Last edited: 20200602
Many of these best practices apply to library programming delivered online, keeping in mind that Idaho’s Open Meetings Law does not apply to library programs.
For Everyone: Video and Audio
- Test your video and audio before your meeting: zoom.us/test
- Turn on your video, unless your appearance or background is very inappropriate or distracting. Compared to the face-to-face meeting environment, the online environment is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, so it is important to acknowledge others online. Working from a distance disrupts rapport and increases uncertainty. Video is crucial for building trust and engagement in virtual communications.
- You can make use of backgrounds in Zoom, with or without a green screen: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/210707503-Virtual-Background. Videos may also be used as backgrounds. Accepted formats are .mp4 and .mov. Maximum resolution for video backgrounds is 1280 x 720.
- Position yourself so that most of the light is coming from in front of you (behind your monitor), not from behind you. If you have a window behind you, close the blinds. Otherwise, you will be backlit and very difficult to see.
- Adjust your camera if it is too low or high. Your camera should be at eye level.
- Look at the camera. This requires some practice, as you’ll want to look at participants’ faces (including your own), but try to look at the camera when you’re talking. This tactic will mimic the in-person feeling of eye contact. It’s important to gauge reactions by looking at the screen, but alternating that with looking at the camera makes the audience feel like you’re really talking to them.
- Use a headset if you have one. Although the built-in microphone and speakers in your device will work just fine, you’ll usually get much better audio quality if you use a headset instead.
- Mute yourself when not speaking. Muting your audio when not speaking helps prevent distracting background noise for others in the meeting. This is especially important if the meeting has more than just a few participants or if you aren’t using a headset.
For Meeting Hosts: Do I Need a Licensed (Paid) Account?
- All Zoom accounts can host unlimited meetings. However, meetings hosted by a basic (free) account are limited to only 40 minutes when three or more participants are in the meeting.
- If you have a basic account and want to host a meeting with three or more participants that will last more than 40 minutes, your options are to start a new meeting after 40 minutes, limit your meetings to 40 minutes, or purchase a license from Zoom.
For Meeting Hosts: Designate an Alternate Host and/or a Co-host
- If you have a licensed (paid) account, you can designate an alternate host (another person with a licensed account) when scheduling a meeting. The alternate host will be able to start the meeting if you are unable to.
- During a meeting, you can share hosting duties with others in the meeting by promoting them to co-host. Allowing a co-host to produce (manage the administrative side of) the meeting, such as muting/unmuting participants, starting/stopping the recording, frees the main host to concentrate fully on the proceedings.
For Meeting Hosts: Manage Meeting Audio
- Hosts have the ability to mute individual participants and to mute all participants (those currently in the meeting and anyone who joins). Consider using this for public meetings or when a participant’s background noise is distracting from the meeting or when a meeting has more than just a few participants.
- In very large meetings or meetings where hosts need more control over the audio of participants, hosts can also prevent participants from unmuting themselves, placing all audio entirely in the host’s control. The host can then unmute participants as the need arises, e.g., when a participant has clicked on the Raise Hand button or during the public comments section of a public meeting agenda.
- The choice to allow public comment during a public meeting is a local one. Idaho’s Open Meetings Law does not expressly require the opportunity for public comment. See Coalition for Responsible Government v. Bonner County, First Judicial District, Bonner County Case No. CV-97-00107 (May 15, 1997) (on file with the Office of the Attorney General).
For Meeting Hosts: Keep Unwanted Guests & Disruptive Behaviors Out of Meetings
- Don’t publicly share your meeting ID, and if you’re having a public meeting, don’t use your personal meeting ID (PMI); use a randomly generated meeting ID instead.
- For private meetings, use the waiting room feature to ensure that only people you know get into the meeting. If you are hosting a public meeting, this feature is useful for preventing private conversations before the publicly noticed starting time.
- Prevent attendees from screen sharing without your consent.
- Lock non-public meetings that have already started in order to prevent new people from joining midstream. For public meetings, this feature can be used to conduct an executive session by also placing all non-board member attendees on hold and pausing any recording for the duration of the executive session.
- If you follow these tips and someone still behaves inappropriately during an online meeting, remember that hosts can mute rogue talkers and also have the power to remove anyone from the meeting at any time. If you have concerns about permanently removing someone from a public meeting, consult your library’s attorney or your library’s risk management provider (probably ICRMP).
- The new Security button in the Zoom meeting controls for hosts and co-hosts aggregates most of these features in one place, including locking the meeting, enabling the waiting room, removing participants, and restricting participants from sharing screens, using chat, or renaming themselves.
- Disable chat during public meetings. Idaho’s Open Meetings Law [chapter 2, title 74, Idaho Code] applies to the deliberations and discussions between two or more members of a board or commission on some matter which foreseeably will come before that board or commission for action. The use of a telephone to conduct such discussions does not remove the conversation from the requirements of the Open Meetings Law. Similarly, members of a public board may not use computers or texting to conduct private conversations among themselves about board business. A one-way e-mail or text communication from one trustee, board member, or city council member to another, when it does not result in the exchange of board members’ comments or responses on subjects requiring board action, does not constitute a meeting subject to the Open Meetings Law; however, such e-mail or text communications are public records and must be maintained by the agency’s records custodian for public inspection and copying.
For Meeting Hosts: If You Know (or Anticipate) That There Will Be Deaf or Hard of Hearing Attendees
- If the meeting will be ASL interpreted, deaf and hard of hearing attendees and participants need to be informed that they can PIN the interpreter’s video to the screen. Provide instructions ahead of time and on screen share for attendees/participants to read when they join the meeting. It is the host’s responsibility to hire the interpreter(s). To do this, visit https://www.idahorid.org/page-18094.
- Zoom includes a captioning feature. If the meeting is to be captioned, it is the host’s responsibility to hire a captioner and to give the captioner writing privileges. This helpful YouTube video explains how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a06O8JmpPZA.
- Using the raised hand button when asking to speak is most helpful in the Zoom environment. When there are attendees or participants who are deaf or hard of hearing, it is important for the host or co-host to monitor the raised hand icon.
- Some tips from the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for a better Zoom/Virtual meeting:
- Zoom’s “How To Zoom” YouTube Playlist
- Best Practices for Using Zoom
- 8 Tips for How to Use Zoom Like a Pro
- Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center
Assembled by Idaho Commission for Libraries consultants Dylan Baker, Deana Brown, Annie Gaines, and Kevin Tomlinson