Joining a Zoom meeting is easy. You don’t need to create an account, just follow the link given to you. Typically the meeting host will send you an invitation which looks like this:
Join our home group Zoom meeting
Meeting ID: 933 7925 0841
Dial by your location
+44 203 481 5240
+44 131 460 1196
+44 203 051 2874
+44 203 481 5237
Using a SmartPhone
If you’re using a SmartPhone then you need to install the Zoom app from the Play store (Google) or the App store (Apple). Once you’ve done that (and you only need to do this once) then joining a Zoom meeting is really easy. If you have a long URL like the one above, just tap the URL and use Zoom to open it. If you just have the meeting ID, open the Zoom app and enter the ID manually, and password if requested. That’s it, you’re in!
There are options along the bottom of the screen to enable audio and video, which are described in more detail below.
Using a Laptop
Note: you can also use a desktop PC but ideally you need to have a webcam. If you don’t have one of those you will be able to see and hear other people, but they won’t be able to see or hear you, although they will know you’re there. You will also need to use a modern browser such as Edge, Chrome or Firefox.
Bear in mind that if you have an old computer, it may be very slow to respond after you click on a link or a button. If nothing happens, wait 30s before deciding it hasn’t worked.
Installing Zoom for the first time
If you have never joined a Zoom meeting before, you’ll need to install the Zoom App first. Go to the Zoom Download Centre and click on the Download button below Zoom Client for Meetings. This will download the installer to your computer (you may be prompted to save the file), and you’ll then have to run it. In most browsers it shows up in a small panel at the bottom left corner of the browser window, although in Firefox there is a downloads button near the top right.
Click on the icon, or the Run file link to run the installer. I’s a bit long-winded, but you only have to do this once!
On the Zoom website there is a big orange button saying Sign up, it’s free. You do not need to sign up to join a zoom meeting, so you can ignore that.
Joining the meeting
If you have a long URL, click on the link, which will open a screen on your web browser. Normally there will be another small popup window which offers to open the Zoom app. Just click the Open Zoom button when requested. The next popup prompts you to join the meeting with audio. Just click the Join button and you’re in.
If you just have the Meeting ID and password, open the Zoom App and you’ll be prompted to enter the ID and password. Or you can go to the Join a Meeting page; enter the meeting ID there and it will open the Zoom App for you.
You will then be prompted to join with computer audio. Click OK and you’re in.
Using a Telephone
You can even join a Zoom meeting using an ordinary landline phone. The invitation has several telephone numbers which you can dial. They are usually presented with +44 at the front, which is the international dialling format. Just replace the +44 with 0 to get a normal UK number.
Dial the number and once you’re connected you’ll be asked to enter the meeting ID on the phone keypad, which is the 11-digit number, 933 7925 0841 in the example above.
You will probably be asked for a password which will usually be a 6-digit number. Enter that too, and then wait to be connected to the meeting. The instructions which follow are for computers and smartphones so you can ignore the rest of this page.
Now that you’re in the meeting you’ll see a larger screen with all the meeting participants. In the example below there are only two, but there can be quite a large number. Father Ted has his video camera enabled but I am just using audio.
Along the bottom of the screen you can see the main controls.
Mute/Unmute controls whether other people can hear you. On each participant’s square you can also see a red crossed-through microphone symbol for anyone who is muted.
On a laptop if you’re muted you can use the space bar to unmute temporarily while you talk. A sort of push-to-talk like two-way radio. But don’t say ‘over’ or you’ll get some strange looks…
Video On/Off is next and controls whether other people can see you. If the video is off then they’ll just see your name.
Participants shows a list of people in the meeting.
Chat opens a chat window. You can type messages to the whole group or just to one person in the group.
Share Screen allows you to share your computer with the rest of the group, if the meeting host has permitted it. This can be useful for things like showing a Powerpoint presentation, but many groups will have this feature disabled.
The controls shown at the top right allow you to choose different views, and to go full screen.
Use the red Leave Meeting button when you want to stop participating.
That really is all there is to it. If you can’t meet in person then this is the next best thing. It’s very easy to use and you get to see your friends. Why not give it a try?