6 Zoom standout features

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With online mediation overnight become the only way to hold mediations, some mediators have been forced for the first time, to take a leap into new territory… Online meeting software has been developing for years, but the software has developed matured into a very powerful and intuitive platform.

Zoom leaps ahead

Most of us have probably used Skype over the years and got frustrated with the lack of reliability of the platform, despite being taken over and given an overhaul by Microsoft. Zoom has quietly been gaining ground, and during the lockdown, many of us will have been using it for a virtual coffee or family quiz night (!) to communicate where it would otherwise have been impossible.

Zoom has integrated a number of features which just simply work, and for mediation are one of the keys to creating the healthy environment. Here are 6 reasons why we think you should move to zoom.

1) Simplicity of setting up meetings

Starting a new meeting is really easy – new meeting, which instantly starts the meeting and gives the option of sharing your screen, or schedule. For mediation appointments, you’ll need to use schedule, which then allows you to add the appointment to your favourite diary system:

You’ll notice that you can use a personal meeting id, so this would be the same for all meetings, not idea if you are scheduling lots of different meetings with different clients.

2) Ease of screensharing

Clearly sharing your screen so that clients can see an MOU, parenting plan, or financial information is an important feature. Zoom allows you to chose which of the current programs and view that you currently have open, that you want to share.

3) Waiting room facility

Replicates your office waiting room, placing one of your clients in the meeting room, and unable to hear your conversations with the other party. A number of mediators have said this is a fantastic feature which they have used in nearly all mediation meetings.

During the online meeting you can then select to put one of the participants into the waiting room when needed.

4) Host controlled screen sharing

As host of the meetings, you decide which screens can be shared, which prevents your clients from being able to share information without your permission. It is worth noting that once control has been passed to a client to share their screen, then would need to release it for you to take control. To ensure that they are only displaying what you want them to display, it is safer for you to ask them to send information to you, which you will then share at the appropriate time.

Zoom also provides advanced screen sharing options if required – we like the feature for displaying only a portion of a screen.

5) Extensive audio options

Whether you only have dedicated sounds from your laptop, or headset with micophone, Zoom enables you to mix and match the output and input requirements of your system as needed.

6) Directed chat

Sometimes it may be necessary to send a specific text message to one of the clients rather than using the audio. The direct chat enables you to send a text message direct to all clients or individual as necessary

Selecting the directed chat to a specific client

Conclusion

Having used a number of online meeting tools over the years, they certainly have come a long way. These 6) features make Zoom standout ahead of the pack for the purposes of mediation.

We’ve now integrated support for the three Zoom fields (meeting URL, meeting ID and password) into our case management software Progress Mediation, which are then sent out automatically via email to mediation clients, to make the process of creating online appointments more streamlined. If you want to find out more about integrating calendar reminders with Zoom meetings, please get in touch.

Supporting online mediation

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and consequent lockdown of the UK, the Legal Aid Agency has responded quickly to support online mediation to safeguard family mediators.

Zoom has emerged as the most reliable form of online meeting collaboration, and as a result, the calendar system of Progress Mediation has been updated to support the entry of additional fields defining online meeting information.

Along with calendar view, the email reminder service and template fieldcodes have been modified to support the additional fields.

Calendar appointment fields

Three additional fields are available for entering the meeting URL, meeting ID, and password and these are stored in the database along with the date and time. The meeting location is associated with the location of the case – which will need to be set for online mediation in the Willingness Stage.

Auto email calendar reminders

Once enabled, calendar appointments are automatically sent out via the integrated email system to clients, where email addresses have been entered in the client / partner settings for a case.

New appointments are sent out at 20:10 the evening of the day on which they are created. If these are then update, then a reminder of the updated information will be sent out at 20:10 the evening of the day the appointment is updated.

The day before the appointment, another email reminder is sent out at 12:05 the day before the appointment – if there is enough of a notice period after the appointment has been created.

An Internet Calendar Sharing (ICS) file is automatically attached to the email, which can be added to the client’s calendar on receipt of the email to act as an additional reminder.

A new case activity is automatically created to show that an email reminder has been sent out to the client / partner.

Template fieldcodes

In the same way that fieldcodes can be used to insert case details into templates for letters or emails, these can be used to insert the details of online appointment for sending out to the client.

Three fieldcodes enable the online meeting information to be inserted into letter / email reminders.

Progress Mediation has been especially designed to help with case management for mediation. For more information about how we can help to support families through the difficult times later this year, please get in touch.

Online mediation location classification for Legal Aid cases

As a consequence of the Covid:19, the Legal Aid agency provided new guidance for family mediation services to provide online mediation.

With the March bulk upload submission many mediation services are finding the MIAM cases being rejected by the CWA submission system because the location is not a formally recognised outreach location.

Several mediation services have fed back responses from their contract managers, suggesting to use the main office location (000) until clear guidance has been issued. Another contract manager suggested using the outreach location that would have been used for a face to face meeting if it had been possible, which would ensure that statistics for outreach locations are captured.

Progress Mediation allows the location of each appointment to be linked to a location on the system, and automated reminders are sent out to clients detailing where the MIAM or mediation will be taking place.

To prevent confusion, mediation services have been creating new locations to symbolize online mediation, so the reminder shows that it is Skype or Zoom. To save having to create multiple locations for online meetings which are linked to different outreach location codes, we recommend that mediation services create a single online location, linked to the main office.

MIAM’s are automatically pulled into the bulk online submission file ready for upload to the Legal Aid portal, specifying the main office location.

Beware of fake Zoom scams

Over the past four weeks, video conferencing software has seen a huge update in users amidst the Covid-19 lockdown affecting people around the world. Seen by many as the ‘go-to’ platform in the mediation circles due to reliability and security, Zoom Inc has seen membership rocket, with more new members in March alone compared to the whole of 2019.

However, success is often followed by those who seek to cash in, and Zoom is no exception. Internet domain registration companies have seen a huge rise in the purchase of similar domain names over the past few weeks, as hackers attempt to cash in on the boom, and use it as an opportunity to download phishing scams. In March alone, one cybersecurity company recorded over 2,200 domain names containing the word zoom had been registered.

Our advice is to always carefully check the weblinks sent to you, and for your clients, urge them to carefully check links before clicking – especially if they chose the option to download a program apparently linked to the Zoom application.

All Zoom links should be linked to the domain zoom.us, and all others should be avoided at all costs. E.g. https://us0xweb.zoom.us/j/12345678?pwd=89abcdefgh

Taking a few seconds to think before you click will save many hours of IT pain and heartache…

Ensure Zoom meeting password is set

Zoom-bombing is a federal offense (wonder if this will ever become a word in the Oxford English dictionary…) and pranksters are out in force, trying to gate-crash Zoom meetings where the meeting password hasn’t been set. The password feature has now been enabled by default in the latest download. Make sure when checking the meeting settings before you send out, that the password has been set.

Whilst on the subject, we’d recommend taking a monthly backup of your critical business data TODAY to protect against attacks such as ransomware – as tomorrow never comes…

At Protocol IT we’ve been passionately supporting #familymediation services for more than 10 years. So if you’re struggling with technology to support your service, then why not get in touch.