Zoom, zoom, zoom…

Many of us have been using Zoom for any number of meetings, whether with friends,family, work, or church. But Church is about to go hardcore Zoom.

Tonight I attended our Stake training for the new Zoom accounts, which it appears the Church has purchased for all units, worldwide. As a non-profit and with bulk-buy discounts, this will be much less expensive than having each unit purchase several licenses to support their various activities.

Part of the reason the Church probably gets a significant discount is that recording is disabled for these Church accounts. So no need for lots of cloud storage and the associated costs.

A benefit of the new accounts is that they make more effective use of breakout rooms. The cool part of this is that you can just dial in to “Church,” then peel off to the particular “room” associated with your class. For instance, this allows a ward where families have enough devices to schedule Elders Quorum, Relief Society, Primary, and multiple Young Men and Young Women classes simultaneously, with only one tech-savvy host required to help stragglers transition from the “hall” to their appropriate room.

That is super cool.

Another benefit is that anyone who is attempting to disrupt these Zoom meetings can be blocked. So all may attend, but bad actors can be evicted.

In our stake, we also got training on how to make the most of the experience. Aside from instruction on Zoom itself, someone who uses video-conferencing extensively for international business shared the following tips:

  1. Position your camera so it is capturing you in landscape view, with the camera on top (if not a phone or tablet). This presents a larger image so people can see you better.
  2. As much as possible, position your device/camera so your chin is in the middle of the image, with the top of your head near the top of the frame. Also try to get the device camera positioned so you are looking straight at the device, rather than up at the device or down at the device.
  3. Find a nice background that isn’t too distracting.
  4. If It’s hard to be in front of a nice background, you can turn on “green screen” mode and upload a picture of a nice spot in your house when it was tidy, say the decorated wall of your living room or a nicely-arranged bookshelf. The green screen only has to be right behind you, and doesn’t even need to be green. If you have a high-back chair, you can drape a bright t-shirt inside out on the chair behind your head and shoulders. Or you can do what I’ve done and make a PVC screen for behind yourself, stretching the bright t-shirt or a solid-color sheet/blanket/cloth over that.
  5. Light yourself from the front rather than behind. For example, sit so the room light is shining on your face, rather than shining on the back of your head.
  6. Look into the camera (or at the images of others right under the camera) and pay attention to others on the call.

Is this daunting? This is a great chance to reach out to one of the younger people in your congregation to get some help!

Though many of us hope to “get back to normal” and resume in-person meetings, this new Zoom paradigm can be powerful for locations where Church members are scattered across vast distances or growth has outstripped the ability to find space for pre-2020 in-person worship services (as I blogged about for the singles wards in Northern Virginia).

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

5 thoughts on “Zoom, zoom, zoom…

  1. I use Zoom every day for work, and it is a huge improvement on past technology. My own company has a video conferencing platform, but we almost never use it now because Zoom is so much better. That said, I don’t like Zoom for church meetings, either for Sacrament or for lessons. I find it very difficult to pay attention and to participate in lessons. Our ward is moving back to in person attendance, and I will avoid Zoom meetings for church as much as possible. But I am sure as you say there will be many church Zoom meetings in the future. I am grateful for the technology, but meanwhile here is why I don’t like Zoom for church meetings:
    1)You miss nuances when the person is not in front of you. There is no substitution for seeing a person face to face.
    2)Technology is turning us into the passengers on the huge space boat in the movie Wall-E, sitting on the couch or in the office and having entertainment and meetings brought to us. We are becoming lazy and complacent. The lockdowns have caused a large increase in obesity, and all of these zoom meetings rather than making the effort for in person meetings are a small part of the reason why.
    3)I find it difficult to participate with a Zoom format.
    4)I find it difficult to concentrate on what is being taught.
    5)I have a longing for the days when things were different and people valued in person communications and seeing each others’ faces. We are losing our ability to see each other as human beings with unique features and abilities. This whole reliance on technology makes me deeply morose. And I am in the technology business, so it is not that I don’t like the technology itself. I dislike the reliance on technology and the choosing of technology rather than in person communication.

    So, to sum up it is of course good that the Church is offering this new technology, but I will attempt to use it as little as possible.

  2. Many of your points are valid, and that is why we received the training about how to videoconference from our fellow who does this internationally with lots on the line. There is a way to convey more and connect more. But when folks are looking off to the side or down at another device or driving, etc., they’re are not at the 80-100% they would have been in person. But we can make the Zoom engagement 70-90%, if we try.

    The other thing about the Church accounts is that there are all manner of interactive tools available. So folks will be able to participate together. Again, not 100% of the experience one might have had in person. But more engaging than the basic Zoom platform folks have been using before (where they were using Zoom). And I would say there are ways in which this allows a level of engagement that would have been hard to achieve in person.

    I was invited to the training because I facilitate Self Reliance workshops. I’ve been doing stuff that wasn’t in person for years now, such as including a participant hundreds of miles away and doing a workshop with my family (personal finances) that included participants from across the nation. In the Emotional Resilience workshop I’ve got going now, we have a participant from Texas. One of the things I’ve been able to do with my workshop is run the meeting from a laptop, but have my phone logged in, focused on my Time Timer, with a list of participants that all can see. So we can “go around the room” even though we are not physically together and each person’s Zoom is showing participant images in a potentially different manner.

    I’m sure modern in-person Church is different from standing around listening to the prophet preach from his front porch or in a grove of trees. I’m sure those who experienced that would bemoan modern General Conference, where folks are sitting in cushioned chairs with dimmed lights (at best) or on their couches at home or (worst while still technically participating) working outside on projects while the audio feed is turned up on a radio or device.

    But I wouldn’t refuse to sit in cushioned chairs to hear the prophet, just because it wasn’t as good as a different way I might have enjoyed in the past, particularly when there are circumstances that make the prior experience unavailable.

  3. Seminary is one of the activities that has really been strongly using the Zoom platform. And the self reliance workshops, as I mentioned. For various reasons, using Zoom for those activities has benefits, such as making it possible for folks to participate who wouldn’t or couldn’t participate if we were meeting in person (like couples with little kids, though kudos for the couples I’ve seen in workshops, who would hire babysitters or trade babysitting gigs to be able to make it in person).

  4. I love in Germany and we use Zoom as well. All meetings are held online. I love the Sacrament Meeting on Sundays. I can follow along much better than when present at a physical meeting.

    Being in physical attendance always distract me in some way. I check my posture, feel too warm or too cold, feel uncomfortable on my chair, or will be distracted by other things. At home I sit comfortably and can focus much better.

    While I miss the partaking of the Sacrament itself everything else is fine. But I do realize of course that most members won’t share my sentiment regarding online meetings in the same way.

    In our ward Sacrament Meeting attendance increased a lot since we began using Zoom meetings. I wonder how this is in other wards and stakes.

  5. I don’t mind using Zoom for Sacrament meetings because as long as we have to mask up and can’t sing when attending in person I will stay home and sing my heart out on Zoom (even though no one can hear me). I refuse to be a passive observer at church instead of an active participant, hence the preference for Zoom.

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