Due to the unpredictability of COVID, it may be difficult to plan in-person events for the foreseeable future. As an entertainer, you might therefore be looking at putting together a Zoom show.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Zoom software to put on a great show as well as some tips and ideas to get you started.
We’ve focused on private events rather than public ones. However, much of the information is transferable.
Let’s get started.
What is a Zoom show?
A Zoom show, or a Zoom party, is a form of live entertainment that’s broadcast online. Much of the time through the Zoom platform, hence the name.
The main difference between a Zoom show and live streaming is that it’s interactive (the audience gets to participate) and it’s made to feel like an in-person event (i.e clear start and end times as well as personally invited guests).
Although Zoom shows are not new, they have grown in popularity in recent months due to COVID related restrictions.
Examples of entertainment types which successfully use Zoom include:
- Magic shows
- Live caricaturist drawings
- Cocktail courses
- Online Santa Claus visits
- Pub quizzes
- Music bingo
The reality is that you’re only limited by your imagination as many entertainment types can work with the Zoom format.
Setting Up Zoom
The first step is to install Zoom and get a pro membership.
The first step is to install the Zoom software on your computer. You can download it from Zoom.us. It’s compatible with both Macs and PC.
One of the main benefits of Zoom, is that the recipient (in this case the audience) doesn’t need to install the software ahead of time; it will be automatically downloaded when they click the invitation link.
Although Zoom has a free version, you’re probably going to need a paid membership as the free version limits group calls to 40 minutes.
We recommend you get the pro version, which starts at €140 a year (or €14 a month; In any case, it’s very affordable).
With the pro version you can:
- Host up to 100 participants. That’s most likely all you’ll need.
- Unlimited group call duration.
- Customisable waiting rooms
Note: A Zoom user isn’t the same thing as a Zoom participant. Think of the former as being the co-owners of your account. At a pro-level, you’re limited to 9 users. However, you can have up to 100 participants
Cameras and microphones
You’re going to want to have a decent camera and microphone. This falls outside the scope of this article but don’t overlook it! It’s a key component in making your show look professional.
If your computer is fairly modern, your webcam might be good enough to get you started. In which case, all you need to do is to buy a microphone.
Pro-tip: do not use headphones for the mic. While they’re usually great quality, the cable will limit your movement.
Configuring Zoom for your show
Now that you’ve got Zoom installed, it’s time to configure it for your show.
Schedule a meeting
When you get a booking, you’ll want to schedule a Zoom meeting. It’s very simple:
Log into your account => go to Meetings => Schedule a New Meeting.
Check out this video by zoom for a step by step tutorial
Check the full documentation for scheduling zoom meeting.
The good news is that you don’t need to go through this process every time. Instead, you can create a template which you can re-apply to all future shows. This will save you a lot of time.
Pro tip: if you set up a zoom password (and you probably should!) why not set it to something fun? This could be something personal to the client or something related to your show.
Set up a welcome screen
When you arrive at the theatre, you instinctively know that you’re at the right place, that everything is ready and that the show is about to start.
You need to recreate this experience digitally. Customers need to be reassured by different cues that they are at the right place (i.e link) at the right time, that the tech works and that the show is ready to go.
The easiest way to do this is to set up a waiting room that has all the information needed to reassure your guests.
Login to your account => Go to Account Management => Security => Enable Waiting Rooms
When you enable the waiting rooms, you’ll be given the option to customise it. Unfortunately, branding is limited in Zoom. But there are a few things that you can do:
- Title: This is the title of the meeting, which in this case is the title of your show.
- Logo: you can either add a logo or a small picture of yourself. Just be aware that it needs to be square and a maximum of 400 pixels.
- Description: use this space to include “must know” information about the show. You’re limited to 400 characters.
Check the full documentation for waiting rooms.
Hosts & Co-hosts
Every Zoom call has an owner/host. That’s the user who is in control of everything. Think of them as the admin of the call.
Take some time before your first show to get familiar with Zoom. The last thing you want is to have to search for a feature during your show.
We also recommend that you get a helper for the show. This might be the client or someone at the party who is willing to help. They’ll be in charge of managing users and so on (see below). Think of them as your theatre ushers.
This will free you up to think about the performance.
Sending out Zoom invitations
It’s now time to invite people to your show.
Sharing a Zoom link
Once you’ve created the Zoom meeting, you can share a Zoom link directly from the Zoom software. You can invite the client when you initially create the event.
However, we recommend that you don’t send it to all guests. This is a show, not a business meeting. You want to make it feel as personal and fun as possible.
Instead, If you’re given a list of participants, we recommend that you create a custom email/invitation.
The easiest way to do this is to use an email marketing tool. For example with Mailchimp:
You can then send the email directly from Mailchimp.
Basic information to include:
- Zoom link (and password)
- Start time
- How to test zoom
- What’s required for the show
It’s a lot of work the first time around. However, once your template is made, all you need to do is, clone it, update the information before sending it out again.
