Role: Zoom Host, Tech A, Engineer

This post is part of a series intended to become a Mermaid’s Tavern Guide to Zoom Singing publication for folk arts organizations, feature artists, session singers, and online audiences for folk music. We welcome comments below.

As the Zoom Host for a music event, think of yourself as running the control room with the help of your Co-Host(s). You take care of all the behind-the-scenes stuff so the MC can concentrate on hospitality and keeping the flow going. For a concert, you are also the technical liaison to the Feature Artists. Your job is to make sure they have all the Studio Gear they need to give a show, that it is working correctly on the day of the event, and that they have given permission to record the concert or to avoid recording if they have not granted permission. You may be the Zoom Starter yourself, but you do not need to have a paid Zoom account to be a Zoom Host.

You do have to be comfortable using Zoom to be a Host. You can get some practice by offering to be a Co-Host or MC first.

What You Need

  • A computer or laptop (not a tablet or smartphone) running Windows, MacOS, or Linux
  • Reliable internet access with high bandwidth: a wifi location close to your router is better, a wired Ethernet connection is best
  • The latest version update to the Zoom app so you can use all available features
  • The link to join the event
  • The name and contact information for the Zoom Starter and Zoom Co-Host(s) for the event
  • The name and contact information for Feature Artists so you can do a preflight tech check and the day-of tech check
  • Knowledge of how to use Zoom to fulfill your Zoom Host responsibilities
  • Names and approximate numbers of breakout rooms so you can create them at the start of the event
  • If you need training or practice, schedule a tech rehearsal with the Zoom Planner, ideally several days before the event

What You Do

Preflight Tech Check with Feature Artists
Several days before the event, contact the Feature Artist(s) and walk through What They Need to fulfill their role. You will want to cover:

  • CAMERA A built-in webcam is OK, an external USB webcam is best. Using smartphones and digital cameras as webcams introduces complexity and can take extra time, so we recommend their use only for experienced artists. See Studio Gear for details.
  • MICROPHONE A built-in microphone is OK, an external USB microphone is best. Using an audio interface and multiple microphones also introduces complexity and can take extra time, so we recommend their use only for experienced artists. See Studio Gear for details.
  • AUDIO SETTINGS Each Feature Artist should enable Original Sound and walk through the settings in Getting the Best Quality Sound.
  • LIGHTING At a minimum, the artist should have a light to one side illuminating their face (a key light). A second light on the other side to fill in the shadows (fill light) is better. An overhead light slightly behind the artist (rim light) is best as it completes basic three-point lighting. A room light for the background, that is off camera and less bright than the first two, will make the “stage” more cheerful and easier to see.
  • BACKGROUND A solid background is least distracting and provides best contrast. Some artists may have a black backdrop and/or green screen, others may use a quilt or bedspread as a backdrop. Make sure that the camera angle does not bleed beyond the background. A plain digital Zoom background can work or can create ghosting effects, especially with instruments: test before using. We do not recommend digital backgrounds for instrumentalists.
  • CLOTHING Solid color clothing that contrasts with the background is best. If the artist is wearing a shirt with writing on it, make sure that they do not have the option set to mirror their camera as the audience will find this distracting.
  • WEBSITE Get the homepage link to the artist’s website to paste into the chat during the event.
  • TIP JAR Get the link and/or email address to the artist’s tip jar to paste into the chat. If the artist does not have a tip jar, discuss with the Zoom Planner whether the sponsor will collect funds and disburse them to the artist, with or without a percentage.
    For more details, see Role: Feature Artist and Studio Gear.

Before You Join the Event

  1. Check to make sure your Zoom app is updated to the latest version so you can use all available features.
  2. Set up a notes app with cut-and-paste strings for the artist and sponsor websites and tip jars, and the names of breakout rooms.

To Start the Event

  1. Show up at least 30 minutes before the event start time, and join the meeting.
  2. Let the Zoom Starter know that you are there and ready to take on the Host role. The Starter will then transfer the Host role to you.
  3. For a concert, let the Feature Artist, MC, and any Co-hosts in from the waiting room when they arrive.
  4. Assign the role of Co-Host to the MC and the Co-hosts so they can start to do their jobs. Make sure you assign co-hosts before you get involved with tech check!
  5. Work with each Feature Artist to confirm that each presenter’s video, audio, and lighting are correct and functioning. You should see and hear exactly what you expect the audience to see and hear. For details, see Feature Artist, Studio Gear, and Stage Setup.
  6. Confirm with each Feature Artist whether the sponsor has permission to record the event. If all artists agree, start the recording. You can trim it later and it’s easy to forget to start it as the event is starting. If artists do not agree and the event is already recording, stop the recording and remind the Zoom Starter to delete it from the account.
  7. Create the required number of Breakout Rooms and select Let participants choose room.
  8. Name the Breakout Rooms using the cut-and-paste strings from your notes app.

Good Things to Practice During Tech Check

  1. Practice Mute All and unmuting the MC, unmuting the Feature Artist, and muting the MC. Do this several times until you can do it in seconds.
  2. Practice Spotlighting the MC and Feature Artist. To do this, hover over the MC’s picture, select the three dots in the upper right, and select Spotlight for All. Then do the same for the Feature Artist. You can only do this if there are 3 or more people in the room. This prevents the speaker’s picture from being too small to see in Gallery View, and avoids the screen flicking between speakers in Speaker View in case someone is unmuted.
  3. Plan what to do if something occurs which prevents you from continuing as Host. Practice transferring and reclaiming the host role to and from the Co-Host and the MC. Ideally practice leaving the meeting, returning, and reclaiming Zoom Host.

During the Event

  1. At start time, take your cue from the MC to start the recording if it is not already started.
  2. Mute All. To do this, open the Participants window and select Mute All in the lower center of the pane.
  3. Unmute and Spotlight the MC. If the MC is a co-host, they can unmute themselves, which is safer.
  4. As the MC is introducing the Feature Artist, unmute and Spotlight the Feature Artist the same way. When the MC is finished, mute the MC if they have not already muted themselves.
  5. Monitor the Participants window and mute others if they have unmuted and forgotten to mute themselves. Unmuted participants will appear at the top of the Participants list.
  6. Work with the Co-Host to monitor the chat, answer questions, and provide help. Private chat is useful for 1:1 support.
  7. Periodically post links to the the artist and sponsor websites and tip jars. (The November 16 Zoom update advertised the ability to pin chats, but so far my tests are not successful.)
  8. When the Feature Artist concludes their set, unmute and Spotlight the MC for thanks and applause.
  9. Rinse and repeat for each scheduled session/concert/workshop in the event. Practice pinpoint control over mute/unmute and Spotlight/Gallery View/Speaker View. These are your sound and camera controls, and you own the control room.
  10. When using breakout rooms, send a 5-minute heads-up to notify participants that the rooms will be closing shortly and they will be returned to the main session.

To End the Event

  1. Take your cue from the MC when to stop muting participants and let them applaud and respond to the Feature Artists.
  2. When using breakout rooms, close the breakout rooms and return everyone to the main session.
  3. Take your cue from the MC whether to stay on for a crew debrief or end the meeting for all participants.
  4. As a general guideline, do not end the meeting when any audience members are still present. If it’s clear that any remaining audience has stepped away from their screens, attempt to make contact before ending the meeting.
  5. Close the meeting and congratulate yourself on a job well done. You are an excellent Zoom Host!