From Faster Than 20


Videoconferencing software with screensharing and breakout rooms.


When using the Zoom app on the iPad, if you switch out to a different app, your video will cut out.


Here’s what we’ve learned about doing highly interactive, scaleable (up to 100 people) online meetings using Zoom.

First, a quick note on our basic design approach. We’re generally not interested in broadcast-style meetings, where a small group of people speak and everyone else listens and perhaps ask questions. If this is what you want to do, you should use Zoom’s Webinar functionality. (More details on this below.)

We’re interested in highly participatory meetings. We want people engaging with the content and each other. To do this, we make heavy use of Zoom’s breakout functionality and want participants to view each other on video (both are not available as part of Zoom Webinar) and shared documents (usually Google Docs). Zoom Meetings are supposed to mimic an actual meeting where you can see everyone in the room and people can interact and be broken into groups. Zoom Webinar is set up to be more "lecture" style with one speaker and the participants are observing and listening without interacting.

For small meetings (< 10 people), there’s not a lot of special work required. For meetings that are larger, it helps to have at least two people (a facilitator and a support person) managing the meeting, and preparation is key.

Here’s how we do it.

Basic Setup

Sign in to your zoom account online, and go to My Meeting Settings (or My Webinar Settings if you are using the webinar feature). Make sure to consider each option based on your preferences for the meeting. Some key functions to consider:

  • Allow join before host - this means participants can get into the meeting before the host has joined. This is good for group meetings where the host may or may not attend, or may be late and/or you want to allow participants to join early. We use this function for monthly meetings, but we don't use it for "webinar-style" workshops.
  • Chat - we allow the chat and private chat functions to ease communication between participants. If you disable this, then don't expect to use the chat function much at all. I believe a participant can still chat with the host, but not with each other. Therefore, it puts more pressure on the host to monitor the chat.
  • Co-Host - if you have someone helping you with the meeting, you may want to enable the co-host function. This means that while someone is the host, there can also be a co-host which has similar, but limited, features as the host. NOTE: The Host matters. Only the Host (/not/ Co-hosts) can create and manage breakout groups.
  • Breakout Rooms - if you want to use this function, you must enable it in your settings. Again, only the host will see it pop up on their zoom screen if this is enabled.

For larger meetings (> 15 people), configure your meeting in zoom settings so that people are muted when they join. They can unmute themselves once they’re on. This helps minimize disruptions, especially if people are late.

You can configure meetings that require registration to join. In these cases, participants must use their unique registration link to join (there is no generic link). You can send someone their unique registration link by going to the registration list and clicking “resend confirmation email” to certain people.

Unfortunately, you can’t automatically send reminders unless you’re using Zoom Webinar, so you’ll have to do that manually.


In your invitation:

  • Be clear that this will be interactive and on video. In other words, this will not be a passive meeting that you can have on in the background, and you’ll want to make sure you show up as whatever your definition of presentable is. They can turn off the video when they join if they need to, although we like it when people can see each other.
  • Invite people to join up to 30 minutes early. This way, they can make sure their technology works, and you are more likely to start on time. It’s also a good opportunity to have some casual time before a meeting, something we take for granted with face-to-face meetings but have to plan for with online meetings.
  • Ask people to join via the Zoom link (preferred) OR phone, NOT BOTH. This is especially important when doing breakouts, because if people do not take the extra step to merge their video and phone feeds, their video might end up in one breakout group and their audio in another, which will be very confusing.

In the Meeting

The support person should be the Host of the meeting in order to manage breakouts. (See below.) Upon logging on, s/he should make the facilitator a Co-host.

Note that with Zoom Meetings, you cannot control your participants’ screens like other video conferencing tools or possibly the Zoom Webinar. If participants are familiar and comfortable with Zoom, that’s not a problem. If they’re not, their experience can be very confusing, and it can take up a lot of other people’s time trying to debug different problems on the call itself. We counter this by establishing and walking through specific norms up-front.

Plan to take the first five minutes to walk through the tool. Specifically:

  • How to mute / unmute yourself (including people who call-in, which is usually *6).
  • How to find and use the chat window. (it's at the bottom of their zoom window. When they click on it, the chat box should show up on the right side). We encourage people to leave the chat box up so they can see what people are saying, ask questions, and call for help. This is usually easier than using the “Raise hand” feature, which we have found is rather complicated to explain and manage. Furthermore, when people are in breakouts, they’ll need to know how to use the Chat function to call for help.
  • How to switch to Speaker view. (so they see the main speaker rather than Gallery View which shows all participants in one screen and it can be hard to know who is speaking)

The designated support person should:

  • Rename call-in numbers to the participant names as they join. This is especially useful if you’ll be using breakouts.
  • Monitor the Chat. Troubleshoot people’s problems when they come up, queue up and organize content questions in a designated shared document so that the facilitator doesn’t have to track the Chat window, which can get overwhelming with large groups.
  • Monitor the audio. If anyone’s background noise is too loud, mute them.
  • Manage the breakout rooms. See below.

