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April 14, 2020

Keep on Zooming (safely)

Aren’t online tools amazing? In the current lockdown, organisations across Leeds have had to make difficult choices about suspending support and activity groups. Using tools like Zoom, Skype, Facebook groups or WhatsApp is allowing people to ‘meet’ for coffee mornings, chats, choirs, exercise and lots more.

It’s amazing to see how creative Neighbourhood Networks and Time to Shine delivery partners are being in order to keep their members in touch and to hear about the numbers of people joining in.

One of the most popular tools at the moment is Zoom, which is a video and audio conferencing platform (fancy way of saying you can join in with meetings on the internet and see and hear everyone else). If you’re familiar with it, you’ll no doubt have seen our government holding cabinet meetings using that very tool. It can be really helpful – if it’s used well.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours’ Scheme has certainly proved that! Their virtual coffee mornings go from strength-to-strength, and they’ve written a blog about their experiences and filmed a guide on how to train members to use Zoom.

Using Zoom well is certainly helping people stay connected, but our team member Harriet has reminded us that even modern ways to communicate can run in to difficulty.

Apparently some groups around the world have found themselves ‘zoombombed’ by strangers, who have joined the meeting and shared content that has caused offence and even distress. We really don’t want that happening to any of the amazing groups running in Leeds, so here are Harriet’s tips for safer Zooming, aimed at the people running the meeting:

  • Choose to “schedule” meetings that are open to the public. This gives you the option to use a one-time meeting ID instead of your personal meeting ID, so there is less chance of a meeting being targeted repeatedly.
  • Consider enabling Waiting Room for your meeting. (Zoom has now enabled this by default. It holds participants in a virtual waiting room until you let them in, so keep an eye on ‘Manage Participants’ to let them in).
  • Set a password for the meeting. Zoom has now enabled this by default.
  • From the Screen Sharing control, choose ‘host only’ if you want to stop anyone else sharing their screen with the meeting.
  • In settings, you can choose to disable ‘Join before host’ for your meetings. Useful if you are not using a waiting room.
  • In settings, choose to disable ‘File transfer’ for your meetings.
  • As a host, you can remove participants. To prevent them re-joining, disable ‘Allow removed participants to rejoin’ in settings.
  • If your meeting is not open to the public, don’t share the meeting ID or “join link” in public places (on Twitter or Facebook, for example).

In case you’re not using Zoom yet and think it might be useful, another local group, People in Action, has shared a video tutorial on You Tube called ‘Learn to install and use Zoom on a computer’ which might just prove helpful!

However you’re keeping in touch with your members, whether it’s online, by telephone, by post, or by dropping off shopping and waving from a distance, remember to stay safe. And also remember how much this social connection is helping us all get through a difficult time.

Gillian Schofield
Time to Shine