Lots of you are using Zoom for things, and today we are seeing these Zoom horror stories in the news – and possibly in your organization’s internal emails.
I’m convinced Zoom can be used safely. But if you’re the meeting host, you have to get your settings right!
But first, about that hacker exploit. This has been reported lots of places in the last 48 hours. But if you research it a bit, it becomes obvious that it requires the hacker to be physically controlling your computer to set up the exploit to start with. THEN they can use Zoom to do mean stuff remotely. If you don’t let them take remote control of your computer (or physically hand them your keyboard and mouse!), you’re okay.
Then, the dangers of people invading your meeting and doing icky stuff can be prevented if you get your settings right.
NOTE: The settings below apply to all paid levels of Zoom membership. The free tier doesn’t allow a lot of the settings listed below. The basic paid tier, at $15/month, is a great deal. Do it. Pay for it yourself if your church won’t.
Quick List of Basic Zoom SETTINGS FIXES (from a computer, log into zoom.us in your browser and go to Settings on the left column):
– Turn off “join meeting before host”
– Don’t allow screen sharing or file sharing by anyone except the host.
– If you post your password anywhere public, use the waiting-room feature and only admit those whose names you recognize.
– OPTIONAL PRO TIP: In a larger meeting, appoint someone trustworthy as the co-host, and delegate the task of policing things to the co-host. They can admit people from the waiting room, boot people if necessary, monitor the chat, etc.
NOTE: All these settings only need to be done by the meeting host. Meeting participants can log into meetings without worrying about changing their settings.
My COMPLETE List of Recommended Zoom Settings for Youth Ministry:
This list is based on trying to balance three needs that tend to tug in sometimes opposing directions:
1. The need for security.
2. The need to make the meetings as accessible as possible to the highest number of non-tech-savvy users. (If they can’t figure it out within a few minutes, they’ll likely give up and skip your meeting.)
3. The need for fun, effective communication and interaction.
So here are the settings I use. Feel free to change yours as needed to achieve the balance of the needs mentioned above.
“Schedule Meeting” section:
Host Video – on
Participants Video – on
Audio Type – computer audio (simplifies things for your users)
Join before host – OFF (this is a potential security issue)
Use PMI when scheduling a meeting – optional
Use PMI when starting an instant meeting – optional
Only authenticated users can join meetings – off (This may seem like a security issue, but it makes the difficulty of entry higher for some of your users. If you use the other recommended settings, guest users can be safely incorporated into your meetings.)
Require a password when scheduling – optional (I know this seems essential, but then you have to figure out a way to get the password to everyone without leaving someone out. If you’re trying to reach students who haven’t been in the loop before, this could exclude them. If you follow the waiting-room recommendations below, you can safely host without a password. If you’re confident you can get the password to everyone whom you want to participate, then yes, use a password. If you’re not using a waiting room, DO please absolutely use a password.)
Require a password for instant – optional (see previous) Require a password for PMI – optional (see previous)
Embed password in meeting link for one-click join – ON if you’re NOT sending out the link publicly OR if you’re using the waiting-room feature as recommended below. OFF if you’re posting the link publicly and don’t want to do the waiting-room as recommended below.
Require password for participants joining by phone – off (I don’t recommend phone participants in YM settings. Unnecessary complication, and makes everything impersonal – and why are we doing this if not to connect personally??)
Mute participants upon entry – ON (THIS IS RECOMMENDED FOR ALL ZOOM MEETINGS ANYWHERE.)
Upcoming meeting reminder – optional
“In Meeting (Basic)” section:
Require Encryption for 3rd Party Endpoints – off (This doesn’t apply to most of us in a YM setting)
Chat – on (Chat is super fun! Keep it on, but follow the recommendation below for assigning a co-host to police the chat and make sure everybody behaves themselves.)
– Checkbox: Prevent participants from saving chat – off (optional, but I think in most cases it’s fine for participants to save the chat.)
Private chat – on (if you’re following the recommendations below about meeting rooms and only allowing people into the meeting who are supposed to be there. If this one makes you nervous, turn it off.)