More Breakout Considerations

Zoom’s breakout feature works well, but the interface leaves something to be desired.

Only the Host (not Co-Hosts) can create and manage breakouts. Because of this and because creating breakout rooms can be complicated (see below), we recommend that the support person be the Host. In addition to maintaining and monitoring the rooms as described below, the support person will also have to move the facilitator manually into breakouts if anyone has any questions and needs support.

Creating breakouts automatically works okay, but there are some things to look out for:

  • There’s no way to prevent Co-hosts from being assigned into a breakout room. If you don’t want them to be in a breakout, they should just not click “Join” when invited. However, you also have to make sure those rooms have additional people, so that the people assigned to rooms with a Co-host don’t end up in a room by themselves.
  • As stated earlier, if a participant is connected via both Zoom link and phone, and if they do not merge those entries in advance (see below), they run the risk of getting their video broken out into a different room than their audio. The Host either needs to monitor this closely or discourage people from connecting this way in the first place (as discussed above).
  • If people leave the meeting during breakouts for whatever reason, some people may end up by themselves. The Host should monitor the room for this. It also helps to encourage people to leave before breakouts start if they know they’ll be dropping out soon anyway.
  • If you’re confident about who’ll be participating ahead of time, and if you’ll be doing more than one set of breakouts, it might be better to assign people to breakouts rather than do it randomly. The support person can create the breakouts while the facilitator is talking.
  • If you do it randomly, you have to make sure that people are not assigned to the same partners in subsequent rounds. If you have a small enough group, you can roll call and switch people around. With a large group, this might get unwieldy very quickly.

Use Broadcast to announce time left and also if the support person or facilitator will be dropping into rooms to check in on people. It’s a bit weird for host to pop into breakout rooms uninvited, so give participants a heads up beforehand.

Shared Documents

If you’re using Google Docs, it's helpful to make the support person the owner. This way, if people are requesting access while you’re leading the workshop, the support person will see their requests. You can do this by either having the support person create the Google Docs, or by creating them and transferring ownership afterward.

Feature How-Tos

Optimizing for Music Sessions

Tips by Brian Huff & Peter Brander / Phoenixville Jammers. Updated December 18, 2020.

  1. Make sure Zoom is up-to-date
  2. Adjust audio settings
    1. Click on Settings icon below your account icon, and select Audio
    2. Make sure that both volume sliders are blue all the way to the right (maxed out). You can change the speaker/headphone volume anytime using your Windows/Mac volume controls.
    3. Uncheck “Automatically adjust microphone volume”. You do NOT want Zoom adjusting your mic volume during a call.
    4. Set “Suppress background noise” to “Low”. You do NOT want Zoom thinking your instrument is background noise and suppressing it.
    5. Check “Show In-Meeting Option to Turn On Original Sound”. This one is extremely important if you want both voice and instrument to be heard clearly by others.
    6. If you are using headphones (highly recommended) make sure “Disable echo cancellation” is checked. If you are NOT using headphones, checking this box will result in extremely annoying echo for everyone else on the call, so don’t check it.
    7. Make sure “High fidelity music mode” is checked.
    8. Click the “Advanced” button at the bottom of the menu
  3. In the Advanced menu:
    1. If you turned off Echo Cancellation on the previous menu, then the Echo Cancelation selection will have no effect.
    2. If you previously left Echo Cancellation on, do NOT select “Aggressive”, this will cause your sound to drop out in a very music-unfriendly way.
  4. At the start of the Zoom session
    1. Turn on original sound in the upper left corner

Merge audio and video


Instruct the participant to:

  1. Go to their audio options by clicking the arrow at the bottom left of their zoom window, and click "Leave Computer Audio"
  2. Either:
    • Click on "Have the computer call me" OR
    • Click "Join by Phone" and after calling in, and dial the participant ID listed there (ex: #24#).

This will MERGE the computer video with the phone audio so that they are listed as one participant rather than two.

Make someone a Co-host or main Host

  1. Go to Advanced Settings and enable "Co-host"
  2. In the meeting under Manage Participants, hover on someone's name and click "More" and click "Make Co-host" (you both are the hosts) or "Make Host" (you will no longer be the host)

There can only be one Host. Only Hosts (i.e. not Co-hosts) can make others Co-hosts.

When alternate Hosts are listed for a call, whoever logs on first becomes the Host.

Renaming a Participant

Participants can rename themselves. Hosts or Cohosts can rename anyone by clicking on "Manage Participants," selecting the menu next to the participant, and clicking, "Rename."

Breakout Rooms

Only Hosts can make breakout rooms. If you have a Zoom account, be sure to active "Breakouts" in your Advanced Settings.

Select "Breakout Rooms" to create a breakout room. You will be able to create as many rooms as you'd like and either assign rooms randomly or manually. Once you create your breakouts, you will be able to move participants around until you have the settings you want. Then you'll "Open all rooms," and people will be moved to their breakouts.


