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How Zoom ‘Focus Mode’ just made meetings infinitely better

(TECHNOLOGY) Zoom has introduced a new feature that makes unruly meetings and interactive webinars more professional, instantly.

zoom meetings

Despite riffing on Zoom in the past, the platform is admittedly useful in its utilitarian way. The sheer number of people who use the video conferencing service (and thus are familiar with it) exceeds 300 million, something that stemmed from Zoom seeing unprecedented use during the pandemic. Now, the company is rolling out a new feature.

Zoom’s Focus Mode is a feature that allows the host to prevent users from seeing each other. In theory, this can cut down on distractions and other “unruly behavior,” according to Lifehacker.

While Focus Mode doesn’t include an audio setting, muting everyone is still an option for potentially loud guests.

The Focus Mode setting is available for anyone who has updated their Zoom app to the most recent version (5.7.3 or higher), but individual users have slightly different settings with which to contend than their administrator counterparts. If that’s the case for you, after logging into the web version of Zoom, you’ll find Focus Mode in the “Meetings” tab of the Settings section; toggling it on will enable Focus Mode for any subsequent meetings.

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Larger accounts (e.g., corporate licenses or school administrators) will need to enable Focus Mode from the “Account Settings” section (found by opening the “Account Management” menu from the “Admin” section). It’s under the “Meetings” tab; if you see a prompt to “Enable” Focus Mode, you can use it, but if not, you don’t have permission to do so.

Once Focus Mode is enabled, you can turn it on in meetings for which you’re the host by clicking the “More” button in the toolbar and selecting the Focus Mode option.

This is a feature that, despite its relative simplicity, has the capacity to do wonders. For any educators who teach (or go back to teaching this year) on Zoom, for example, being able to prevent one’s peers from distracting them or egging them on is a dream come true. However, Focus Mode should be used sparingly, if only because of basic human psychology.

Zoom fatigue is, at least partially, due to the burnout from not seeing one’s coworkers or friends outside of a screen. By taking away the ability to see others’ faces (save for the meeting host’s, of course) during a meeting, you’re dehumanizing the experience and isolating the people on the other side of the camera from each other. That may work in the short-term, but using Focus Mode too often will absolutely have a deleterious effect on collaboration–and mental health.

Nevertheless, it’s good to see Zoom incorporating new features as competition emerges. If Focus Mode sounds like something you want to check out, it should be available in your individual account settings if your software is up to date.

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Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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