Yes, we are overwhelmed by all the choices, too!
And while we are cautious to recommend any one platform, we know how helpful it can be to receive some direction. For that reason, we’re writing this tutorial for Zoom Meetings. But if you’re not comfortable with Zoom for any reason, there are many others that will work. Find a list of others that are conducive to hosting a Group retreat online at the end of this tutorial.
Just in case you’re wondering…
Any online platform has vulnerabilities to outside influences like hackers. But there are specific things you can do when you set up your Zoom meeting to ensure your meeting doesn’t get interrupted by someone with bad intentions. We’ll tell you more below.
STEP 1 – Get a Zoom Account
Check with your church to see if they already have a Zoom plan you can use. If not, you’ll need to set up a Zoom account.
Zoom has a free plan that allows 40-minute meetings for up to 100 people. But we recommend at least purchasing their “Pro” plan so you can take advance registrations, have longer meetings, and utilize some additional features you’ll need. It’s just $14.99 per month, and you can cancel anytime.
STEP 2 – Schedule a Meeting
Once you log in to your account, click on “Schedule a Meeting.” Use the Zoom chat feature in the lower right corner of your screen for any questions you have during this process. But here are some basic tips:
- To use Zoom as a registration tool, check the “registration required” check box. If you don’t enable this feature, you’ll need to have some other way for women to sign up, and then you’ll have to send them the link to access the Zoom meeting. It’s definitely easier to use Zoom for registration because the system will do all of this for you.
- We recommend unchecking the box that requires a password.
- Check your video “ON” for Host and Participant. This makes it so everyone can see each other during the meeting.
- Go through the list of Meeting Options and check all your preferences. If you’re not sure what they mean, use the Zoom online chat to ask a Zoom representative.
- Be sure your breakout rooms are enabled—if you don’t see this option on the main scheduling screen, check your account settings under the “In Meeting (Advanced)” section. Before each of your meetings/sessions, the host can go in and pre-assign the women who have registered to groups. If you don’t use Zoom to take registrations, you can import your registration list before assigning your groups.
TIP! To protect your meeting from hackers, go to your Settings for the meeting, click on “In Meeting (Basic)” and then scroll down to Screen Sharing. Make sure “Who can share?” is set to Host Only.
STEP 3 – Copy the Zoom Invite Link and Send Out
If you have a list of emails, you can paste the link into an email invitation. You can also post the link to your social media page.
STEP 4 – Schedule a Practice Meeting
We definitely recommend scheduling at least one practice meeting with your team. That way you can practice using the platform, breaking into groups, and other features. Do this more than once if needed!
TIP! When you start a Zoom meeting, you also have the option to live stream it to Facebook. If you think this feature will help you reach more women, you might want to give it a go during the practice meeting.
STEP 5 – Host Your Retreat
Have fun! Be sure to ask women to keep their microphones on mute, only unmuting when they want to talk. That way you won’t hear everyone’s dogs barking, doorbells ringing, and kids screaming during your retreat.
If you would like to shop around for other platforms besides Zoom, there are many to choose from. The below list isn’t exhaustive of every platform available—it’s simply a list of other platforms we have either heard of or used AND have the features you’ll need for your online retreat.
These are the features we advise you to look for:
- The ability to create breakout groups
- The ability to share your screen or to broadcast yourself talking
- A chat feature so participants can type in comments or questions
- The ability to tag other members in the meeting
- OPTIONAL: A registration function
Other platforms you may want to look at:
- Cisco Webex
- Adobe Connect