Best practices for a big social gathering on Zoom?
March 21, 2020 7:12 AM   Subscribe

I’m going to be hosting a big family get together on Zoom. I don’t know how many people will be there, but if it gets a lot of traction among family members we could hit my 100 person account limit. This is probably going to be chaos! What can I do to help keep things running smoothly? We are just doing this for fun and connection across the country, but I’d like it to be as successful as possible so that we might end up doing it on a regular basis. Any advice for successfully running a large video conference (one without any sort of meeting agenda) would be helpful.
posted by ocherdraco to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Always pay attention to your mute button.
posted by terrapin at 7:28 AM on March 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

Depending on your account, you might be able to enable breakout rooms.
posted by meindee at 7:36 AM on March 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I asked this question last week. It was brilliant!
posted by night_train at 7:37 AM on March 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm just getting up to speed on how Zoom works myself, but I suspect having more than a dozen or so at the most in one room is going to be difficult. Maybe you could ask people to call or email each other to arrange groups and once they have a group of 8-10 people together and a time, they could let you know and you would set up a zoom breakout for them.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:42 AM on March 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Having been in some recent zoom chats where 12-20 people were all trying to have a conversation, I will say it's hard. Several people will start talking at the same time & voices get overlapped, sound breaks up, and it's hard to follow what people are saying. Some people never seem to "win" in zoom's decision of which voice to promote. I'd suggest either breaking up into smaller groups or having people hold up a "I want to talk" sign. It's easy to feel left out if you're a quiet person & don't like to push your way forward & talk over other people.
posted by belladonna at 8:11 AM on March 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah one of the keys to this will be... moderation! Make sure there is someone there (you or someone else) who is reminding people to mute, possibly calling on people to talk, saying "Hey Aunt Edna we can't see you since your cat nudged your phone". Tell people they can switch from gallery mode to.. whatever the other view mode is where you see a lot of tiny heads, that can be easier for some people. Maybe having some events like a kid reading a story or someone else talking about a trip to the park. Screenshare something that people can look at together. Have some activity like "Everyone draw a flower" that people can all share. That many people will be hectic, so think about whether you can split people up into groups for some of it. I find that after about nine or ten people, I can't really keep track of who is talking.
posted by jessamyn at 8:32 AM on March 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've just learned to use Zoom in the past week or so, so sorry if this is all super obvious...

When setting up the meeting within Zoom's "Schedule Meeting" feature:

- You can set whether the Host's video and the Participants' video starts out On or Off. Consider Off until you know how each person's bandwidth will be (and whether they will be wearing clothes!). I use Skype a lot and I find that when I'm having bandwidth problems, turning off video lets the audio come through better.

- Under Advanced Options, select "Enable join before host". That way people can connect and start chatting with each other if you get delayed. When you (as host) finally leave the meeting, you can choose whether to end the meeting for everyone or just leave yourself while letting others keep chatting.

- Also under Advanced Options, you can select "Mute participants on entry". This is probably a good idea with a large meeting. If someone talks while muted, I think Zoom detects it and gives you a pop-up reminding them to un-mute.

- As host, you'll have a "Manage Participants" button at the bottom of your Zoom window that lets you see who's on and mute/unmute individual people. In the Participants window there's also a way for people to "raise their hand" if they want to say something (or vote on something!).
posted by heatherlogan at 8:41 AM on March 21, 2020

One group I'm in is doing a drop-in room, where people can come and go over a longer period of time. Train a few family members as moderators, to help those who are having trouble. Kick inactive participants off to keep numbers manageable.
posted by theora55 at 9:25 AM on March 21, 2020

Use the chat function, both for socializing and for tech support. All participants can select a specific person to send a message to or just send a chat to everyone. It's also a great way to send links to funny videos etc. You can have the setting in your zoom meeting to automatically save the chat as a text file.

If you are willing to be more managerial, one way to handle the 'aaah everyone talking or omg Emilia can't figure out how to unmute while Jihae can't figure out how to mute because they're on the phone audio' is to tell people the order in which they will be speaking (especially for the initial check in) and then manually unmute that participant when it is their turn.

Breakout rooms are great if you have that functionality. You can manually assign people to rooms or just let Zoom automatically divvy up people.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:12 AM on March 21, 2020

Haven't tried this but from in-person camp meetings - can there be a token object that gets "passed" around? Everyone has a "ball" (lemon, apple, tennis ball, whatever). Everyone starts on mute (or everyone has a cacophony of greetings, then eventually mostly goes on mute as they find the button), then one person raises their ball, and they get to speak, then they hand it off to another person who "catches" the ball. When they are done they call the next person. Then there can be one talker at a time without someone needing to be moderator/traffic cop.
posted by sol at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2020

The full group portion has to be short and sweet if it’s that many. Everyone says hello, one at a time, in a pre-determined order, everyone else on mute. Then have a toast with a group countdown from 30. Cheers, drink, and say woohoo. Wave goodbye. Break out into smaller conversations.
posted by kapers at 6:04 PM on March 21, 2020

Use the breakout rooms for sure. They let you choose group size and randomise who is in the group. You could re-randomise every five or 10 minutes, like in a real life gathering where people move around. People can also choose to move to a different group, so try to show them how that works, so they can move around and chat with people themselves.

Also make use of the chat function for parallel text-based conversations.

Virtual backgrounds can be fun.

Set up mute-on-arrival by default, or there's no way you'll be able to explain to everyone how it will work, due to copious background noise, side conversations, and audio feedback. But make sure everyone knows where the mute button is and how to unmute themselves later.

If you don't have a pro account, ask around your family. I expect SOMEONE does and you only need one person to be on pro to set it up, and you'll get all the good features.
posted by lollusc at 7:25 PM on March 21, 2020

Check the answers to a similar question posted a few days ago on AskMeFi.

Briefly: have someone who can focus on managing the participants, keep in mind that the experience is different on iPads and smartphones, do trial runs.
posted by alittleknowledge at 9:02 AM on March 22, 2020

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