ZOOM: for Online Meetings

Online meetings are a good way for groups to continue to meet while in Lockdown. It is good see other members, to see their reactions as well as hear what they say and it makes for a more satisfying experience. It is also much easier to work out who is speaking. It is possible to share information during online meetings by sharing part of what is on your screen, for example, showing something from YouTube or by running a PowerPoint slideshow. There are lots of possibilities.

Please be patient with fellow Elmbridge U3A members whether they are participating in a meeting, hosting a meeting or providing advice on how to do things. Expect that things may go wrong from time to time and remember everyone is having to learn how these systems work. It takes everyone some time to get used to how to interact in online meetings sometimes it can help if people put their hands up when they want to speak, there are no hard and fast rules. If someone seems to be struggling then offer to help if you think you know what they need to do differently and offer them sympathy if you do not.


Elmbridge U3A looked at options for enabling people to keep in contact while we are unable to meet face to face. Zoom has been recommended by the Third Age Trust for online meetings. Zoom is widely used and seems to have better sound and video quality than the alternatives. It has more tools for managing meetings and sharing information. Zoom has increased the security of their software and you may have seen that Parliament now meets using Zoom. Elmbridge U3A recommends Zoom as our preferred software for running online meetings.

Zoom can be used on desktop / laptop computers, tablets and smart phones.

The online meeting organiser, in Zoom speak the meeting host, does not have to be the same person as the Group Leader.

Whoever is managing the meeting will find it easier to do that using a computer where you can see more attendees on the screen.

Groups can use the free version of Zoom to hold meetings shorter than 40 minutes - after 40 minutes the meeting will automatically shut down but groups could schedule a series of 40 minute meetings, one after the other with a short break in between. This would allow longer meetings to be arranged. There is no time limit on one to one meetings.

For Groups wanting to hold meetings longer than 40 minutes we have signed up to a scheme where an annual Zoom Pro licence can be obtained for Group Leaders or their nominated meeting host at a 50% charity discount. Allocation of the licences will be managed by our technical team. The discounted licences are less than half the cost of 12 months of the normal Zoom monthly licence.

By using the Zoom Pro version a group's Zoom Host will be able to:

  • Hold meetings longer than 40 minutes
  • Record the meeting in the cloud and share the recording with group members (or others)
  • Allow members to dial in by phone when they are unable to run Zoom

For more information on acquiring a discounted Zoom Pro licence for use on Elmbridge U3A activities see Zoom Pro Licences

Getting started with Zoom

Everyone can and should sign up for a Zoom Account to the free version at Zoom Sign up. Please use the email address which you have given Elmbridge U3A as this will make it much easier for Group Leaders to find you when they are setting up meetings.

Although you can use Zoom from a web browser we recommend that you install the program and/or App on the device that you intend to use: Zoom Download. When using Zoom please always sign in to Zoom using the email and password with which you registered with Zoom.

There are lots of training materials for Zoom users on YouTube:

The Third Age Trust have published detailed step by step guides to using the free version of Zoom, including signing up, installation and starting a meeting:

Zoom (Desktop) - account registration and starting a meeting
Zoom (Phones and Tablets) - account registration and starting a meeting

They are also (as of May 2020) running tutorials on Zoom see: U3A Zoom Tutorials see also U3A Online Events.

Hints for everyone

  • There are many settings in the Zoom software that you can adjust to make using Zoom easier while staying secure. We have created a short guide to settings highlighting the most important ones and the values we recommend in Zoom Settings pdf.
  • Zoom's control buttons at the bottom of the screen will fade away after a while, you need to tap / click where they were for them to reappear.
  • If there is noise in the background where you are please consider muting your microphone - but don't forget to unmute when you want to contribute.
  • You can use the Chat button to send a text message to people in the meeting.
  • You can use the reactions button to give a thumbs up or "applause"
  • When you join a meeting you will find that you may have your camera and microphone off by default. You will need to turn them on by clicking the appropriate Zoom control buttons. You can change this by changing your settings.
  • Some meetings will be set to have a waiting room which means that you will not join the meeting until the Host lets you in
  • If you see a message saying that this is a private meeting it means that you are not logged into Zoom. Please log into the Zoom application and try again
  • You may encounter a bug. Try shutting down/killing Zoom and try again. Please check that your are using the most up to date version of Zoom. Please also make sure your system software is up to date.

Hints for hosts

  • Before you host your first meeting on Zoom please first read "How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event" on Zoom Security.
  • As a default Zoom will use different meeting identifiers for scheduled meetings. If you schedule a meeting in advance and notify attendees then you must make sure that you start using the correct meeting identifier. If you start another meeting using a different identifier then your attendees will see a message saying that the host is busy in another meeting and you will be left wondering where everybody is. You can change the default behaviour to always use the same meeting identifier
  • Zoom does not itself send out meeting invitations. You will need to use your email system to do this. Zoom will create the text of the invitation for you.
  • You can also get Zoom create an email invitation which it adds to your email system for you to send.
  • You can get Zoom create a calendar entry which it adds to you email/calendar system for you to send as a meeting invitation. Some members have had problems using this feature so it is not currently recommended. If you do chose this option please make absolutely sure the the text that gets sent out includes the meeting date and time as not everyone is set up to process calendar invitations correctly.
  • The waiting room feature is on by default - this feature stops people joining the meeting until you admit them so if you have this option on you must remember to check for people waiting
  • You can set the meetings so that people can start without you but only if you disable waiting room
  • You or other attendees can share their screen and on desktops/laptops can share computer sound as well - Sharing computer sounds works best when all microphones are muted (including your own) - especially important if sharing music
  • The Manage participants button allows you to mute participants and to run polls
  • The Security button allows you to restrict whether participants can Chat or share their screen
  • If you want to use a paid for version of Zoom please contact the Tech Team - details at the bottom of the page
  • Paid for licences are only for use of the nominated holder, they can be reallocated by the Tech Team in special circumstances
  • You can arrange for someone else to act as host if you need to leave the meeting but the 40 minute limit will apply if they do not have a paid licence
  • You can assign people as co-host to help manage the meeting for example they can admit people from the waiting room

Advanced hints

  • You can share a whiteboard that anyone can edit or draw on
  • You can share control of you computer - but ONLY WITH SOMEONE YOU REALLY REALLY REALLY TRUST!

Need help using Zoom?

If you are having trouble installing, setting up or using Zoom then we have a team who can help. Please email the Elmbridge U3A Zoom Buddies at ZoomBuddies@elmbridgeu3a.org including your name, a brief description of the issues you are having and your preferred telephone number and when it is best to call.


If you think that anything here is unclear or missing then please send any feedback or any queries about Zoom to the Elmbridge U3A technical team at TechTeam@elmbridgeu3a.org

Thank You and happy Zooming

Chris, David and Martin