You know that Zoom needs an Internet connection to work. That’s pretty basic, I know.
But the fact is, your Zoom experience depends on your connection to the Internet, but also how your computer is connected to your home or office network. So you want the best experience while using Zoom, right? (Sorry, can’t help you if the presenter is boring!)
And if you are a presenter (if you’re not a presenter now, odds are you will be some time in the future), your home network and Internet connection not only affect your Zoom experience, but the experience of everyone watching your presentation. If you’ve been on a lot of Zoom meetings, I’m sure you’ve seen and heard a presenter with a slow or unreliable Internet connection — like from a hotel room in a rural or tourist area.
Faster Is Better
The Zoom application on your PC or Mac will adjust the quality of the downloaded audio and video signals to whatever it thinks your device can reliably receive. So this should come as no surprise: the faster the network, the better the Zoom experience. But the network really has two components, only one of which is your Internet connection.
Your Internet connection is important, for sure. If you have a high-speed fiber connection, awesome! If you have 100 megabit per second high- to medium speed service through a cable provider, that’s great. If you have a DSL connection based on the telephone cable, you can probably do okay in most situations. Live in a rural area relying on a satellite connection? You’ll probably have some issues as a presenter. Stealing wi-fi from a neighbor? You get what you pay for probably applies here.
But no matter how good your home or office’s connection is to the Internet, your best bet for having a great Zoom experience is a direct wired connection from your device (PC or Mac) to your home or office network. If you have a laptop, try to move it close enough to your router to connect a network cable (sometimes referred to as an “Ethernet cable”), just for your Zoom call – especially if you are going to be presenting and screen sharing.
If you have a regular desktop computer — Windows, Mac, or open systems (Linux) — consider getting a network cable long enough to safely run from your router to your computer… just for the duration of your Zoom call. Using a wired connection avoids the “airwave congestion” of your computer competing with smartphones, tablets, TVs, security cameras, printers, and anything else you (or your neighbors) have connected to wi-fi. (Hopefully your neighbors aren’t connected to your wi-fi, but either way, their wi-fi signals can be competing for “air space” along with your devices.)
If you are connecting to Zoom with a smart phone or tablet, you’re probably going to have to stick with a wireless connection (or worse, the cell-phone network). It’s probably okay for most Zoom attendees, since with the smaller displays, Zoom actually tends to use less bandwidth since it doesn’t need that much resolution.
Special Note For Presenters
Presenters — especially if you’re screen sharing a PowerPoint or video presentation — you should be aware that your audio competes heavily with your video for your Internet bandwidth. Your audio doesn’t require nearly as much bandwidth, but bottlenecks in audio are much more apparent than video throughput problems… and there’s a lot of video “pushing back” on your audio.
Keep in mind that there’s a two-way connection for audio and video, and a wired connection can do simultaneous transfer in both directions, but wi-fi can’t do that. (If you want to know more, search for “half-duplex vs full-duplex” on your favorite search engine.)
Here’s another thing to consider: If you’re screen sharing your PowerPoint presentation and you have a high-definition monitor, Zoom will attempt to send your image to the attendees at your high resolution. This means that your high-definition video might negatively affect the Zoom experience of many of your attendees. I highly recommend “downgrading” your video resolution to 1920×1080 (or less).
Zoom actually does a good job “throttling back” on the video bandwidth once your slide is displayed. Rather than trying to send 20-30 frames per second (typical while your slides “transition” from one to the next), Zoom will slow down the transmission to 1-5 frames per second, which really helps a lot. UNLESS YOU MOVE YOUR MOUSE AROUND A LOT. Zoom picks up the video rate any time it detects movement (change) on your display, so if you like to fiddle with the mouse and draw “air circles” around the item you’re talking about — please stop. Just move the mouse to where the item is, and let it site. Your attendees may not know enough to thank you for that — but I do!
Presenting with Slow Speed Internet Service?
Okay, one more suggestion, since I’ve had experience with quite a number or rural presenters in the last year or so.
If you are not blessed with a good Internet connection — maybe it’s satellite based — you can join the Zoom meeting audio via cell phone (instead of through your computer). Then your audio and video won’t compete with each other over the same network. Even if your device is connecting through the cell phone service for the video portion of the Zoom meeting, it should improve your experience if you have a voice-only connection with your cell phone, instead of doing audio through your computer.