What is Zoom and how does it work? Plus tips and tricks

What Is Zoom? 

An online audio and web conferencing platform, Zoom is used by people to make phone calls or to participate in video conference meetings. 

Eric Yuan founded Zoom back in ’11. He was a former corporate vice president for Cisco Webex, a web conferencing platform offered by Cisco, which remains a competitor in the conferencing space today. Zoom, evolved pretty quickly; the service launched in ’13 and had 1 million users by the end of the year. 

By ’17, the company had US$1 billion valuation making it a so-called unicorn. The company became a public company via an initial public offering in ’19 and became the most well-known video conferencing app used during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, research shows that Zoom is the most commonly used video conferencing solutions ahead of Skype, Google Hangouts and other similar solutions. 

What Is a Zoom Meeting? 

From Zoom Rooms (which are conference rooms running dedicated software to make conferencing easier) to phone systems, the number of products and services that Zoom offers to enterprise organizations are a lot, but its core product and the way most people know the service is Zoom Meetings.

So, what are Zoom Meetings? Well, they are audio and video conferences that allow more than one person to communicate online. They happen in the Zoom app, and anyone can start and share them; these meetings can even be started for free via the app, if you have it installed, or via the Zoom web site.

How Does Zoom Work? 

You don’t need to spend any sort of cash to start using Zoom. In fact, if the Zoom Meeting is started by someone else and that person invites you, all you need to do is follow the instructions in the email invitation to start using Zoom. 

Starting your own Zoom Meeting is pretty easy too, all you need is a Zoom account, which can be created without spending any money. Go to the official web site of Zoom and click on the “Sign Up, It’s Free” button at the top of the page and follow the instructions. Once you are done with the process, you’ll be able to start your own meetings. 

Zoom offers all sorts of different plans. Basic is free and lets you host meetings with up to hundred participants, with a limit of forty minutes/meeting. Moreover, you can have an unlimited number of 1-on-1 meetings. All of these meetings can be audio-only or video conferences. Additionally, Zoom also allows you to record and save your meetings, share your desktop with the meeting participants, and use chat tools during the meeting. All of this is included in the free basic plan. 

I think the fairly generous features of the free Basic plan will be enough for most people, in case not, then you can move onto the paid plans; Zoom Pro, Zoom Business, or Zoom Enterprise. Each of these paid plan adds substantial additional features, such as the ability to conference more than hundred people at a time and extending the meeting duration past forty minutes (in fact, a meeting can be up to twenty-four hours long). 

Tips for Successful Video Conferencing using Zoom

I have researched some of the best tips for how to use Zoom meeting rooms effectively, whether you’re doing it for business or pleasure. 

Add a Virtual Background 

OK, so you have a pretty messy home office and you are too lazy to tidy it up? The Virtual Background feature can save you the hassle. Before you intend on using this feature, make sure your desktop or laptop is powerful enough or you have a green screen behind you, it can add anything you want to the background of your video call, from a stone age landscape to a pleasant mountainous location. Setting it up is pretty simple, providing you know where to look. 

Learn Zoom Keyboard Shortcuts 

Zoom offers a plethora of different keyboard shortcuts, what’s even better is that you can easily tweak these shortcuts to make things more convenient. Check out the options under Settings > Keyboard Shortcuts. If you ask my opinion, I’d say its a good idea to set up a key for muting or unmuting your mic, as well as being able to join a meeting quickly with a shortcut, or even schedule meetings via a keyboard shortcut.  

Switch to an Audio Only Call 

Sometimes, life does not allow you to have video on while you work, or you might want to cut back on bandwidth and solely have an audio call for a moment. You can easily set the video off by default when you first join a meeting, all you have to do is to go to Settings > Video > Turn off video when joining a meeting. You can always choose to switch video back on once you’re in the meeting. It’s the perfect setting for when you need to dive into a quick call.  

Practice Good Sound Etiquette 

Good meeting etiquette is important. Not every participant in your meeting wants to hear all the tiny details of your home life. Particularly if your dog, wife, or other loved ones are prone to walking in during meetings, only unmute your mic when its your turn to talk else mute it. In large meetings, it’s a huge help so that participants aren’t overwhelmed by background noise. If possible, use headphones instead of your laptop’s speakers. The audio quality will be better for both you and the attendees within the meeting.  

Touch up Your Appearance 

Zoom can touch up your appearance a little, making your image look a bit softer and generally a little better. What you have to do is to go to Settings > Video > Touch up my appearance for a quick boost. Your face will look softer and it makes a subtle but important difference. It’s not a magic wand that will completely change everything though so make sure you still look reasonably well presented! 

Record Your Call 

As mentioned above, Zoom allows you to record and save your meetings, this way you can review your meeting anytime you want or share the call with those who missed it. If you have a basic free subscription, you can choose to store the video file locally or, alternatively, if you have subscribed to one of the paid plans, you can save it to Zoom cloud storage. All the options are in Settings > Recording, and it can be easily set up. 

Create Recurring Meetings 

Have regular daily meetings with work? Or weekly catch up with friends & family? You can easily set meetings up to recur by clicking Schedule then selecting the box next to Recurring meeting. It’s ideal for when you want to regularly arrange meetings but you don’t want the hassle of setting them up every time.  

Set Reminders 

Do you participate in many meetings and worried about missing a few just because you forgot? Go to Settings > General and you can click on a reminder there so that you’ll always receive notifications before the beginning of your meeting. Set it to 10-15 minutes so that you have plenty of time to be ready to go.  

Share Your Screen When Needed 

Whether you’re gaining advice from a colleague at work or you want to share something interesting with a family member, it’s handy to know how to share your screen. Click the Share Screen button on the Zoom app. If you’re viewing someone else’s shared screen, you can easily annotate it by clicking View Option and Annotate.


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