Zoom Co-Hosts for Worship
from East Falls Presbyterian Church || Rev. Kari Olson

As the size of our gatherings grows, the role of Zoom Co-Hosts is increasingly important. As Zoom Co-Hosts, you are the ushers and greeters of online worship! Thank you!

We are always (whether online or in person) striving to balance openness, welcome, and accessibility with safety and security. Whether in person or online, hospitality is the best first line of security. Greeting each person who enters, especially those we have not met, is welcoming and also creates a layer of security to help us know who is with us.

You’ll want to keep the list of participants (click “participants” or “manage participants” on the bottom of the Zoom window) and the chat box open to help you monitor the meeting. In the participants section, you’ll also see if anyone is in the waiting room and needing to be admitted to the meeting. It would also be helpful to scroll through the various pages of gallery view to keep an eye on people’s video feeds.

Welcoming and Greeting

Greeting: As people enter the meeting prior to the start of worship (or other gathering), it’s good practice whenever possible to welcome and greet them by name (e.g. “Hi [name], it’s good to see you.” “I see [name] has joined us. Welcome!”). If their name is not displayed (e.g. it says “iPad”), ask who it is (e.g. “Who just joined us on the iPad?”). If they’re joining by calling in, you will see their phone number displayed. In that case, you can ask, “Who is calling in from the 215-555… number?” (make sure they’re unmuted) or search the church directory to try to identify the number. If worship has already started, you can use the chat box to send them a private chat to welcome them (though participants who call in do not have access to the chat feature).

The Waiting Room: When people attempt to join the meeting, they are placed in the “waiting room” until a host admits them to the meeting. As we would do if we were in the building, we welcome anyone who wishes to join us, trying to greet them personally. Names we recognize can be quickly admitted to the meeting. For people joining by phone, it might be helpful to have the church directory open on your computer so you can search the phone number and see if it’s someone we know. For a name you do not recognize, you can admit them or you can chat with them prior to admitting them to the meeting (e.g. “Hi! Welcome to worship! How did you hear about us?”). If you see an unfamiliar name, even if you’re unable to identify them through chat, admit them to the meeting. Once they are in the meeting, welcome them publicly, if possible (“I see (name) has joined us. Welcome!”); you can keep an eye on their box in the gallery if you have any concern. Just as we would not turn away someone we do not know from the church door, do not turn anyone away from our Zoom meeting just because we do not know them.

Managing Participants

As a co-host, you have a number of tools to help manage the participants (individually and collectively), including renaming, controlling audio and video, and removing participants from the meeting.

Along the bottom of the participants window, you will see options to “Mute All” and “Unmute All.” The “Mute All” function is useful at the beginning of worship or if there is background noise from someone and we cannot quickly identify whose device needs to be muted. Also, along the bottom of the participants window there is an option to see “More” options. These include things like allowing participants to unmute themselves, whether participants are placed in the waiting room upon entry, and whether participants can rename themselves. For now, I have the settings so that people can unmute themselves to allow greater ease of interaction among our members and friends.

There are also ways we as hosts can manage individual participants. If you hover your cursor over the name in the participants window, you’ll see blue boxes with options to mute or see more options. You can also see these options by hovering your cursor over their box in the gallery view. Here are some of the options you may want to use:

  • Rename: Most people already have their name displayed when they join. But for those who don’t (it might say “iPad” or you’ll see a phone number for those calling in), you can rename them so that their name is displayed in the meeting. This helps us know who is with us and greet one another well.
  • Mute: Muting participants who are not speaking helps to minimize background noise. If you notice someone has unmuted themselves but then their dog is barking or something, you can mute them.
  • Stop Video: This option stops a user’s video feed, so we won’t see them.
  • Remove: This option removes someone from the meeting. Once removed, they cannot rejoin. This is the emergency button if anyone were to cause trouble in the meeting. It may also be useful for someone who thinks they’ve left the meeting, but all they did was quit the app on their mobile device so they’re still displayed in the meeting.
In Case of Zoombombing…

Because we are not sharing our link publicly and our settings are fairly locked down (only hosts can share screens, we’re using the waiting room, etc.), it seems unlikely that we would be Zoombombed. However, it’s better to be prepared ahead of time just in case. Zoombombing is when someone/people join a meeting and cause some kind of trouble. Some people have experienced Zoombombers sharing inappropriate images by sharing their screen or using virtual backgrounds; other examples include people shouting profanities and racist slurs. Again, the best protection we have against this is not sharing our link publicly and trying to screen people through the waiting room and greet people, especially guests, individually on arrival.

If we were to experience a Zoombombing, here are ways you can help us manage the situation:

  • “Mute All” participants
  • At the bottom of the participants box, select “More” and uncheck “Allow participants to unmute themselves.” You may need to “Mute All” again after selecting that option.
  • “Stop video” on any feeds with inappropriate images
  • “Remove” any participants causing trouble. Muting all participants silences the meeting and buys some time while hosts search for and remove the offender(s). Once removed, participants cannot rejoin the meeting.
  • An additional step that could be taken if necessary is to lock the meeting, blocking anyone else from attempting to join. To do that, select “More” at the bottom of the participants box and check “Lock Meeting.”

Zoombombing can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov (screenshots or any other information is helpful).