Zoom Basics

With so many activities moving on line during the epidemic, everyone’s heard of Zoom meeting software. But not everyone is comfortable using it yet. That means they are missing video conversations with family and friends and many UUCH activities, including Sunday worship, Book Group, Men’s Discussion Group, Women’s Spirituality Group, and the Faith in Action meeting. Some of our favorite guest speakers are returning to Sunday Worship via Zoom.

Even after UUCH is able to meet in our buildings again, Zoom will remain a useful tool to improve access for members and friends. Please consider Zooming into a UUCH activity soon.


Here’s what you need to know to get started.


Attending Zoom meetings is free.

Downloading Zoom software and hosting short meetings is also free in case you want to use Zoom with your family. The church pays a fee to host UUCH Zoom meetings because we needed the ability to have longer meetings.


To participate, you only need an internet connection and a computer, tablet or smart phone with a camera (so people can see you)  and a microphone (so people can hear what you say).

If your device is older and does not have a camera and microphone, you will still be able to see and hear the event but you will not be able to participate. If your internet is too slow or weak, you may lose the connection sometimes. At the bottom of this page are some suggestions for managing these problems.


To attend a specific Zoom meeting or event,

you need a log in link and password, which changes every time for security reasons. If you are not already receiving an emailed log-in link for the event you want to attend, contact that event’s Zoom person to be added to the email list. The log in link is sent to the list a few days before the event. (Zoom contacts are listed with the groups on the Covid-19 page.


Joining your event.

At least 15 minutes before the event start time, go to the email with the log in link. Jot down the password, which you may be asked for, and then simply click on the log-in link in the email.

When you connect with Zoom, you do NOT need to “sign in” or “sign up”, just click on “enter the meeting”.

When you enter the meeting, Zoom will ask to turn on your video; say yes.

You may stay in a “waiting room” for a short time until the host admits you to the meeting; this is another security measure.

When asked about audio options, choose “internet audio”.


Learning the controls:

When you are connected to the meeting, you should see and hear the other people already there. If you do not see others people, look for a symbol or words (like “turn on video”) and click on it.

How Zoom shows the controls varies with different devices so you may find controls at the top, bottom or sides of your screen.  

Controls may not be visible all the time. With touch screens, you usually have to tap the screen for icons to show. With a desktop or laptop, sometimes you need to run your mouse over or click on an area for the control to show. Some options are in pull down menus, sometimes under “more” or a cluster of dots.

The more you “play” with the controls, the easy Zoom meetings will feel to you. Here are the controls you’ll use most.

Mute/Unmute: if people can not hear you, look for a microphone icon or a word to “unmute” yourself. You’ll need to know how to mute and unmute yourself for parts of a worship service.

Gallery/Speaker View: Another useful option is gallery view (little pictures of everyone) or speaker view (picture of only the person speaking). Speaker view is the best option for the worship service. Gallery view is good for the pre- and post-service conversations and for small group meetings.

Chat lets you type and send a message during a meeting. Chat is used during every worship service to indicate you want to speak during a discussion or joys and concerns. Chat also lets you participate if you are using a device without a microphone.


Help is available.

Practice Session: Zoom is very user-friendly so it’s easy to learn the basics. But if you would like to practice before your first Zoom meeting, Bill Pfoutz can run through the basics with you in a short Zoom review. (Email worship@uuhagerstownmd.org to set up a practice time.)

Zoom’s website also has extensive support with answers to frequently asked questions and videos.

Go to the Zoom support page  https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us and click on “users & participants” under Quickstart  Guides.

Here are two good paces to start.





Zoom Security

Zoom software was originally designed for business video meetings. But then the pandemic shut everything down, and many churches, schools, and other organizations moved their activities on line, often using Zoom. And the internet trolls—who enjoy disrupting and disgusting others— quickly followed.

“Zoombombing” is the name for uninvited people who have crashed and disrupted meetings, worship services and school classes with pornography, racial slurs and  other provocations.

To protect our UUCH Zoomed events, we have a different log-in link for each service and meeting. The new log in and password only keep our events safe if they are NOT shared so  please do not pass on the log in link on social media or in any other way. Information shared on line spreads rapidly and widely. Several articles have described organized groups of Zoombombers who search out shared log ins and passwords.

The Zoom host who runs the meetings has ways to handle a disruptive person. However, our goal is to stop any troll before they spoil our worship and other meetings. 


Alternative Ways to Connect and problem-solving

When your computer does not have a microphone:

Chat: Use the chat function to write and share your thoughts.

Use your computer plus a phone: You can use a computer without a microphone to hear and see the meeting along with a phone so you can speak during the meeting.

First you enter the meeting as usual with your computer, but click “audio through phone”.  Then keeping the computer on,  call into the meeting on your phone using the number provided in the log in link email. (Usually 1 301 715 8592)   to connect the audio.  You’ll need the meeting ID and the password again to connect with your phone.

If you do not have any computer, you can still join a meeting by phone for the audio portion only (like a conference call) by calling the phone number in the log in email. (Usually 1 301 715 8592)   You’ll need the meeting ID and password  to enter the meeting.

Here’s a Zoom tutorial which may help. https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362663-Joining-a-meeting-by-phone


Caution: The Zoom phone numbers are toll-calls.  However, if you have unlimited long distance on your land-line or unlimited talk on your cell phone, this should allow you to join the service without running up your phone bill.


When your computer does not have a microphone or camera:

Adding the missing parts:   Some people at our church have greatly improved their Zoom access by adding an external camera and/or microphone (headsets work well) so they can now speak and be seen during meetings.

Bargain Alternatives: However, before you buy additional items to Zoom on an older computer, you may want to consider buying a device with a built-in camera and microphone, which may be an easier and less expensive option.

Check out the cost of a refurbished tablet at the on line stores of computer manufacturers (Apple, Samsung, etc.) or on Amazon. (One of our members purchased a refurbished iPad a year ago for under $200 dollars. It is not the newest model but it has the latest operating system and is working well.)

Some new tablets are also a bargain. Check out Samsung Galaxy, Lenova, Ematic and others for Android tablets around $150. Search for  bargain tablets and you’ll also find articles reviewing the many models available.


Slow Internet

Slow internet could keep you from being seen or heard but you may still be able to view and hear the meeting. (You can also use the chat feature to “speak”.)

Generally you need internet with a minimum of 1 Mbps to Zoom.  If you are able to watch YouTube or stream movies, you probably have adequate internet speed.

If your internet service is slow, sometimes it’s because others in your household are using the internet heavily at the same time. Consider asking others to forgo on-line gaming and streaming until your meeting is over.

If you have home WiFi and are using a laptop, tablet or other portable device, try moving to different locations to find the best reception.