How Zoom uses Zoom

Zoom employees disclose whether it’s OK to ever eat on camera.

Zoom cameras

Zoom employees — Zoomies — have their own ways of using the tool.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Ever wondered how the companies behind your favorite tech use their own products? We’ve told you how Spotify uses Spotify, how Meta uses Meta and how Canva uses Canva. In this installment, we talked to Zoom execs about how they use Zoom.

Zoom’s event specialists manager Sam Kokajko has been in up to eight Zoom meetings at once. Someone else on the Zoom events support team has a simultaneous Zoom record of 36. Even with all the handy Zoom tips in the world, I’m not sure my brain could take that much stimulation. It’s part of the job, though, when coordinating large-scale events via the platform.

“All of us have our different Zoom calls, bringing the audio and video back and forth, but we also have another Zoom call that we’re on, that we call our comms call, to communicate with each other,” Kokajko said.

Most Zoom employees are not in this many meetings at the same time. But they are inside Zoom more than your average worker, and thus have valuable insights into the best ways to use the tool. Protocol spoke with employees across Zoom about how best to run hybrid events, Zoomie etiquette and whether it’s socially acceptable to eat on camera.

The Zoom event playbook

A major televised event or even just a corporate keynote is typically managed by a huddle of people controlling the video on set. Kokajko runs an entirely remote operation, organizing feeds and team members from all over the country. The event services team consults customers on everything from small business webinars to awards ceremonies like the Emmys. On the side, the team also runs internal Zoom events. The events team is in constant communication while producing events, using screen share and remote control to collaborate on what feed to show the audience.

“Zoom has allowed us to take what used to be a centralized control room and ‘video village’ where everyone’s working and distribute that all over the country and world to work on these events in tandem,” Kokajko said.

Presenting for both remote and in-person audiences is still a relatively new challenge, and one Kokajko spends pretty much all his time tackling. He has to pull remote speakers, studio audiences and virtual participants together into one cohesive event. Kokajko’s team was behind a Zoom “Innovators at Work” series last year in which, with the help of a green screen and virtual set, presenters in New York and Australia appeared to be sitting across from each other.

For all Zoom events, Kokajko is focused on ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to participate. “If someone has an ability in a session to get on a mic and say something in the room, then someone in a virtual audience should have the ability to ask that same question,” he said. Keeping the chat open for active audience engagement is crucial, he said. Zoom always displays a QR code for live audiences to scan and enter the chat, too.

Kokajko, who’s worked remotely for Zoom over the past five years, was the mastermind behind Zoom’s virtual holiday party last year, opening several Zoom rooms with different activities: virtual poker and a cake-decorating competition, to name a few. Zoom teams took photo booth-esque pictures in front of virtual backgrounds. It’s too soon to tell what format Zoom’s holiday party will be this year, but Kokajko “can’t imagine any events that don’t have a virtual component going forward.”

Zoomie etiquette

The other day, one of Sharvari Nerurkar’s team members was eating during a meeting and decided to use the Zoom panda avatar to hide their face. Avatars are one of the ways Zoom employees try to have some fun with the platform. In this case, the avatar was socially convenient as well — though Nerurkar doesn’t have a problem with people eating on camera.

“When I used to go to the office, I would eat sandwiches in a meeting,” Nerurkar said. “I’m taking that forward. As long as you’re not eating chicken wings.”

Nerurkar, the head of Zoom’s chat product, is all for flexibility when it comes to meeting etiquette. There is no formal set of rules inside the company. Everyone is expected to act like an adult, of course, but turning yourself into a fox with a hoodie is fair game. “In customer meetings, we try to, for example, coordinate our background,” Nerurkar said. “But I have never seen a meeting or an event where I said to myself, ‘Man, we need to publish some rules.’”

There are some meeting rules Zoomies abide by. For example: send written materials at least 24 hours before a scheduled meeting; don’t hold meetings on Wednesdays. Nerurkar accidentally invited CEO Eric Yuan to a Wednesday meeting once. He declined (and she won’t make that mistake again).

Zoom is firmly in the American lexicon at this point — so much so that even the newest Zoomies know the product well. Nicole Perzigian, Zoom’s global emerging talent program leader, said the interns and new graduates come in with a solid Zoom knowledge. Perzigian started Zoom’s first-ever early in career program a year and a half ago. Her team used Zoom’s events platform to onboard about 155 new grads in the U.S. and 60 in India.

“Everyone knew Zoom, which is great,” Perzigian said. “But what I have to do as a leader is prove what these interns and new graduates can come and learn at Zoom. I find myself making sure they know this is the brand we want. You’re going to come in and do meaningful, impactful work.”

Miscellaneous tips

  • "Worried about noisy distractions happening behind you or in your workspace? Select 'suppress background noise' (I have mine set to 'high') and choose either 'blur' or a professional-looking virtual background to hide any distractions. If you're suffering from bad apartment lighting like me, select the 'adjust for low light' option to brighten things up." — Matt Nagel, Corporate Communications
  • "Your personal chat is an UNSUNG hero! I use it to take notes, add to-do items to my list, and more. For my to-dos, I create a thread for the week, reply in the thread with my tasks, and use the green check emoji once complete! Let me tell you nothing is more motivating and satisfying than seeing those green checks pile up by the end of your week! —Jamonique Fletcher, Diversity & Inclusion
  • "Share computer sound output in a Zoom Meeting without turning on your mic. Click 'share screen' and select 'share sound' if you want others to hear audio coming from your computer as well as see your shared screen." — Kishore Debnath, Client Engineering
  • "Start your meeting a minute or two early so you can warmly greet your attendees. It's lonely hanging out in a meeting by yourself waiting for everyone else to join (or worse, waiting in a lobby for the host to start the meeting if you don't have the 'join before host' option set). — Susie Williams, Solution Engineering
  • "During design review, during troubleshooting or feature walkthrough, I use the Vanishing Pen to guide the presenter to click without clearing my drawing. This is very convenient for me in such interactions." — Jim Zhao, Zoom Phone Ops
This story was updated to clarify the distinction between Zoom's intern program and its "early in career" program.

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