Book Review: Zoom for Beginners by Mary B. Freeman, 2020.

Reviewed by Jonathan Groner, public relations consultant and freelance writer

Zoom is a well-known cloud-based videoconferencing service, but it is, of course, far more than that. Launched in 2013 by Chinese American entrepreneur Eric Yuan, Zoom has found its moment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As the shift to home offices and videoconferencing took off this past March, so did Zoom. As an online industry newsletter wrote recently:

It was in 2020 ... that Zoom really took off. With people confined to their homes, apps that allowed us to stay in touch became central to our day-to-day lives. People in their droves chose Zoom over other options. ... Zoom usage shot up in March 2020. Yuan stated in a blog post that over the course of that month, Zoom was seeing 200 million daily meeting participants. The following month, this figure had risen to 300 million. This compares to 10 million in December 2019.

In view of these developments and of the fact that the pandemic sadly is not imminently coming to an end, at least a basic proficiency in Zoom has become a virtual necessity for most workers who used to go to work every day, as well as for most freelancers and home-office types. These categories, of course, include most or all legal marketers. Zoom has even crept into the sinews of American culture, with memorable ads that flash those ubiquitous side-by-side panels, each containing a face bearing a smile or perhaps some other expression.

These developments also mean that some of us legal marketers will need to develop more than just a basic knowledge of Zoom. Although the program is relatively easy to use, it has its tricky points like any piece of software, and also, like any piece of software, it has its security concerns. Enter a book like, “Zoom for Beginners,” one of several that have appeared this year to educate office workers about the ins and outs of Zoom and to capitalize on the program’s now-ubiquitous presence in the workplace.

The book has several virtues. It does not assume any prior knowledge on the reader’s part, so it deals efficiently with basics like scheduling a meeting, admitting participants, and ensuring privacy and security. It stays away from technical jargon for the most part, and it provides a clear description of the several levels of Zoom membership, how much they cost, and what they provide to the user.

Furthermore, the author includes several sections about what might be called the instructional or social aspects of Zoom or how to get the most out of this relatively new tool. For example, she notes that “a learning activity can jump-start a class by immediately putting students into the driver’s seat of their learning.” She suggests, for example, that since a polling tool is built into Zoom, a teacher in a Zoom class can begin a class with a three- to five-question ungraded quiz to test his or her students’ comprehension, something that would have been relatively difficult to accomplish in a traditional face-to-face setting.

On the other hand, the reader will encounter far too often in this book expressions or phrases that are awkward, unnatural or confusing. For example, she writes, “It is an extremely elusive association, business or part without the use of the Zoom stage to lead their online gatherings and video communications among workers, so you can comprehend why they have administration delay issues.” Frankly, I can’t comprehend that sentence.

I also was a bit put off by Freeman’s suggestion that a Zoom user, before going before the camera, might want to “put on a little bit of mascara or possibly a neutral lipstick, or maybe just a little lip balm.” And no, she doesn’t provide an alternative suggestion for men.

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