Zoom is everywhere and has become an integral part of everyday life for most of us. Zoom was popular with businesses before the pandemic and is sure to be even more popular when this is all behind us. As its use has become ubiquitous, Zoom has continued to innovate and add new features to make it easier and also more effective for both presenter and viewer.
Two of the newest features are sure to become some of the most popular as more and more people discover them and how to use them effectively. These are both considered “beta” so might not be in your account at this time. Make sure you are upgraded to the most recent release by clicking on your image in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Should be at version 5.5.4 or higher.
These two new features are “Blur Background” and “Powerpoint as a Background”.
This is a very handy feature that uses your current background and blurs it for that “Bokeh” effect. You no longer need to worry if your office is a mess or you are broadcasting from your kitchen with a messy counter. It is also useful if you are traveling, broadcasting out, or a hotel room or have a messy background. I have been using this one since the day I discovered it.
Here is a brief video showing the difference when using blur, and how the effect looks on camera.
Powerpoint as Your Background
This will be very popular for anyone that teaches, presents ideas or shares an outline with Zoom. It will make your presentations more interesting, and it will at least make people ask how you did that. When you share a PowerPoint deck, you become part of the slide.
Here are the steps to use your PowerPoint slides as your background:
- Click Share Screen from the bottom menu
- At the top, in the middle, click “Advanced”
- On the left, click “Beta PowerPoint” as a virtual background
- Click Share
- Select your Powerpoint slide deck. Your webcam video will then appear in the lower right-hand corner. If you get this far, you’ll see how unique and effective this will be. (If you don’t have a green screen, see the notes below)
- You can expand it by clicking and stretching the corners, move it anywhere on the screen by clicking the middle of the box and moving the square and then change slides by clicking the right and left arrows at the bottom of the screen. I prefer to use the left/right arrows on my keyboard but we each have our own style.
Here is a brief demonstration of this feature to see how it appears:
- As I mentioned earlier, you should upgrade to the newest version of Zoom for this to work.
- It works MUCH better if you have a green screen behind you, and your background will just be the slide itself. If you don’t have a green screen, see the bottom tip.
- Zoom will pre-load the PowerPoint slides, which takes a little while, so minimize the number of slides in the file, or be prepared by loading in advance or share a relevant story to fill the time.
- After you’ve clicked the right arrow once (to get to slide 2), you can use the right and left arrows on your keypad, but that doesn’t work initially
- As with all new features, make sure you test this immediately before your Zoom call. One reason is that you want to set the default folder. When you get the “Open file name” window, browsing for the file could take time.
- Check your slides to make sure that your face won’t be blocking anything important. It might take a simple slide layout re-design to make this look sharp.