Zoom Tip: Keep the Timer Visible to Everyone

Here is a tip for making sure all speakers will be able to see the Timer in a meeting or contest conducted on Zoom. This is an action that must be taken by the meeting Host (not a Co-host) that benefits all participants.

Placing the Timer in the upper right hand corner, using Follow Host’s Video Order

In Zoom Toastmasters meetings, the person playing the role of Timer typically shows green, yellow, and red signals background images as “timing lights” to let speakers know when they are running out of time. This use of the Zoom virtual background feature fairly well, except when the speaker loses track of the timer — which can be easy to do because of the way Zoom automatically reorders thumbnail video images according to some weird AI logic. People often get flustered when they get called for Table Topics and realize they can’t see the Timer.

I used to tell individual participants to go into gallery view, then drag-and-drop the image of the Timer into the upper right hand corner of the screen. This keeps the Timer visible in the same position in Gallery view throughout the meeting. Also, in full screen view, or when the speaker shares their screen, the Timer will still be at the beginning of the smaller film strip view that Zoom shows of other participants.

This self-service method works, but it puts the burden on each member (or guest) to rearrange their screen.

Instead, the Host can rearrange the video order for everyone by dragging and dropping the Timer into the upper left corner, and then selecting the Follow Host’s Video Order option on the View menu. That’s the same menu in the upper right corner of the screen that you use to toggle between Speaker view and Gallery view. However, the Follow Host’s Video Order option is only displayed to the Host.

This method sets everyone’s gallery view order to match the the Host’s choices. The Timer will stay locked in the upper right hand corner, and any people who join after the order was set will go to the end of the list. About the only thing that will mess this up is if the Timer gets disconnected and has to rejoin the meeting.

Caveat: You should turn this on before using other Zoom features that dictate the audience’s view, like Spotlight, because the Follow Host menu option is not visible when that’s active. (Thanks to Steve Crews for pointing that out in a discussion on TI Official Members group).

Although I’d heard something like this was possible, it took me a while to figure out how to do it because I often join meetings as a Co-host. For the most part, Co-hosts can perform all the same actions as Hosts, but this feature turns out to be one of the few exceptions.

Setting the video order is a small thing we can do to make participating in a Toastmasters meeting easier on everyone.

How to Start Your Slides More Smoothly In Zoom

Uh … I have a few slides to show you … just a second, where is that share button … okay, here we go. Just a sec, oh right, show from beginning. Here we go ….

Have you attended an online meeting where the presenter said at least some of that out loud? Or have you been that person? Having a little trouble futzing with the technology is perfectly understandable when you’re just getting started, but eventually you want to grow beyond that.

One technique I am working to perfect is to just speak for a moment or two (with my face on screen, rather than my slides). As I speak a specific line of my introduction, I start the slides without fumbling.

Here is what I have learned by trial and error.

Share dialog ready to go
  1. Put your slides in “presentation mode” ahead of time, before you actually share them. In PowerPoint, you go to the row of buttons under Slide Show and click “From Beginning.”
  2. Leave the slides warmed up and ready to go as you enter the Zoom meeting and await your turn to speak.
  3. As the time in the meeting for you to speak approaches, find the green Share button at the bottom of the screen and click on it. For the speaking technique I discuss above (just talk first, then add slides), you do not actually want to start the screen share yet — that will not happen until you click the blue Share button within the dialog box.
  4. With the screen control dialog displayed, select the screen that you want to share. The presentation mode view of your slides will be one of the options you can select. Leaving the dialog box open will block part of the screen Zoom screen (as shown above), but you can move it around as necessary to see what you need to see. (More important, you’re getting ready for your own time on camera).
  5. Begin speaking when you are introduced. Hover your mouse over that blue Share button. At the exact right moment in your speech, click the button in the dialog box. Your slides will appear on screen, and you can begin advancing through them.

You can skip or modify steps, depending on the nature of your speech. If you prefer to have your slides displayed from the beginning of when you start speaking, it still helps to have everything queued up and ready to go before you start speaking.

With a little modification, you ought to be able to apply the same basic concepts to presenting in other online meeting environments such as GoToMeeting or Microsoft Teams.

Getting Fancy

Note that if you select a specific application, such as your PowerPoint, but then switch to showing a web page or other application, the audience will still be seeing your original selection. If you are going to be switching between applications, it is better to select the full screen view. Just leave your slides, or whatever application you want the audience to see first, as the last application displayed before you entered Zoom. When you start screen sharing, the Zoom screen disappears (expect for the thumbnails and controls in the margin of the page), leaving the last application viewed as the subject of your screen share.

Keeping it Simple

While this is advice I don’t always follow, the “keep it simple, stupid” (KISS) principle is probably best, when possible. If you just take it step-by-step, the plan I outline above will help you be a little more of a smooth operator online.