Auto saving chats – optional
Play sound when participants join or leave – off (gets really annoying)
Feedback to Zoom – on
Display end-of-meeting experience feedback survey – on
Co-host – on (This is HIGHLY recommended. If you have any meeting larger than a dozen or so, you can focus on hosting the meeting, while assigning one or more co-hosts to handle policing the chat, admitting people from the waiting room, etc. If you choose to do breakout rooms, you can assign a co-host to put people in the correct breakout rooms, and then assign a different co-host to each breakout room to be the leader of that room.)
Polling – on (Polling is fun!)
Allow host to put attendee on hold – on (Exercise the Long Arm of the Law if someone is getting squirrely.)
Always show meeting control toolbar – optional (If the controls are getting in the way, turn this off. Otherwise, it makes sense to always be able to see the controls.)
Show Zoom windows during screen share – off (Unless you are giving a tutorial to someone on how to use Zoom, in which case leave this on!)
Screen Sharing – on
Who can share? – Host only
Who can start sharing when someone else is sharing – Host only
Disable desktop/screen share for users – on
Annotation – off (This can be fun, but I guarantee that one seventh grade kid with the body odor problem will make his mark in your Zoom meeting by using the annotation tools at exactly the wrong times and in inappropriate ways. Don’t give him this can of virtual Axe spray to befoul your meeting with!)
Whiteboard – optional (This can be fun, but see previous.) Remote control – off
Nonverbal feedback – on (this is innocuous and fun. If it gets annoying, turn it off.)
Allow removed participants to rejoin – OFF. DEFINITELY OFF. (Exercise the Even Longer Long Arm of the Law. Boot people who are being turds. And don’t let them reintroduce their mayhem and skullduggery to your meeting! Nobody needs that.)
“In Meeting (Advanced)” section:
Breakout room – on (This is really useful to break into small groups. I recommend at least one co-host be delegated the task of splitting people into breakout rooms, and at least one co-host actually be in each breakout room to lead the discussion and patrol for pirates.)
NOTE: Breakout rooms are not the same thing as “Zoom Rooms,” which are a separate product that carries an additional charge on your Zoom service tier.
– “Allow host to assign…” checkbox – optional
Remote support – optional
Closed captioning – optional
Save captions – optional
Far end camera control – off
Group HD video – off (saves bandwidth, which makes it less likely for something to go wrong, and also is just a kind, good-citizen sort of move right now)
Virtual background – optional (Okay, this one is controversial. If you’re worried about your students being perverse, turn it off. But it’s so fun! If someone is being a pile of turds with this feature, warn them and put them on hold. Then boot them if they keep being seduced by the dark side.)
Identify guest participants – off
Auto-answer group in chat – off
Only show default email… – off
Use HTML format email for Outlook plugin – off
Allow users to select stereo audio – optional
Allow users to select original sound – optional
Waiting room – ON (This is HIGHLY recommended. It allows you to post your meeting link publicly, thereby allowing students who haven’t participated in your ministry before – and therefore probably aren’t getting your emails/messages/other private methods of giving out a meeting password – into your meeting. You – or the co-host you delegate this task to – can screen people and only admit them if you recognize their names. In a larger group where you can’t possibly know everyone’s names, probably go with the password-protected meeting instead, and tell students they can privately share the password with friends they invite. But even if you use a password, I still recommend the waiting room. It solves lots of problems before they start.)
Choose which participants to place in the waiting room – all participants – Customize the title, logo, and description – I recommend doing this.
Show a “Join from your browser” link – optional (I do this, just to make sure the most possible people can join in some fashion. But it does limit their participation.)
Allow live streaming meetings – optional (I do this, just to make sure the most possible people can join in some fashion. I post a link to just watch the meeting on YouTube in case they can’t figure out how to join in Zoom. But it does limit their participation.)
“Email Notification” section:
THESE ARE ALL OPTIONAL. Use your judgment.
Blur snapshot on iOS task switcher – on
Invitation email – English (or your language of choice)
– Assign scheduling privilege to – no one – I can schedule for – no one
Integration Authentication – leave this alone.
Things can change (and they ARE changing, very quickly!), but as of right now, that’s my best judgment on the matter. My messages are open if you have questions!