Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:ZM) shareholders are in for a volatile trading week. The video communication specialist will report its third-quarter earnings results on Nov. 22, and stock returns have been weak heading into that announcement.

The stock price slump can be pinned on waning enthusiasm about short-term growth as more people transition back to working at the office. But Zoom might surprise Wall Street with its growth, engagement, and profitability metrics.

Let's take a look at three main trends to watch in Monday's report.

A person making a video call on his laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Will it be another $1 billion quarter for Zoom?

According to management's late August forecast, Zoom should achieve more than $1 billion of quarterly sales for only its second time as a company. Its first time was the second quarter, when sales jumped 54% year over year to $1.02 billion. Wall Street is expecting the same revenue level for the third quarter, which will translate into slower growth of around 29%, year over year, due to stronger growth trends in late 2020.

It's worth following how quickly customers are taking up new offerings like the Zoom phone, which nearly tripled its annual recurring revenue base last quarter. Investors will want to see further gains in the enterprise market, too, given that large contracts (with over $100,000 in annual revenue) more than doubled last quarter.

2. Higher profits as margins improve

The earnings picture should be just as bright, with non-GAAP (adjusted) profit set to land between $1.07 per share and $1.08 per share compared to $0.99 per share a year ago.

ZM Operating Margin (TTM) Chart

ZM Operating Margin (TTM) data by YCharts

Operating margin should continue rising despite Zoom's extra spending on development and sales and marketing. That profitability metric sat at 25% of sales in Q2 and shareholders are hoping to see a modest boost this week. Zoom should also announce good news on the cash flow front.

Free cash flow is at $909 million through the first half of this fiscal year compared to $625 million for the same period in 2020.

3. How much will Zoom tweak its outlook?

The stock price might be especially sensitive to any changes that management makes to its short-term outlook. Back in August, executives warned about a few challenges ahead as people return to more normal mobility patterns.

Sales in the online segment "will be a headwind in the coming quarters as smaller customers and consumers adjust to the evolving environment," CFO Kelly Steckelberg said at the time. Zoom's lagging stock returns this year mostly reflect expectations for a sharp slowdown in that part of the business.

But Zoom might still issue an optimistic update to its fiscal year outlook, assuming consumers and businesses stayed engaged in its communication platform. Heading into Monday's report, that forecast targets sales of just over $4 billion, or roughly 51% growth for the full year.

Sure, that boost would mark much weaker growth results than the 326% surge that investors saw last year when the pandemic drove soaring demand for Zoom's platform. But the company has a good shot at building on that much bigger sales footprint in 2022 and beyond.

New products might help deepen that engagement while pushing average contract sizes higher, too. Success on those points will be the key to investor returns, and that's why shareholders should try to ignore the short-term volatility associated with pandemic-related demand swings.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.