Online Meetings

While San Diego County and the state of California mandate social distancing and prohibit all gatherings, the Sierra Club Photo Section meets online, using the well-known “Zoom” online meeting software. Here’s what you need to know. (if you’re already familiar with Zoom, please read the “Etiquette” section, nevertheless.)

Invitations & Joining a Meeting

While our in-person meetings were always open to the public at no fee, we cannot make our online meetings public. Joining our online meetings requires the meeting ID and password. We’re sending this information to members only, via our mailing list, to maintain security and privacy of the meetings. If you’re not a member and interested in a meeting, you can join the Photo Section and we’ll add you to our mailing list.

Technology

You will need to install the Zoom client on your computer. If it’s not installed already, you will be prompted to do so when you click the link in the invitation. You can install the client software in advance. Download from Zoom directly.

Video

You will see the video and any shared content (the presentation, our MemberShare and other features) on your computer’s screen. We recommend a reasonably large screen for this, ideally no less than 15″, better more. While it is of course possible to use Zoom on phones and tablets (they have an app that you can install), small screens are not really useful to follow a presentation and enjoy the photos and content.

Audio and Interaction

You will need speakers or headphones attached to your computer to hear the presentation and discussion. This is audio that is transmitted to you. For audio transmitted from you, ie. to interact and ask questions, you will need a microphone/headset, or ideally a webcam.

Most laptop computers have a built in webcam, speakers and microphone. If you have a laptop, your most likely all set. All-in-one desktop computers, such as Apple’s iMac, also have a built-in webcam, speakers and microphone.

If you do not have a webcam, you can purchase one online, they start at $50 and are probably nice to have during this time anyway (you can also use them with Skype, Signal, other online meeting solutions, etc. etc.). A webcam usually has a microphone, and the entire thing is connected to your computer via USB. They’re really easy to use and setup.

If you do NOT have either of these, you can also dial in to the meeting via phone for the audio part. The dial-in number is included in the invitation.

Obviously, for the best interaction, we recommend using a webcam. When you use a webcam in our online meetings, your video will be transmitted and when you speak, others can see you. It makes the whole experience of meeting online much more personal! You can turn off your video at any time in the Zoom client.

If you have a laptop, all-in-one desktop, or an otherwise complete setup, install the Zoom client and run the audio/video tests in the software. It’s available in the Video and Audio sections of the settings (top right corner has a little gear ⚙️ symbol to open the settings).

Etiquette

To make our online meetings enjoyable for everyone who attends, we ask that you please observe these simple guidelines:

When you first join the meeting, your computer microphone will be muted. Please only turn your microphone on when you have a question, or when it’s your turn during MemberShare. This is to prevent distractions when others speak, and to keep the Zoom client from switching focus to you when you make a sound (that means any sound…).

In the Zoom client, you can press and hold the space bar, much like the “talk” button on a walkie-talkie, to temporarily un-mute your microphone. Don’t let your cat sit on the space bar!

If you dial in via phone, please mute the mic on your telephone, unless you have a question.

Since it isn’t guaranteed that everyone can see you, it is very helpful to announce who you are when you ask a question. Just say “this is [your name], I have a question”. Not everyone’s voice is as easily recognizable as Sir David Attenborough’s.

There’s also a chat (typed messages) integrated into the Zoom client. It’s hard to follow a conversation though when many people chat at the same time. Please use the chat only in the context of the meeting and keep usage to a minimum, if you need help, can’t see or hear anything, or don’t have a microphone and need to ask a question.

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