Zoom Tips for Making Poetry Events Safer

I have recently experienced a number of Zoom-bombings at poetry readings. They’re unpleasant and upsetting. This post is designed to help organizers of poetry events to make their readings safe from gross interference. It is written in the spirit of positive learning and knowledge sharing together as a community. Let me know if you have any further tips to add.

There are Zoom settings you can fix to add greater safety. 

  1. Never share the link publicly e.g. on a poster, website, or on social media. Instead use a site like Eventbrite, where people can sign up, and you can send our the Zoom link to the event 48 hours before. 
  2. Consider setting a password for the event. 
  3. Do not turn on “Enable join before host”. Use the waiting room function. All participants should go into the waiting room first.
  4. In Zoom settings, ensure that participants are muted on arrival. One of the nice things about smaller poetry events is the ability for participants to unmute themselves for spontaneous conversation. This can be abused however, so it might be worth fixing the setting so that only hosts can unmute themselves and other people. You can always unmute everybody at the end for a more informal chat. 
  5. Turn off private chats. That’s what they use to organize.
  6. Turn off screen-sharing for participants. Make the readers co-hosts so they can still screen-share their poems. 
  7. Turn off annotation or zoom-bombers will still be able to write stuff over the top when people are screen-sharing.
  8. Turn off name change. This is a difficult one because some people may have a preferred name and wants to rename themselves for lots of sensitive reasons. But if you don’t turn off name change, zoom-bombers will keep changing their names to avoid being kicked out or they might write slurs instead of their name. 
  9. Turn off profile pics. These appear sometimes when someone turns off their camera and can be replaced with unsavory images. 
  10. I found out recently that once all your participants are in you can lock your meeting so no one else can enter. [Edit: please note that this will lock out latecomers, so it is only useful where there is a clearly defined, closed group.]

Here is an illustrated guide from my university that might help with the practicals of setting this up. https://files.fisher.osu.edu/technology/public/2020-04/prevent-zoombombing.pdf?vzpLMUGWk_SWX1._DFQUds32b7XqOQgB

Edit: A couple of friends mentioned some other tips:

11. Have a team of people working on different aspects of security.

12. Charge a nominal fee. Zoombombers will go for free events over paid ones.

2 Comments

  1. Many thanks for this helpful post, Zoe. And congratulations on your skilful and sensitive handling of an event where this horror-show occurred. I’ve passed the link on to the organisers of one poetry series that broadcasts their links with no ‘gateway’ at all. It’s only a matter of time.

    1. Yes, that’s a good idea, because sadly we have to be very careful!

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