You're probably wondering why an author is blogging about Zoom webinars. Well, with so many book events cancelled and replaced with online ones we've had to learn a lot very quickly about Zoom -- and that includes the safety protocols around video meetings This blog and the downloadable PDF of 'how to' instructions is for authors, bookstores, and book clubs that want to host an online event using Zoom.
B ook events have migrated online. This means organizers have a responsibility to do the most they can to ensure their online event is a safe space for authors and audiences, just as they would for a live event. There have been incidents where uninvited or abusive participants disrupted online book events. Large organizations such as literary festivals have the technology, knowledge, and staff to manage live event production. For those with limited resources however, it can be challenging.
If you want to use Zoom Meeting for your events, this blog explains how to minimize disruptions. If you use some other solution, read this anyway for recommended best practices
T hanks to an affordable price point and ease of use, Zoom has quickly become the most popular video conferencing software for personal and small business use. Earlier in 2020, there were reported incidents of "ZoomBombing" or Zoom hijacking. Since then, Zoom has beefed up its security and these days it’s more likely disruptions will come from participants behaving inappropriately via video, audio, or comments in Chat.
Zoom Meeting is designed for group discussions. But an author event is usually a presentation/interview followed by moderated audience interaction. If you can afford it, consider upgrading to Zoom Webinar, Go To Meeting, Click Meeting and other webinar solutions that provider better controls and security for this type of format. However, it may not be worth the extra cost if you don’t host a lot of events or don’t charge for tickets.
There's no such thing as a perfectly secure online meeting. If someone with technical knowledge is intent on hacking your meeting, they will. But here are some guidelines for setting up an event that deters the most common types of disruptions. Even if you don’t use Zoom, run through this checklist.
A Quick Overview of What’s Involved
Securing an online event means being prepared before, during, and sometimes after the event.
Make sure your event announcement includes an anti-harassment policy. Let's make this standard industry practice, the way it is with live events. To see sample language for an Online Event Attendance and Anti-Harassment Policy., scroll to the Resources at the end of this blog. Note that the wording is not specific to authors – these precautions apply to all industries.
Have participants pre-register.If you don’t have a way of capturing registration info, you can use Google Forms to create a registration form that collects participant names, email addresses, and any other information you require.
Schedule the meeting with controls. Use a password, enable Waiting Room and turn on Participant Muting Upon Entry.
Email meeting details. A day or two before the meeting, email invitations with the Zoom link information to registered participants only. Ask them not to share the link with anyone else.
Start the Meeting. Start the meeting and check that Waiting Room is enabled. Waiting Room allows you to see who the participants are before letting them in to the meeting. Check the names in the Waiting Room against your guest list and only allow in the ones who have registered.
Event Housekeeping. You’ve set up participants to be muted upon entering the meeting but double-check and make sure participants can’t unmute themselves. Muting eliminates any disruptive talk and also improves audio quality. For an extra layer of security, set Chat so that participants can only send messages to the Host. In case of inappropriate questions or comments, this ensures such comments are not visible to the audience or the speaker.
If you also want to Record. It’s nice to have a recording to put on your Facebook or Youtube page. The Host can turn on recording or else assign recording privileges to a colleague. Once the meeting ends, Zoom will convert the recording to standard MP4 format.
If you haven’t done this before, set up a trial run to practice using the various meeting features of Zoom – muting and unmuting, speaker view versus gallery view, restricting and allowing chat, etc.
What about streaming to Facebook?
Some people like to live stream events to platforms such as Facebook because it’s easier for the audience – no registration required and anyone with access to the page just needs to get on and start watching. The audience is free to post comments without moderation. This is fine if you’re streaming to a private group page where you're confident that all members will behave with courtesy. In a more public forum you may find yourself deleting inappropriate comments and the member(s) responsible - hopefully before too many others see them. If you want that extra layer, it's better to go with Zoom on its own and benefit from more controls.
As the host, you can always record the Zoom session and then post it to your Facebook page later. It won’t be live but people who weren’t able to join can still watch and enjoy.
We strive to provide an environment where all present -- whether attendee, presenter, or staff -- can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.
We do not tolerate harassment of any kind and will immediately disconnect offenders from the event.
PDF with How-to Instructions
Click on the button below for Minimizing Disruptions to Your Zoom Meeting a downloadable PDF with step-by-step instructions on how to set up a registration form and use Zoom as explained above.