Tips for Using Zoom: How to Entertain Your CoursematesMarch 30, 2020

The imminent lockdown would mean that lectures and group discussions could be conducted online. It's no longer a case of being prepared to embrace this new reality or not, but rather how to make it as entertaining, if not interesting, as the lectures and group discussions.

You might be surprised at the fact that Zoom would enable you to know your course mates. You may be indifferent to the background, but it somehow makes you determine which ones could be your lifelong friends. It's hard to believe, but a small detail would determine that you share some interests. A mini-library of paperbacks might not surprise you especially if you're studying literature while some would overlook those bestsellers in Young-adult fiction that might have been arranged in a way that would be noticed right away. Lego blocks could be another thing, though. It's hard not to comment on those plush toys that sit atop a bed. A painting is intended to impress anyone, but you don't mind studying those postcards in the wall. In other words, those details could be a diversion from the discussion. It's a good thing, as it won't be good to read (or watch) lots of news on the domino effect of the coronavirus outbreak. What about your professors and tutor? 

There's no need to make an effort to make the background more enticing, if not more impressive, for them. The kitchen would do, as long as what you have to say would make a valuable contribution to the discussion. Is there anything else? Yes, there is.

Zoom could be tricky, if not more challenging, on your part. Your professors might not notice how you drift from the discussion during the middle of the lecture, but it won't happen again. And you must pay more attention to your tutor. It should make you try harder, if not too hard. It's OK, as it won't be counted against you. And then there's something that you're afraid to tell. You didn't realize that you're annoyed at someone until the Zoom conference. Try to be patient, as this is not an ideal situation. If this won't be good enough, think of how an actual discussion could turn out. (You don't want to turn it into an awkward moment.) And don't take it too seriously. It's already hard out there. You're about ready for that Brady Brunch experience. (It's OK if you don't have a clue about this classic TV series. You would figure it out sooner.)

6 Ways to Host an Entertaining Discussion

What time is it? The afternoon would be the best time for a Zoom conference. Think about the new set-up, where you don't have to be distracted, if not worried, about things that don't relate to the coursework. It could be chores, if not errands. You don't miss your workout as well. You can afford to take a nap after you're done with the conference, as a fresh mind would enable you to write your assignments on a shorter time. You must exclude the time you would spend on proofreading. There's nothing wrong if you want to stick to your old routine, which is different from what is suggested here. You must follow what the rest wish, and it could be the new routine.

Ask everyone if the settings are OK, which includes the audio. It's pointless not to check your computer before the conference. The audio would be the most important, as you don't want to miss on anything. As for the Brady-Bunch format, your curiosity might be piqued when you lose a bit of interest in the discussion. You don't have to pinch yourself, but you could chew gum. It should help you regain your focus. Coffee could be an alternative especially if it's getting colder. It's not impolite to ask your coursemates the same thing. What next?

Start with a recap of the previous discussion (or lecture). It's understandable if someone has a vague memory of a previous discussion, as it's hard to focus on what's going outside. If someone happens to miss their family, you could cheer them up. (Send them a series of memes, which would everyone.) There's nothing repetitive about introduction each other, as one or two might be joining the discussion for the first time. It should break the ice, as well as lighten up the mood. 

Have you wondered about eye-catching backgrounds? It shouldn't be mandatory, but your initiative may spurn others to do the same. If you have traveled a number of times, with your family or mates, you could post something that would make them curious. You might be ashamed about cheesy items (like artists that many cringe upon looking at), but you don't need everyone's approval. You're old enough, and there's no need to add from there. You can position your computer from another angle, where your books could be seen. It should be a sign that you want everyone's attention. And they must be serious about meeting the objectives. 

I hear you! (And you're terrible.) You might not like the sound of your voice, if not you notice the amused expression, if not a smirk on someone's face. Don't be defensive by asking if there's something wrong. Try self-depreciation, if not steer to the most important topics of the discussion. This could be the right time to ask anyone I'd have any questions about the discussion or the previous session. It would make everyone move forward sooner.

Let's agree on something (before the conference adjourns). You can't moderate the discussions all the time, as it could result in discontent or boredom. Don't hesitate to appoint someone (to moderate) next time. And make sure that you have planned what to discuss next time. Better do the homework first.

Practice Makes Perfect

The uncertainty of the situation is an opportunity to practice this new set-up while you're not far from each other. You have done it, but it was an actual meeting. You could compare notes, which should remove any kinks. And you don't have to achieve perfection right away. Take your time. Make them laugh. Enjoy the experience. 

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