Not that long ago, the only unwanted interruptions shows had was when a cell phone rang.
Now, theatre companies moving performances and classes online have much more to worry about. And that move has left them to make basic choices and navigate security settings on their own, a.k.a. learning by trial and error.
For performances or for discussions where audience participation becomes important, the convenience of Zoom for its user-friendly interface and smooth streaming experience is unsurpassed.
By this point, you have probably read (or perhaps experienced) Zoombombing, hackers or uninvited guests participating in a Zoom call. A recent reception event for IN Series had to be postponed due to hackers putting on an unsavory performance of their own.
“The problems weren’t exactly a surprise as much as they were surprising,” IN Series Artistic Director Timothy Nelson notes, adding that future presentations will require passwords to attend.
I’ve been doing remote classes using Zoom long before the crisis. I manage classes and consult with companies on best practices. Here are guidelines I developed for DC Theatre Scene and other groups in the DC area:
Best tips for audiences:
- Using Zoom. When you click the invitational link to join a meeting, your browser will open a new tab and prompt you to use or install the Zoom desktop software. Look for the option to join from your browser. Click that instead.
- Beware what you click when responding to an invitation. If you receive an invite to an event in your inbox or on Facebook, make sure it is being sent by someone you know and trust to avoid allowing hackers to download malware to your computer. Check your source whenever possible, and if you have any doubts, don’t click it.
- Lag Issues. There are a variety of factors that can determine your Internet speed, including your Internet provider, as well as Internet traffic at the time you’re logged on. If you’re watching a performance and are experiencing lag, where the image doesn’t line up with the sound, try turning off your camera to decrease the upload traffic, or disconnect other devices that may be using the Internet at the same time.
- Polite Behavior. Remember you still have your responsibility as an audience member. Don’t talk during the performance. With Zoom, that means you may have to make sure your side of the conversation is on mute. This will prevent the Zoom event from picking up unwanted sounds in the background of your home.
- Enjoy the performance. Enjoy the small mistakes. Some are unavoidable and may make watching unforgettable, in a good way. However, don’t let the mistakes be yours. The first play in Round House Theatre’s Homebound centered on a Snap Camera app gone wrong.
Best tips for producers (hosts):
- Know who will be attending. Register guests ahead of time, whether it’s through ticket sales, social media marketing or email marketing. Have names to match your attendees.
- Create an individual Zoom link as close to the date of performance as possible.
- Set up your meetings with password protection.
- Zoom Browser now sets up meeting passwords by default, but it’s worth checking to ensure the feature is enabled. The password is created when you set up the meeting, and is included in the link you send to audiences.
- Set up the meeting so that the host (or co-host) has to be present for the meeting to start.
- Set up a waiting room feature when scheduling the meeting.Register your intended audiences ahead of time, when possible, and have audiences match their Zoom profiles with their event registration.
- When audiences log on, they will be held in a virtual waiting room, where the hosts can verify names with the previous registrations.
- Have an alternate host or co-host monitor the participation audience during the performance, and be ready to kick off disruptive audience members.
For an ongoing timeline of Zoom’s security issues and ongoing fixes, it’s worth checking out Paul Wagensail’s thread on TechRadar.