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How to Get Started With Zoom: Beginners Tips

The internet and smartphone technology are key to the way I connect with others. I can't imagine life without them.

A Zoom meeting in progress with international participants.

A Zoom meeting in progress with international participants.

What is Zoom? Why Download the App?

Zoom is a way of connecting with other people. You can talk and see someone online in real time, in any country, at any time. And the basic version is free, (and this is more than adequate for most users.) There are no setting up costs, and no metered call charges.

It’s cheaper than making a conventional phone call, especially if you want to talk to someone on the other side of the world. Zoom enables you to keep in touch with friends and family for zero dollars so long as you both have a good internet connection.

How to Download Zoom the First Time

Either you are the invitee (meeting participant)

  1. You receive an invite link in an email. For each meeting there is a unique URL link for you to click. There may also be a password to use.
  2. The Zoom app automatically downloads. It’s that simple.
  3. Use the password to access the meeting. Not every meeting will need a password, it depends on how the host has set it up,

Or you are the inviter (meeting host)

  1. Download the free Zoom app Or you can register by going to Zoom website.
  2. Enter you email address and name. This creates an online account. You do not give any card details to register for the free version.
  3. Set up a time and date in your account for the meeting. This creates a unique URL for you to send to participants.
  4. Send the link to your friends and family that you want to connect with.

Video Calling and COVID-19

COVID-19 has made us adapt to new ways of socializing and working. Video calling, and internet conferencing, have become the go-to way of connecting online. Zoom and similar apps are now an essential part of the Coronavirus lockdown survival kit. There are many competitor video callings apps; Facetime, Skype, Messenger, and Google Hangouts are a few examples. There are pros and cons to each of them. Zoom has become so popular, so quickly, because it’s free and very easy to use by people who are not particularly tech-savvy.

Whichever one you choose to download you’ll find it helps to use a headset rather than the computer’s own mic. Not everyone’s laptop or tablet has a good quality mic. I use this lightweight PC headset; it’s inexpensive, and makes it much easier to hear and be heard. It minimizes background noise when you’re speaking, and you can listen to a webinar without interrupting those around you.

Why Use Zoom?

You may have already downloaded Zoom, but are unsure what to do next. Or you may have wondered why it’s so popular, but are a little afraid of the unknown. Here are the key reasons why Zoom is a great way to connect with friends and family.

  • It’s free.

    The basic version of Zoom is enough for most people. You can play around with it without giving your credit card details. Only if you want to upgrade will you need to pay anything.

  • It’s easy to use.

    No doubt there’ll be a few hiccups the first time you use it, but you’ll find other users will help you.

  • It’s a good way to see and talk to people.

    During lockdown, communicating via video online in real-time is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. For anyone who’s self-isolating or under curfew, this is a way to socialize without passing on any germs.

Zoom For Dummies

What Does it Cost?

There are several levels of membership on Zoom. For most individuals the basic package is sufficient. However, if you are a business user or want to run online meetings, one of the upgrades may suit you better. In 2020 the packages are as follows.

Zoom Basic: For personal meetings. Free of charge.

This allows you unlimited 1-to-1 online meetings. You can host an unlimited number of meetings with up to 100 participants. There is a 40 mins limit on group meetings, but no time limit on the 1-to-1 meetings

Zoom Pro: For small teams. It costs US $14.99 (£11.99) per month.

The package includes all the basic features above, but the time limit on group meetings is extended to 24 hours. The meetings can also be recorded.

Zoom Business: Aimed at small and medium size (SME) businesses. The cost is US $19.99 (£15.99) per month.

It includes all the above, but allows you to have 300 participants and to have online branding and dedicated phone support.

Zoom Enterprise: For large enterprises, US $19.99 (£15.99) per month.

This includes more custom features, discounts on related services, and facilitates meetings of up to 1,000 participants. This is a brief summary, for full details and current packages check the Zoom website.

Modern headphones are lightweight, and cancel background noise.

Modern headphones are lightweight, and cancel background noise.

Easy Instructions For Zoom

  1. You don’t need an account to join a Zoom meeting. The host just sends you a link.
  2. If you do create a free account, you can have as many 1-2-1 meetings as you like.
  3. With a free account, you can host up to 100 people in a meeting but only for 40 minutes at a time. But if you want to, you can get everyone to log back in, using the same link, for another 40 minutes. And it remains free.
  4. You don’t have to have your camera on to participate, but it’s friendlier if everyone can see each other.
  5. You don’t have to have your mic on to be part of a Zoom meeting. In fact, some hosts like to mute everyone’s mic so that no stray noises interrupt the main speaker.
  6. You can Zoom from your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet. Just download the app and you’re good-to-go.
  7. If you don’t want other meeting participants to see your home, you can change your real-life background to a virtual one. It’s easy, the video below shows you how.
  8. If you have any major issues there is a Help Center on the Zoom website, but most difficulties can be resolved by asking your friends; the video app is pretty much intuitive to use.

How to Create Virtual Background on Zoom

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 13, 2020:

I have been wondering about Zoom, so I am so glad you wrote this article. I thought it would be a great way to talk to relatives in other states as I have not found a programs that worked well. Thanks so much, Beth.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 13, 2020:

I hadn't heard of Zoom before COVID-19. I wish I had read your helpful article a few months ago. We have found Zoom very useful and we've all got a little better at using it with practice. An English comedian did a great sketch in which zoom featured. "You need to put your sound/video on" were heard frequently in the early days, but not so much now.

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