Once people are in their breakouts, you'll be able to move in and out different rooms. Participants will be able to "Ask for Help" (which will invite you, the Host, to join the room) or leave the breakout room.


See also the Zoom breakout rooms tutorial

Sharing Video Clip

When sharing your screen for a video clip, be sure to check the checkbox, Share computer sound (and also possibly Optimize for full-screen video clip).

Keeping Zoom screen on Top

Often in Zoom, you'll need to be in the shared notes and will want to keep the Zoom screen on top so you can see participants in the meeting at the same time. There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Minimize the Zoom window. This will make the Zoom window smaller and allow you to only see the person speaking while keeping that window on top of all your other browsers that are open. This is the easiest way to keep zoom on top while note-taking, but has limitations since you can't see the other participants on the call who aren't speaking.
  2. Split Screen - you can view your browser/google doc on one side and zoom on the other side. For Instructions, see Split Screen for Mac or Split Screen for Windows 7
  3. If all else fails, try this work around:
    1. Move your Zoom window to the top of your computer screen.
    2. Make sure that you are in "Speaker View" so that most of poeple's faces are arranged along the top of your zoom window, and the main speaker is on the bottom.
    3. Move your browser with shared notes to be just under the view of the participants along the top of your zoom. You can click the arrows right or left to move through the participants on the call. This way you can type in the shared notes, meaning that internet browser will be on top, but it won't cover up the participants in the zoom window behind it.

Sharing iPad Screen

Read Catherine Madden's guide to doing this for all video chat software.

In theory, you can connect via Airplay if you have a Mac, but Catherine recommends against this because of lag. Connect via cable instead.

Mute / Unmute All

Hosts and Co-hosts can mute and unmute all via the Participants window. By default, people can always mute and unmute themselves, although you can set an option that prevents them from doing this.

Changing Webinars to Meetings

Changing from a webinar to a meeting is possible without changing the link, but challenging with many implications and adjustments required to make it smooth. You have to do it through Zoom support, and the registration list will be reset. It’s better to be clear in advance what kind of meeting you’ll be creating and why.

Zoom Webinars

As mentioned above, Zoom Webinars are meant to be "lecture" style where there is a main speaker driving the session and those calling in are not on video or audio, however, you may choose to enable the chat function so there is some interaction there.

  • Pricing: Webinars can be added to Zoom Pro Account for $40/mo (see pricing), this starts from the day they are scheduled to the date the webinar takes place (so you may want to pay for more than a month of the webinar service if you intend to schedule it and invite people more than a month in advance). A subscription can be canceled at any time.
  • Participants: You can have up to 100 participants (interactive or viewers) at the price listed above. You can have up to 100,000 for an increased cost.
  • Scheduling Options: 1. When scheduling the webinar, you can require registration (and ask for certain participant details) or no registration. 2. You can schedule a reminder to go out to all registered participants. 3. You can send the link manually through your email or have zoom send out the invitations and reminders.
  • Webinar Features: 1. There is a Q&A chat feature that can be enabled for participants to submit to everyone, all panelists, or specific panelists/attendees. 2 Attendees can "Raise Hand" in order to participate in the video discussion, prompting the host to promote them to a panelist. You can also lower all raised hands if needed. 3. Polls can be prepared prior to the webinar and edited during the webinar prior to launching it for the participants to fill out. They can be single or multiple choice.
  • Managing Participants: Click "Participants" in the host controls will allow the host to promote someone to co-host or panelist, demote panelists to attendee, unmute or mute people, stop video, remove a participant, and more (here).
  • Support: With webinars, you likely will need to have someone supporting you in managing the functions. Normally, you'll have several people joining (that's why you've set it up as a webinar and not a meeting) so if there are any glitches, your support person can handle it while you continue leading the webinar. The support person can monitor the chat box and organizing questions/comments to ask you during any breaks or Q&A session. Normally, the support person is the Host and should become very familiar with zoom prior.
  • Other: You may schedule a practice webinar beforehand. Registration can be customized with logo, branding, etc. Webinars can be streamed live on youtube or facebook, and counts as just one viewer connection (More on streaming here).

See Also


We are so grateful to our many friends and colleagues to took time out of their busy schedules to help us test many of these features. In order to figure all of this out, we occasionally had to recruit many of our friends and colleagues to help us test and experiment with these features: Stan Barnes, Bill Barnhill, Eugene Chan, Andy Dale, Natalie DeJarlais, Michael French, Brooking Gatewood, Devin Graves, Michael Herman, Renee Hiner, Shirley Huey, Anya Kandel, Amanda Kennedy, H. Jessica Kim, Patricia Knox, Travis Kriplean, Jordan Luftig, Albert Mangay, Jasmine Murcia, Amara Possian, Patty Rose, Evan Savage, Valkyrie Savage, Angela Sevin, Haitham Shammaa, Matt Sharp, Bob Sofman, KB Teo, Conor White-Sullivan, and Jon Winn.

Many thanks also to Zoom support! They're fantastic!