Mediating online? Using Zoom as your video connection tool? Well, we are sure you are a pro by now, after the Zoom boom in Spring 2020, video tutorials, and just by your own experience.  

However, mediating with Zoom, no matter how comfortable you are with it, is not just about being fluent with the tool, but also, or above all, how to most effectively use it to ensure that the mediation safeguards are met – and amongst them, confidentiality, respect and equality of the participants.

We do not want to go down to such basics as reminding your mediating parties beforehand to download the zoom app for free (and not mediating from the browser) or have the device charged – as this is for sure a part of your mediation confirmation letter.

However, some things still can be refreshed when it comes to using zoom with your participants when it is clear they are using it for the first time or get lost on the way. Quite a common experience of mediators is that the parties connect and… you cannot hear them. Clearly they are not connected to the sound. They are there, but they can’t hear you. How to instruct them quickly in the most efficient way? Use the share screen option (green button middle of bottom toolbar) and choose the whiteboard and start typing the instructions you want to give to your party, like – “press the button for the headphones or microphone” or “make sure you wear headphones, this would help”.

Zoom is a communication tool and using it for mediation requires looking at its features from a very different perspective than just a meeting and above all, remembering that a party’s experience might differ from the mediator’s one. Therefore, it is the role of the mediator to remind the parties of actions and optimizations that will make them feel more comfortable in mediation, such as seeing everyone on the screen in the same size windom, making it a part of the mediator’s opening statement. The parties should choose the gallery view from the upper right hand corner of the app, rather than the speaker view (which might appear as default), where only the person currently speaking is featured. Also, the mediator should remember to respectfully rename the parties so that equal data (like first name and last name and not iPhone 8) is visible to others, which will also help everyone to identify and name each other respectfully.

I believe for some of us a lot if it is so obvious that we no longer think about it. However, being the host of the Zoom meeting as the mediator gives us certain powers over the participants. We let them into the main session from the waiting room and… we can place them there again, if they are not behaving properly (by clicking on the window and choosing one of the options in the upper right corner of it). The other accompanying tool making sure that the mediator controls and runs the mediation process and neither of the parties does, is the power to mute a particular participant.

Placing the parties into the breakout rooms requires the parties knowing how it works and they do not drop off while waiting. Therefore it is up to you as a mediator to remind the participants that when they are using a breakout room they can always call you by using the “ask for help” button. On the other hand, a mediator returning to the breakout room – make yourself hearable and recognizable – as you are entering someone’s private moment and perhaps a private conversation of the party and the attorney, which definitely demands being delicate about it.

And last but not least, the security button, displayed as a shield icon at the bottom toolbar – using which you will lock the meeting while the participants are all there. It will prevent anyone not invited to appear in the mediation. 

And of course – this is not an exhaustive list. Share your thoughts on the Facebook group – ONLINE MEDIATORS

And if you want to learn more – we have published an ebook HOW TO MEDIATE ONLINE, available at InstantMediations.com/Ebooks as a free resource to any mediator interested. 

We would love to learn more about zoom mediation experiences!

In addition to being a international family law attorney, I am a Polish and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family mediator and Co-Founder of InstantMediations.com with a passion for technology and teaching.