2020. Countless quizzes. Crackly calls with far away families. Endless online catchups with pals. Exhausting, isn’t it? But with lockdown 2.0 ending this week, a new tiering system being introduced and Christmas shows getting cancelled left, right and centre (we’re still nursing our own cancelled Panto wounds here at Pinch Punch HQ) it looks like the now familiar Zoom meeting will be with us for the foreseeable.
Zoom entered the mainstream consciousness back in March as the first lockdown hit, giving users a simple way to meet and connect with others online. I’m sure most, if not all, of you reading this will be all too familiar with Zoom by now, and if you’re anything like us you’ll be itching to lose the laptop and get back to some kind of normality. Until then though there are a whole host of exciting arts events being offered online (including some of our own) for free or pay-what-you-can (do check out our social media throughout December where we’ll be sharing some of our favourites!).
For us at Pinch Punch, Zoom has been a lifeline. We’ve been able to rehearse, record Season 1 of The Pinch Punch Podcast and perform live, improvised shows for adults and children all because of that nifty little platform. In light of that, we have put together a delectable list of Do’s and Don’t’s for anyone thinking of delving into the world of online performance – consider this a gift from some folks who learned the hard way…
- Do prepare a Zoom spiel to kick off your meetings. It’s important to explain to the technically impaired how gallery view works, where the mute button is, how to turn off video and how to raise their hand. This is especially important when hosting an interactive improv show!
- Do have a co-host in case the WiFi crashes. You don’t want your meeting coming to an end while you reboot the internet. Having a co-host means that they will be switched to host if you leave unexpectedly.
- Do work out your maximum capacity. Having 100 participants is fine for a Q&A with The Royal Court, but with audience participation, guests being muted and unmuted, and audience suggestions flying around, you need to find the sweet spot that is manageable for you. We found that 15 to 30 is a comfy middle ground for an interactive show.
- Do let the audiences know if you want them muted or on video from the start. There’s nothing worse than joining a meeting in your pyjamas with bed hair and finding yourself the focus of 20 other people’s judging eyes… trust me!
- Do get a Zoom Pro account if you can afford to (or borrow one!). Any meeting with more than 2 participants is limited to 45 minutes on the basic account. You don’t want your show coming to an abrupt end mid-way through!
- Don’t forget to change your name between calls. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve logged into an important meeting with the wrong name still hanging around from my last call. No one wants to be Mickey Mouse or Madame PooPoo when trying to clinch a nail-biting audition. Take it from me!
- Don’t be afraid of the mute button. It is your friend. You have the power – use it!
- Don’t forget the dreaded internet lag when talking. Try and leave space for your scene partner to speak so you don’t talk over one another. It can feel unnatural and a little bit tricky at first, but I’m afraid that is the burden we improvisers and performers must bear!
- Don’t worry too much about dodgy connections or freezing sometimes. Of course, smooth, fast, perfect internet is the dream but there are just going to be times when that’s not possible. Audiences get it though and they tend to be forgiving.
- If you are using a green screen, don’t forget to turn off any background images off when you don’t need them. You don’t want a fairy tale kingdom popping up behind you in that important funding meeting! Oh, and also be wary of wearing green so that you don’t disappear and become a floating head
If you think you’d like to take part yourself or learn more about Pinch Punch and the improv we do, then please feel free to get in touch. You can email us at email@example.com. Or why not come and watch one of our shows! We’ll be getting stuck into more Zoom performances (and hopefully real life shows) again for children and adults in the new year. You can also visit our website https://www.pinchpunchimpro.co.uk/ for more info or follow us on socials (we’re PinchPunchImpro on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) to book and catch updates about any of our upcoming shows.
* this article is not sponsored by Zoom… although Mr Zoom, if you’d like to give us money, we wouldn’t say no…