Sometimes, there’s nothing better than convening a panel of experts to discuss a topic near and dear to your brand’s heart. Zoom Webinars works well for that, but your brand may not have invested in that yet. And if you have fewer than 100 people, you can easily host a panel discussion using your Zoom meeting account.
Don’t worry, if you need a primer on Zoom basics, just mosey on over to this other post here on How to Work Zoom, and then come on back with all your newly found Zoom prowess on hand.
Zoom how to use for panel discussions.
What’s different about a panel discussion anyway?
A panel discussion differs from a general zoom meeting because some people in the meeting are speakers and the rest are attendees who are — or should be — mostly in listen mode, at least until invited to ask questions or make observations.
Panel discussions on Zoom need to be set up slightly differently to ensure everyone has the best experience and you aren’t interrupted by:
- zoom bombers (strangers who spam your event with porn or hate speech)
- well-meaning attendees who decide to participate although not invited to do so
A panel discussion or public event is more likely to be targeted by zoom bombers if it was promoted on social media, so if your event is invite only, a good rule is to not publicly share the meeting link.
Ensuring the best experience for your panel and your guests really comes down to a few extra mouse clicks.
Zoom how to use for Panel Discussions Tips
If you are one of the presenters, make sure you have someone who is managing attendees for you, and make sure they know how to use Zoom and all of its features:
- like muting someone’s mic
- pinning the videos of your panelists
- disabling video of guests
There is literally no point in having someone administer your meeting who isn’t able or willing to do those things. They might as well not be there.
If you have turned over YOUR account to someone else so they can administer your meeting, you need to do two key things:
- Sign out of Zoom
- Rename the account you join your call in so people know it’s you
Signing Out of Zoom:
You need to click the link at the bottom that says “Sign Me Out From All Devices” in “My Account”. It’s not enough to sign out from your desktop alone because if you are signed in on any other device, including your handheld, it will log you in as you and certain functionalities, like administering polls, etc. will not be available to your admin who is supposed to be doing that.
To make sure you are logged out of everything, go to “Sign Me Out that right at bottom above the menu in the footer.
And if you have it downloaded on your computer and it automatically starts when you start your computer, you’re going to have to disable that as well.
Changing your name:
If you’ve turned over your account to someone else to handle the admin, they will need to change the name that they appear under (so they don’t appear under your name) and you need to do the same so that your name appears under your face.
You or the admin can do that by going to the Participants tab in the menu for the live meeting, highlighting the participant who needs the name change, hitting “more” and then hitting Rename.
You will also see other handy things you can do in this menu. You can:
- make them the host or a cohost
- stop their video
- chat with them
- or, if they are disruptive, you can:
- remove them or report them
When setting up your meeting, set the audio for both telephone and computer audio. Sometimes connections are bad, and it’s helpful for people to be able to call in if the computer audio isn’t ideal. If you have people from outside of the US, make sure you enable the call-in phone numbers from the applicable countries.
Upon setting up a panel discussion using Zoom meeting, set the microphones for the attendees to mute — and once you’re in the meeting, make sure attendees can’t unmute the mics themselves.
Here’s how. Once you’re in the meeting, go down to the “participants tab”. You will see 3 dots to the right.
In there, make sure you uncheck the option box that allows your participants to unmute themselves.
There is nothing more miserable for presenters or guests than an unqualified attendee taking over your meeting by deciding they are a panelist when they are not.
Don’t forget, you have the option to record your meeting. That’s important because you can count on a good percentage or your registrants not making it and many of them asking you for a recording after.
There is a record button, likely at the bottom of your zoom screen or, for some people, under the more button or 3 dots. You will have a choice to record to the cloud or to your computer. Your cloud recordings will fill up quickly, although they are handy for sharing.
Especially if you are recording, you want to pin your panelists — or ask them to hit the “spotlight me when speaking” option in their video settings — so that viewers, be they live or after the fact, see the speakers and not random people. As an admin, you can also manually spotlight each individual when they are speaking, but that only works if people are speaking in turns, rather than having a free for all conversation.
Do take care to ensure you’ve thought through how you will feature each of your panelists, otherwise, you may find that your recording is unusable.
To pin each panelist, go to the screen of the person you want to pin and look for the 3 dots, most likely to the top right of the person’s screen. Those dots will appear when you hover your mouse over that area, as per the below.
From there, you can pin that person’s video by hitting the “pin video” option. BTW, this is my husband, Mike, and this is one of the backgrounds we use when we do online appearances in support of our kids’ book, I Got You a Present! — a book that’s ostensibly about birthdays, but really, it’s about resilience and friendship.
You probably also want to turn screen sharing off except for the host. To do that, when your meeting has started, go down to the “share screen” tab at the bottom in green.
When you hit the arrow to the right of the green icon, you will see an option down on the bottom for “Advanced Screen Sharing Options.” Make sure you hit “only host”.
Should you want other presenters to be able to share their screens as you go, you can make them cohosts which will give them the same privileges as you. Otherwise, you will have to go in and change the setting we just changed back to “all participants.”
You might want to make sure other features are also turned off, and those re best done in your account settings before you have your call.
In your account, go to “Account Settings.”
File transfer lets people share files in the chat. Potentially useful in small meetings but less so in a panel discussion and you could find that a zoom bomber uses that feature to spam your gang with porn, threats or hate speech.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
While you’re in your Account Settings, you may also want to turn off annotations because otherwise, someone within the group could just start writing across the screen, and you’d be hard-pressed to figure out who the trickster is. I’ve actually seen it happen.
One last thing. Schedule a tech rehearsal with your admin person and talk through all of the above settings and make sure they’re in place. Make sure they also know when and how they are expected to jump in and what to do if something goes wrong.
Walk through everything yourself, too, just in case you have to jump in. You shouldn’t have to, but if you do, you’ll at least know what to do.