General settings”)
      • Select “Enable HD” (under the “Video” subfolder)
      • Select “16:9 widescreen” (listed under “Video settings”)
      • Select “Enable mirror effect” (listed under “Video settings”)
      • Select “Display participant’s name on their video”
      • Select “Hide non-video participants”
      • Depending on the type of webinar you’re hosting, you may also want to adjust a few additional settings.
  • If you’re hosting a secure internal event, consider using Zoom’s Waiting Room feature. You can either send all participants or guests (participants who aren’t on your Zoom account) to the Waiting Room when they join your meeting. You can then admit attendees one by one or all at once. 
    • To enable this setting:
      • Sign in to the Zoom web portal.
      • Click “Meetings.”
      • Click a meeting topic to edit or schedule a new meeting.
      • Under “Meeting options,” check “Enable Waiting Room.”
      • Click “save.”
  • If you’re hosting a simulated (pre-recorded) live event, use local recording to save the recorded session to your hard drive. Local recording is recommended over cloud recording for better audio and video quality. 
    • To enable local recording: 
      • Sign in to the Zoom web portal and click “My meeting settings” (if you’re an account administrator) or “Meeting settings” (if you’re an account member).
      • In the “Recording” tab, navigate to the “Local recording” option and verify the setting is enabled.
      • If the setting is disabled, click the toggle to enable it. If a verification dialog displays, choose “Turn on” to verify the change.
      • Read more about local recording settings here.
    • To record locally: 
      • Start a Zoom meeting as the host.
      • Click “Record.”
      • If there is a menu, select “Record on this computer.”
      • There will be a recording indicator in the top-left corner while recording is active.
      • After the meeting has ended, Zoom will export the recording so you can access the files.
      • Once the exportation process is complete, the folder containing the recorded files will open.
      • By default, the audio/video file (MP4) will be named Zoom_(meeting ID).mp4. The audio only file (M4A) will be named audio_only.m4a.
      • By default, all recordings will be placed in a Zoom folder found in the following file path:
        • PC: C:\Users\User Name\Documents\Zoom
        • Mac: /Users/User Name/Documents/Zoom
  • When recording locally, the host can record all participants’ audio streams as separate audio files—a good practice in case a file gets corrupted. Having multiple backup files is also helpful should you run into any issues with editing software.
    • To enable this option:
      • Open the Zoom client and click “Settings.”
      • Click the “Recording” tab.
      • Enable “Record a separate audio file” for each participant.
      • Record and save the meeting on your computer.
      • Once the meeting is over and the recording has processed, open the recording folder. 
      • Within the folder, open “Audio record.”
      • Once in the “Audio record” folder, each participant’s audio track will be listed as its own file with a filename that ends in the participant’s name.
  • Here are some additional recording layout settings you may find useful:
    • Record active speaker with shared screen
      • Record both active speaker view (view whoever is speaking) and shared content on the same video.
    • Record gallery view with shared screen
      • Record both gallery view (view all participants) and shared content on the same video.
    • Record active speaker, gallery view, and shared screen separately
      • Select the recording layout types you want to record as separate videos.
      • Note: With this file type, you’ll see the shared screen recording next to the active speaker or gallery view when viewing a cloud recording in the Zoom web portal.
    • Read more about recording layouts here.

Step 4: Do a test run

Scheduling a dry run to troubleshoot any issues before your live event is essential. 

  • Run through at least part of the presentation as if you’re recording live. This will identify any snags or issues with your Zoom settings before the live event.
  • Make sure your presenters and attendees have a clear and concise agenda. Just like an in-person event, it’s important to stay organized with a meeting outline. All parties should agree on their speaking time beforehand to eliminate errors or confusion during the call. 
  • Check your recording settings after the test run is over. Adjust the recording settings if the playback quality isn’t up to par or if you’ve identified any other issues affecting your recording. If you’re recording a simulated-live event, you may also want to pull the video files into your video editing software to make sure you don’t run into any potential snags.

Step 5: Do it live!

Here are some best practices once you go live:

  • Have the host and speakers join 30 minutes before the call. This way you can make sure everything is ready to go. When you’re ready, don’t forget to let the attendees in from the Waiting Room if that setting is enabled. If you’re hosting a webinar, you can also start a practice session, which allows the host and panelists to join—just switch to a live broadcast when everyone is ready.
  • Assign roles within Zoom before the webinar starts. You can promote speakers to panelist roles and assign a co-host at this point if needed. Everyone else will be considered an attendee and will have limited access to video and microphone controls, according to the level of access the host has assigned to them. You can also assign roles ahead of time by sending separate invitations to presenters and attendees.
  • Encourage everyone to turn on their video. Being able to see faces, reactions, and body language creates a more engaging experience for everyone, especially when presenting to smaller groups. But for webinars—as opposed to meetings—you’ll want to mute and turn off video for attendees by default since this virtual event is typically focused on one to three speakers.
  • Have any presenters planning to share their screen mute themselves or temporarily disable all notifications and pop-ups. This will prevent email dings or private messages from popping up during the presentation. On a Mac, you can do this by turning on the “Do not disturb” feature.
  • Plan your wardrobe (at least, from the waist up). Make sure you aren’t wearing articles of clothing with logos (unless it’s your own company’s) or anything else that might be distracting to the audience. Solid colors are always a good choice over patterns. Be mindful of any accessories or jewelry, especially if you’re expressive with your hands, as the noise and movement could be distracting. 
  • Conduct a poll to get feedback. If you have a larger group, this is a great way to gauge the audience’s response and figure out how to improve your next presentation.

Finally, here are a few other Zoom features that may be useful for your next virtual event: customized branding, accessibility features, audience registration, breakout room sessions, audience polls, webinar reporting, and the ability to stream your webinar on YouTube.
As always, feel free to contact us with any questions. Just give us a call or send us an email. And be sure to read our blogs on how to create content while your customers are stuck at home and how to adapt your in-person business to digital.

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