The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

Video Conferencing

I’m sure we’ve all had some experience of video calls over the last few weeks, whether that has been checking in with your mates, an online meeting with university staff or connecting with relatives (with varying degrees of success!)

Before you begin, know to expect some technical difficulties. Try to have a sense of humour about the whole thing. Most of us aren’t video-conferencing pros and it’s likely going to take a little trial and error to get set up the first time.

Top Tips

  1. Figure out where you’re going to sit in your home when you’re on video calls and do a test run. Make sure whatever is in view is clean and presentable.
  2. If you’re using a laptop camera, put it on a stack of books so that you’re looking straight into the camera, not down at it.
  3. Check the lighting. The light source should be coming from behind your computer screen. It should not be in frame with you on camera. If you have a desk lamp with a flexible arm, you can position that right behind your monitor with the light pointed directly at your face.
  4. Framing-wise, you want the camera to see from your chest to a few inches above the top of your head. Filling the entire screen with a close-up of your face is bad. So is sitting too far away, which also makes it very difficult to hear you.
  5. Consider your members may be in different time zones and try to schedule meetings accordingly.

Popular platforms

Here are some popular platforms you might want to look at when deciding how to connect with your members digitally. They have different benefits and features, so think about which might work best for you and your group.


Log into Zoom with your University of Bristol account

  • Good for: Can be used for interactive video calling for unlimited time. Free for University of Bristol students. Easy to use. Whiteboard, annotation, desktop and app sharing features. Can use Breakout Rooms. Can schedule through Outlook.
  • Not good for: Should not be used as a file store. Some questions around privacy of users.
  • Access: Web browser and phone app.
  • Security: Complex passwords required, Encrypted site, as a US company alignment to GDPR is adequate.

Download the Zoom application and click “Launch meeting.” Click “Invite participants” and either email them or add them from your Zoom contacts. After everyone has joined, you can share your screen by clicking the green “Share screen” button in the bottom centre of the video. Participants will be able to see your face in a windowed video and you’ll be able to see theirs.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams support from IT Services

Download Microsoft Teams

  • Good for: Up to 300 people can chat together with video or audio, screensharing, chat. Can be scheduled from Outlook calendar. Can record calls. Can be used for file storage. Desktop app, browser website and mobile app.
  • Not good for: Can't allow participants to choose Breakout Rooms.
  • Security: The password should be set as complex and unique to any other platform account, encrypted, as a US company alignment to GDPR is adequate
  • Access: Installed programme, website or phone app. All students have free access to Microsoft Teams.

Cisco Webex Meetings

Go to the Webex Website

  • Good for: Can be used for interactive video calling for free for up to 100 participants. Easy to use. Screensharing. Can record calls. Private chat rooms.
  • Not good for: Should not be used as a file store.
  • Access: Web browser and phone app.
  • Security: Secure encryption.

Quick Start Guide

Google Hangouts

Go to Google Hangouts

  • Good for: Up to 25 people can join a video Hangout and up to 150 people can join a voice-only Hangout. Simple, easy access. Works with Google Calendar.
  • Not good for: Can be difficult to track chat and video at the same time.
  • Access: Web browser and phone app.
  • Security: Secure encryption.

If you have Gmail, that means you already have a Google account you can use to set up Hangouts for free. Go to and click “Start a new hangout.” You can invite other people by their Gmail addresses or by emailing them a link. To share your screen once the Hangout has begun, hover your mouse in the call and click the three vertical dots on the upper-right hand side of the screen and click “Share screen.”

For more information, visit


We’ve seen lots of student groups take on this challenge and come up with some great ideas for connecting with their members online using the above platforms. We’ve collected some ideas together below:

Dinner party/happy hour

This one is pretty straightforward. Everyone joins the videoconference and eats or drinks - think online pres or ‘family’ dinners. Quartz has some ideas for dinner party conversation starters if you run out of things to talk about, and this list from PopSugar has some fun ones that can mostly be adapted for the quarantine situation.


The Balloon Bar is closed, but that doesn’t mean the singing has to stop! Gather your friends for some karaoke through Google Hangouts or Skype. Timeout has a list of the 50 best karaoke songs ever, and Latin Times compiled the best 10 songs to sing in Spanish. Just search “karaoke version of (insert favourite song here)” and let it rip. Make it competitive by adding scorecards!

Committee Meetings

Probably an obvious one, but staying in touch with your committee is super important. With reaffiliation coming up, you can also use video conferencing as a tool to facilitate handovers.

Games night

Something like Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples could work if you all have it. One player would hold up the prompt card, and everyone would pick an answer card from their hand. Then players would hold up their answers to the camera for the judge to decide. You lose the anonymity of the regular version of these games, but these are challenging times. And we all have to make adjustments.

With games like Scattergories or Pictionary only one person needs to own the game. Everyone else just needs a pen and paper. The host can share their screen with the categories listed somewhere like a Google Doc. The host rolls the dice to decide the letter, opens the categories screen so everyone can see, sets the timer and then you’re off.

You could also play online versions of family classics like charades or even host your own bingo night! Host a Live challenge night Setting your members challenges over the course of a night could be a really fun way to stay connected.

You could try:

  • A Scavenger hunt – ask members to find items in their house in a set time limit.
  • Google Street view Scavenger Hunt – give a list of things to find and screenshot.
  • ‘Taskmaster’ style challenges where members have to perform set tasks that are judged by the organiser – get some inspiration on the Taskmaster website.


Further Info

There are loads of resources and articles online that can give you some further ideas. Here are just a few we found: