Zoom and Google Meet hacks you wish you knew sooner

This is an image of a laptop with the Zoom and Meets logos on the screen.
Illustration by Bren Robinson.

As a result of unforeseen circumstances from the pandemic, there has been a momentous shift from face to face interactions to screen to screen meetings. 

Whether it be work, school or family affairs, we want to ensure you’re equipped with the best tools to make your virtual life easier. Zoom and Google Meet are the two most popular and efficient platforms of online communication today, but not everyone is familiar with all its features. 

Regardless of which video conferencing platform you use, here are some tips that will help you elevate your experience. Some of these hacks can be done right on your computer while others are affordable investments that are guaranteed to help you out.

Things you can do for free

1. Mirror yourself

Although Google Meet has a built in system that automatically flips the camera, you can actually mirror your camera on the Zoom platform. I spent months on Zoom having to stare at my lopsided face and cringe at the asymmetry. However, there is a simple solution for this that only takes a couple of steps.

  • Open Zoom and go to your settings at the top right corner
  • Click the video option 
  • Check the ‘Mirror my video’ option
Mirroring video on Zoom.

2. Adjust your lighting

Whether it’s lighting in your room or a lack of  sunlight, everyone knows that poor lighting can lead to poor video quality. But, don’t worry! Zoom has built in settings to help you achieve the look of great lighting and make you glow while doing so. Follow the steps below and your camera will adjust to low lighting everytime it is detected.

Zoom

  • Open Zoom and go to your settings in the top right corner
  • Click the video option 
  • Check the ‘Adjust for low light’ option and choose either auto or manual mode
How to adjust for low light on Zoom

3. Know your shortcuts

There’s nothing more satisfying than figuring out keyboard shortcuts and completing tasks within seconds. Keep these key patterns in mind and you are guaranteed to save time without needing to scramble around to find these options. Below are some of the most useful shortcuts to take note of for both platforms.

Zoom

  • Join meeting: command + J
  • Mute or unmute audio: command + shift + A
  • Start or stop video: command + shift + V
  • Chat: command + shift + H
  • Leave or end meeting: command + W

Google Meet

  • Mute or unmute audio: command + D
  • Start or stop video: command + E
  • Chat: command + control + C
  • Toggle people on and off: command + control + P
  • View hotkeys: shift + ?

4. Add virtual backgrounds

While some people have beautiful setups at home and look like they could be living in the pages of Architectural Digest, not all of us have that luxury. 

With my Ryerson calendar and chipped wall behind me, my workspace isn’t quite the impression that I want to be giving off. This is where virtual backgrounds come into play. These settings allow you to display an image or video as your background during a meeting and is completely free! Virtual backgrounds are available for both Zoom and Google Meet and can help your space look like Bobby from Queer Eye just gave it a makeover.

Zoom:

Zoom has a virtual background feature embedded into the application that you can use once you give the application authority to modify your video settings.

  • Open Zoom and go to your settings in the top right corner
  • Choose ‘Background and Filters’ 
  • At the bottom of the screen, approve the feature
  • Use the backgrounds and video filters they have created for you or upload your own

Virtual Backgrounds: 

Video filters:

Google Meet:

Unfortunately for Google Meet users, there is no setting in the app that allows users to alter their settings. However, with a useful Google Chrome extension such as Virtual Backgrounds for Google Meet™, you can pretend to be in a different place than where you actually are. 

5. Befriend your calendar

Although life has completely shifted online and you may think it would be easier to keep our ducks in a row now, we’re still bound to forget things here and there. That’s why it’s essential you keep all your Zoom and Google Meet meetings displayed on a calendar to help you keep track of all your meeting details. By linking these important tools to your Google account, you can access these events from any of your devices and see exactly what you have coming up.

Here are some free calendar and organization apps:

  • Google Calendar
    • What makes this calendar special is its compatibility with most devices and the option for users to colour coordinate and use multiple calendars at once. 
  • Time Tree
    • This app is particularly useful when it comes to planning events and having a collaborative calendar. Whether it be with friends or family, you are able to coordinate with others and make plans accordingly.
  • Todoist
    • Todoist is a fantastic tool that behaves as a to-do list and allows users to create daily and recurring tasks. With the option to add projects and simple reminders, you can create entire schedules for up to two years into your calendar.

Affordable investments to help you out 

1. Laptop stand

If you’re someone like me who doesn’t have a desk and you do most of your work from your bed, you might want to consider investing in a laptop stand. They can help with preventing back strains and allow you to have a better angle when looking at your screen for long periods of time.

Here is a list of places that offer a great variety of laptop stands:

2. Blue light blocking glasses

Staring at your screen for hours on end is extremely harmful to your eyes  and it is crucial that we take care of our eyes in this digital-first era. Blue light blocking glasses have filtering materials that are designed to block short-wave blue light that we intake from computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. 

By adding one of these into your shopping cart, you can protect your eyes from the unavoidable work you do on your devices and can feel a little more comfortable doing so.

Here is a list of places where you can get blue-light blocking glasses:

3. Earphones

While some students are able to live in residence or find a place on their own, most of us are on quarantine at home with our families or living with friends. For those of us who aren’t the only ones at home, getting a pair of earphones is extremely useful in blocking out the distractions around us. 

Pop these bad boys in and you can attend your meetings in peace, complete assignments without having to hear your bickering family and do some homework while jamming out to your favourite music.

Here is a list of stores that carry earphones you can try out:

4. Lamp

If the lighting adjustment settings in Zoom or Google Meet aren’t enough, you can always go ahead and purchase a lamp. This will allow you to not only look fantastic in your meetings, but also aid you in your late night study sessions. 

Here is a list of companies that provide affordable lamps:

5. Camera cover

Investing in a camera cover for your laptop allows you to have full control of when others can see you, enabling you to feel at ease. These little tools are super beneficial and simple to set up.

Here are some camera covers to start:

With the rising need for online interaction and our new “normal” being technologically driven, these hacks are confirmed to give you the comfort with technology. Make sure you make the best out of this situation and use all resources available at your fingertips.