Virtual Online Meetings (Zoom) – how, where, when?

GSO Options

Click above to be taken to the GSO page and see their suggestions and directions for virtual meetings



Just as in the physical rooms, meetings on Zoom feature resentments, ringing phones, and other disturbances. In fact, some groups, particularly women’s meetings, are experiencing  sexually predatory and violent behavior from meeting participants.

While this, too can happen in physical meeting rooms, the anonymity of the internet provides a shield for the predators. Fortunately, while not possible to maintain absolute security, there are a number of features available to keep meetings safe. 

These are suggestions only. It is up the group conscious on what meeting settings to set for safe meeting management. As guidance, view the AA brochure:  View Safety and A.A. Meetings: Our Common Welfare>

Requiring  Zoom Registration

The highest level of safety that Zoom offers is requiring attendees to register a Zoom account to attend the meeting. It is up to the group conscious on whether to require registration and all of these settings.

There is a concern that this setting will turn off newcomers. Consider the newcomer  and fellows who attend a meeting that is disrupted.  

Hosts Instructions on How to Require Registration> 

Set Safe Meeting Default Settings 

On the Zoom Settings page, turn off participant controls:

  1. Sign into
  2. Click on the Settings link on the left.
  3. On the right side of the page,  in the “In Meeting (Basic)” section and turn off: Autosaving chats, file transfer, screen sharing, annotations, whiteboard, and remote control.
  4. Go to the “In Meeting (Advanced)” section and turn off: virtual background, far end camera control, auto-answer group in chat.
Settings Tab on Zoom

Identify a Meeting Secretary AND a Co-Host

For starters, elect a co-host whose role is to shoulder the weight of maintaining order during the online meeting by managing the participants.  This allows the meeting secretary to focus on the meeting,  while the co-host focuses on managing participants and the meeting controls. Co-hosts are assigned during a meeting and cannot start a meeting. 

Assign a Co-Host

  1. Sign into
  2. Click on the Settings link on the left of the screen.
  3. Scroll down to the Co-host option on the Meeting tab and verify that the setting is enabled.
  4. Turn on Co-Host. If a verification dialog displays, choose Turn On to verify the change.
cohost control

More instructions for setting up a co-host of a meeting in Zoom>

Manage Disruptive Participants During a Meeting

The Meeting Participants window offers control over most aspects of your meeting and those attending. Zoom has a 10 minute long video that is recommended viewing for all meeting secretaries who host Zoom meetings and anyone who plans to co-host a meeting at any time.

There are two sections of the Zoom meeting software that help you manage disruptive participants during a meeting: Manage Participants Window and Chat Settings. 

Manage Participants Window

Desktop Participants

In the “Manage Participant’s” window, you can manage a disruptive participant. 

  1. Click on “Manage Participants” on the Zoom toolbar. 
  2. Find disruptive attendee’s name and then click “Mute” or “Stop Video.”
  3. Click on “More” and select “Remove.”
Participants list

Chat Settings

Toolbar Chat
  1. Click on Chats on the Zoom toolbar.
  2. Click on the “More” button on the bottom of the Chat window.
  3. Under “Allow Participants to Chat With” heading, select “Host Only” or “No One.”

View our comprehensive suggestions on how to handle disruptive participants during a meeting>

Suggested Other Zoom Features

Consider enabling the Waiting Room for your meeting. You then play an active role choosing who to allow into the room through the participants list.

Consider disabling Join Before Host to keep users out before the host arrives. When “Join Before Host” is enabled anyone can enter at anytime.

Consider restricting In-Meeting Chat to reach only host only during the meeting. Many meetings open it up for fellowship after the meeting.

Other Suggestions for Setting Up Meetings to Keep Safe From Disruptive Attendees

  • You can also take a group conscience regarding screen sharing, mute and unmute privileges, chat settings among participants and more.
  • Make sure your zoom meeting is set up for anonymity by disabling these settings.
  • Hold a steering committee meeting using a private link sent to the meeting’s phone list. Take a group conscious on how to secure the meetings and keep them safe.
  • Ensure that all meeting secretaries have access to Host controls so they can take control of the meeting when the safety of the members are compromised.
  • Train the host/secretary on how to kick out attendees who become disruptive.
  • For closed meetings: Consider using a private Zoom meeting link for the meeting and send only to phone list members.
  • Newcomers: Consider hosting newcomer meetings with public links, but enable the Waiting Room, so the host/secretary has to allow everyone in the meeting.
  • Public Information / Cooperation with the Professional Community Committees or H&I Reps – Consider reaching out to local rehab centers and let them know about new safety protocols.

We are Responsible

It is unfortunate that we have a need to address this issue, but doing so and keeping online meetings going will do more to allow the sick and suffering alcoholic to find us than taking meetings underground will. Keep in mind our Responsibility Statement:

I am responsible…
When anyone, anywhere,
reaches out for help, I want
the hand of A.A. always to be there.
And for that: I am responsible.

Additional Resources

We offer these links with the stipulation that not all of their suggestions can be applied while maintaining openness that is a part of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.