Pro-tip: some corporate servers block Mailchimp by default. If you face that problem, send the invitation to yourself and then re-send from your inbox.
You might also want to create a reminder email. Especially if you didn’t send out invitations.
This is an email that you can send your client to remind them that the event is coming up.
Ideally, it should be in a format that is easy for them to forward internally to the rest of the guests. For example, it could be a PDF attached to the email. This can easily be done with Canava.
You’ll want to send this out approximately three days before the event.
Welcoming your audience
Welcoming your audience is key.
Be online ahead of time.
If possible, be online 20 to 30 minutes ahead of time. This will allow you to handle the waiting room (see below) and welcome anyone who arrives early personally.
It’s a good way to reassure your client that they are in the right place and for them to test their audio and sound equipment.
Unfortunately, if you have multiple Zoom shows lined up in quick succession this solution can become tricky.
Handling the waiting room
Zoom has a waiting room feature which is a way to control who is allowed into the call and who isn’t.
Although you can monitor the arrivals before the show, you won’t necessarily know who is who. In addition, once your performance starts, it’ll be difficult to approve guests without breaking the flow of your show.
For that reason, we recommend delegating this responsibility to the client. They’ll know who is who and they can add the latecomers if needed.
Simply ask your designated helper (see the previous section) to arrive 10 minutes early. That way you can set them up as a co-host and explain to them how to add guests from the waiting room (it’s very easy).
To add a co-host simply do the following:
Manage participants => Select the user you want added as the co-host => More => Make co-host
Note: if the co-host option isn’t showing up in your portal, it means you need to enable the setting in your account. To do this follow the steps outlined in this article.
Hosting the show
Now we’ve come to the actual show part. To get you started, we’ve listed a few ideas below.
However, the best solutions will depend on the type of show you want to host. For example, a Zoom magic show will have different requirements to that of a Zoom murder mystery game.
You’ll have to test different options to find what works best for you.
Zoom offers multiple video views. Each serves a different purpose. We’re going to cover just a few that you might find helpful. You can read more about it on the Zoom website.
Gallery view allows you to see up to 49 tiles/participants.
We recommend that the performer locks their screen to this view. It allows you to view most if not all of your spectators.
As you become more and more familiar with Zoom, you might find other views that you prefer. However, we feel that this is a good starting point.
By default, Zoom shows the person who is currently speaking on screen. You’ll want to disable this feature. You can do this with the spotlight view which allows you to continually display up 9 participants on screen.
As the performer, we recommend you spotlight your own screen and, when needed, you spotlight the spectators with whom you need to engage with during the show.
For example, if you are a caricaturist, you might want to spotlight your digital drawing and the spectator being drawn.
It’s a performance so your spectators should see you at all times (unless you have a specific reason for them not to).
With Zoom, you can pin a speaker so that they’re always displayed, regardless of who is talking.
However, contrarily to the spotlight view, this only affects the user’s local view. Therefore it needs to be done by everyone in the audience.
For that reason, we think the spotlight view is generally preferable.
Handling microphones is where it gets tricky…. you’ll need to find the right balance between hearing audience feedback and not getting audio distortion.
You’ll need to experiment to find out what works best for you and your show. As a rule of thumb, you should have a maximum of 5 mics on at the same time.
We recommend you get all of your spectators to turn off their mics. Only get them to turn on their mic when they are involved with the show.
Of course, rules are meant to be broken. This is just a starting point.
Pro-tip: The host and the co-host can mute and unmute participants/spectators. Ask your helper to mute and unmute spectators if they are having trouble.
Note: For security reasons, from a tech point of you, you can’t unmute a spectator/participant directly. You can only request that they are unmuted. They’ll get a notification on their screen which they can accept or refuse.
Zoom allows you to hide participants who don’t have their video on. This allows you to only have certain spectators on screen (more than just the 9 of the spotlight view).
Depending on your show, you may be able to use this to your advantage.
Breakout rooms, allow you to break out groups of participants into separate calls. Depending on the nature of your show, you might have a use for this. Especially if you have different teams.
For example, if you’re hosting a murder mystery show, you might use breakout rooms for audience discussions.
It makes the show more interactive and it gives everyone a chance to participate.
Check out the full documentation on breakout rooms.
Virtual Hand Raising
With zoom, participants can virtually raise their hands to simulates a ‘classroom’ experience. They’ll be listed in the order in which their hands were raised.
This is another feature you might find useful, especially when you’re looking for participants in your show.
The hidden benefit is that you know who was the first person to raise their virtual hand.
Pro-tip: If you plan on using this feature, make sure you inform the participants at the very start. You can’t expect them to know by default.
You can check out the whole hand-raising documentation on the zoom website.
Hopefully, this article has given you everything you need to get started. If you have any questions or comments about the content, please get in touch!
If you aren’t a PartyWizz member, you can learn about us on our website. We’re an end-to-end booking platform created ‘for entertainers by entertainers’.