How to Have the Best Video Meetings + Free Zoom Backgrounds 

Funny thing happened today, proving once again that timing is everything. “A Video Conference Call In Real Life” popped up on my social feeds as I sat down to write this. It shows what in-person meetings would look like if they were video calls.

Can you relate?

Many of us are still working from home, with days hopping from one video meeting screen to the next. While there are hints that we may open up businesses again in some regions, we’ll likely see more of video meetings, now that we’ve gotten to know the technology better.

How can we make the most—and get the most—from our video meetings? By sharing a few best practices, hopefully we can spare you from talking to walls (see video 😉) and other video meeting mishaps.


#1: Decide whether you need to set up a webinar or a meeting.

Host a webinar for large audiences or public events when one or a few people will be speaking. Think of a webinar like a lecture hall or auditorium, where attendees typically don’t interact with one another. I’ve heard of several schools hosting a Friday-night storytime for children in their district, which involves the school superintendent, headmaster or other school adult reading a book while children listen. This situation is perfect for a webinar.

IDEA: Host a video Lunch & Learn to update supporters on how your nonprofit is handling the COVID-19 impact. If you work with frontline responders, have them participate to share how they’re doing personally and how their group is rising above to meet the challenge.

Host a meeting for smaller groups and more interactive sessions with audience participation or to break your session into smaller groups. Likely, you’ve already used video conferencing for board or staff meetings, or with vendors and other outside groups.

IDEA: Host a meeting to check in with longtime donors, especially those who must follow strict stay-in policies. They’d appreciate seeing a friendly, familiar face and knowing you took the time to see them, not just talk to them.  

#2: Prepare like you’re hosting an in-person meeting.

  • Clean up the space around you.
  • Look like a million bucks (OK, professionally presentable). Stay away from shirts with busy patterns as you’ll be on screen.
  • Send out a meeting invite with agenda. Here’s how to do it in Zoom.
  • Test audio (like you would a microphone) so you’re sure others will hear you.
  • Summarize what will be discussed at the beginning and recap action steps at end of meeting.
  • Share video meeting etiquette, like mute yourself when you’re not talking, and identify yourself when you do.
  • Stick to the allotted time frame. Everyone is extra busy these days. Keep topics and discussion on track.

#3: Log in early if you can.

In-person or online, no one likes someone who shows up late and asks questions about material you’ve discussed or gets double-booked with two meetings at once. Yes, you’re busy, but you can’t give your full attention to either one and the double duty could be seen as offensive to other participants.

#4: Talk into the camera.

People want to see your face, straight on, not the top of your head as you type, or the side of your face, as you deal with something off-screen.

#5: Be yourself.

We get it. Using technology that’s new to us can be daunting and stressful. But if you prepare and practice, you should be in good shape. If something goes awry, we in the nonprofit world are especially adept at pivoting and adapting—and showing our good sense of humor.

Learn more about managing video meetings, including how to set one up on Zoom, here.

TIP: Compare conferencing platforms before committing to one. Some are free; others offer upgrades for more functions and larger groups. Zoom has become synonymous with video meetings, but other options are out there, so use what works best for you and your group.


  • Give donors and supporters your undivided attention. Put away the phone, close the door so you won’t be bothered by co-workers (i.e., the family dog or the family!) and close instant messaging.
  • Smile and acknowledge that you’d prefer to see them in person but this will have to do for now.
  • Send the video-meeting invitation in advance with directions to log in. Follow up a day or two before the online “chat” to see if your donor has questions or concerns about logging on.
  • Make your background a photo of a location, people, animals, etc. affiliated with your nonprofit.
  • Ask how they are doing. Just like in person, this meeting is about the donor—and how you fit into the donor’s plans to create his or her legacy.


CNBC reports that daily Zoom users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December. 

With millions more users come more ways to hack the system, including “zoombombing,” or when a malicious user joins a video meeting and reveals explicit or disturbing images to participants.

Build in these safety precautions to keep your meeting on track and your participants feeling comfortable.

  • Use a unique ID for each meeting.
  • Password protect meetings and share the password only with those who have been invited.
  • Have a waiting room to screen for any unwanted participants. Here are some of the best meeting apps with waiting rooms.
  • Lock the meeting once all participants are on, so outsiders can’t get in.
  • Avoid recording meetings unless you have to, so a hacker can’t get into it at a later time.

BONUS TIP: As much as video is helping us connect right now, it’s important to plan your ‘video time’ carefully to avoid Zoom Drain.

We can’t wait to see all of you again, in-person. Until then, we’ll make it work with video meetings. Feel free to share other tips or best practices for video calls, so that all of us can connect like pros.

P.S. Here are some free Zoom background downloads you can use for your next meeting. 

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