For Zoom users: With the rush to shift to online meetings, many of us did not take time to investigate what this meant to the spiritual foundation of our recovery – namely, anonymity. Now that online meetings are accessible, we want to pass on best practices for protecting anonymity. These have been curated from the membership and online resources. 

The default Zoom settings run counter to AA’s spiritual foundation of anonymity. The meetings are publicly accessible and full names and faces are often displayed. Additionally, by default all Zoom meetings are recorded to the cloud. Turning that feature off is simple, fortunately.

Suggested Meeting Setting Changes to Preserve Anonymity

Here are some suggested settings for your meeting to use. Please note that most, if not all, of the settings below are not the Zoom default:

  1. Login to
  2. Click on Settings.
  3. Click on the Meeting subtab.
Settings Tab on Zoom

In the Zoom Settings section, under the Meeting subtab…

Scroll through the options in In Meeting (Basic) and In Meeting (Advanced) and change the following settings:

  • Require Encryption for Third Party Endpoints
  • Disable Auto saving chats
  • Disable File transfer
  • Disable Feedback to Zoom
  • Disable Screen sharing
  • Disable desktop/screen share for users
  • Disable Remote control
  • Disable Virtual background (While fun, some trolls have been showing up to online meeting with violent and pornographic images as their background.)

In the Zoom Settings section, under the Recording subtab:

  • Disable Local recording
  • Disable Cloud recording
  • Disable Automatic recording 


Stop Chat

Sadly, as many of you have experienced, people have disrupted online meetings in our fellowship. While we may not be able to completely stop them, here are few tips provided by fellows* who have been dealing with these online meeting disruptors. 

You must have Host or Co-Host access to take action on these suggestions. If you are not a meeting host, then send a link to this page to the secretary or host so they can take action.

Note: Some controls may look different for your version of Zoom. Before your next meeting,  review to Zoom instructions and find your computer or device type at the bottom of the page to access specific instructions.

First Things First: Review Manage Meeting Participants Instructions to Ensure Zoom is Setup for Meeting Safety.

Before the meeting,  do what you can to Manage Meeting Participants and setup  Zoom settings for attendee safety.  For example, before the meeting begins, elect a co-host whose role is to shoulder the weight of maintaining order during the online meeting by managing the participants. Read more>

Remove the Offending Participant

This action will kick the attendee off the call and keep them from coming back under the same account.

Desktop Participants
  1. Go to the Manage Participants window at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Find the name of the offending participant by either by scrolling or searching in the Manage Participants window.
  3. Select their name and click “More” and then “Remove.”
Remove participants

Stop a Participant’s Video

This function will immediately turn off the disruptive attendee’s video. 

  1. Go to the Manage Participants window at the bottom fo the screen. 
  2. Click on “More” 
  3. Click on “Stop Video.”
Participants list

Turn Off Participants Ability to Mute/Unmute Themselves

This function will keep disruptive attendee from being able to unmute themselves and interrupt the meeting verbally. It will also mean the host and co-host will have to manually unmute each speaker.

  1. Go to the Manage Participants window at the bottom of the screen. 
  2. Click on “More.”
  3. Uncheck “Allow Participants to Unmute Themselves”
Allow participants to unmute themselves

Prevent Participants From Renaming Themselves

If people are using this function to have offensive slurs and violent words visible on the Participants window, you can uncheck this option to prevent them from showing renaming.

  1. Go to the Manage Participants window at the bottom of the screen. 
  2. Click on “More.”
  3. Click on “Allow Participants to Rename Themselves” and make sure the check mark is removed so the function is turned off.

Turn Off Chat

This function keeps disruptive attendees from being able to send offensive messages via chat.

  • Go to the Manage Participants window at the bottom of the screen. 
  • Click on the “…” button.
  • Select  “Participants can chat with: host only”

Lock the Meeting

After an attendee has been removed from the meeting or a meeting ended and restarted, the disruptive attendees can return under a new account. Thus, you may need to Lock the Room to disable any new people to join.

  1. Go to the Manage Participants window at the bottom of the screen. 
  2. Click on “More.”
  3. Select “Lock Meeting.”
Lock the Meeting

After the meeting, consider looking at Zoom Waiting Rooms to allow an alternative to locking meetings.

Considerations on What Not To Do:

  • Your group does not have to tolerate or make excuses for the behavior of the disrupting individuals. Each group is well within their rights  to remove the disruptor, just as a group might at a face-to-face meeting. Read the AA Pamphlet on Safety and AA: Our Common Welfare.
  • Online meeting disruptors use the anonymity of the internet to abuse people, promote violence, and create insecurity, not just in AA meetings, but everywhere. Their acts are harmful to victims. While we cannot stop them completely, we can do our part by not invalidating or excusing the harmful experience of our fellows.
  • If this happens to your group, hold a business meeting and take a group conscience after the call to decompress and discuss how to handle the situation should it happen again. This will likely be more productive than sharing of opinions on how to handle the situation with a flood of chat messages or private chats to the meeting hosts. Refer to Managing Meeting Participants on guidelines for how to set up your meeting for safety.