As the world continues to hunker down inside their homes, people are having to get used to socialising and hosting work meetings in an entirely different way. Remote video calls have become a part of everyday life, while ‘Zooming’ has become the phrase most commonly used to refer to video calls under lockdown. As Zoom has risen meteorically in popularity, legacy platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts Meet (now Google Meet) have fallen behind or become obsolete altogether.
But Google, clearly trying to reverse this shift in power within video conferencing, has struck back. Google Meet is now free for everyone.
As of this month, all users can host meetings comprised of 100 people for an unlimited amount of time. Prior to this, Hangouts Meet was restricted to just businesses and educational institutions. While Google says it may limit this to 60 minutes from September 30, it’s still 20 minutes more than what Zoom is currently offering for free.
The company is also seemingly capitalising on Zoom’s early security problems which saw video calls made on the platform Zoombombed by uninvited guests. If an uninvited guest tries to join a Google Meet video call, they will be sent to a ‘green room’, and will only be granted entry when the host approves the request.
So whether you’ve been tempted to switch over to Google Meet because it’s now free or because Google Meet’s batted away some of Zoom’s security issues, here you’ll find 10 tips and tricks to help you get the most out of the platform.
How to make a video call
Probably the most important question. Google has made it easy to have an impromptu Google Meet party with your friends – as long as they are part of the Google ecosystem. Everyone has to have a Google Account (a Gmail email address), which the company says is a security measure.
If you’re using a computer, login to Gmail or Google Calendar and click on Google Meet. Alternatively, you can just navigate to meet.google.com.
Now click the ‘Join or start a meeting’ button. Pick a nickname for the meeting and click Continue. Simply share the meeting nickname you chose or the meeting ID assigned with your chosen participants, and they’ll be able to instantly join.
If you aren’t using a computer, download Google Meet from the iOS App Store or the Google Play store and follow the same steps as above.
How to schedule a Google Meet meeting
If you want to organise a Google Meet video call for a later date, whether that’s for a virtual birthday party or a work meeting, you can do so by navigating to Google Calendar. Click ‘Create’, enter in all the details of the event, and type in the email addresses of the people you would like to invite. Now click ‘Add video conferencing’ and send your invitation off. As noted above, participants can’t join a meeting unless they’ve been invited or you admit them if they try to join.
How to switch the view in Google Meet
Like with Zoom, Google Meet automatically displays the most active content or participant on-screen. You can change your meeting layout by clicking on the three dots in the bottom right of the screen on your computer. Layout changes include a Tiled view – 16 participants shown on screen at once; a Speaker view – either a presentation, speaker or feed fills the entire screen; or Sidebar – participants will be to the side of the presentation or active speaker.
Add real-time subtitles to your video call
Google has included a nifty feature to Meet for English-language users. If you would like to display real-time subtitles on your calls so that you can more easily understand a participant, then simply click ‘Turn on captions’ in the bottom right corner of the screen. If you want to turn this feature off, just click the same button. The subtitles are surprisingly accurate.
Pin, boot or mute someone in a Google Meet call
This feature can help you deal with any rabble rousers in your Google Meet video call. Or, like us, if you enjoy a bit of Meet party trolling.
To pin someone’s tile to the call, simply click on the pin icon that sits on their image. And if you want to kick someone out of your meeting, click on People in the top right corner, hover your cursor over the person you want to eject and click on the back arrow. Now click Remove. If you’d rather just mute them because they’re causing trouble, or – more likely – forgot to mute their microphone, then just hover your cursor over the volume button on a participant’s tile and click on Silence.
Bad Wi-Fi? Change your camera resolution
If your Wi-Fi is a bit patchy and you find you’re struggling to hear people or their video feed is jittery, try changing the resolution. It’s probably because your Wi-Fi connection is a little unstable. To change the resolution, click on the three dots in the bottom corner and click on Settings and click on the Video tab. Here you can lower the quality of both your video feed and other participants’ feeds. Your video quality will be worse, but you will be able to hear everyone else a whole lot better.
How to share your screen on Google Meet
If you have a presentation to share with your colleagues, you can mirror your screen and gain their feedback in real-time. To project your screen, click on ‘Show my screen’ in the lower right corner. Here you can choose to share a specific window, your entire screen or an individual Chrome tab. Once you select the tab or window you’d like to share, just click ‘Share’. Once finished, select ‘Stop sharing screen’.
How to change your background in Google Meet
We all love a good virtual background, not just because it lets us feel like we’re on the beach in the sunny Bahamas, but because it can obscure your IRL surroundings if you happen to be sitting in an exceedingly messy room. Google Meet doesn’t actually have this feature packed into the product, but you can enable it using a tool called ChromaCam. It takes a little bit of work, but if you really want a virtual background, ChromaCam can do it for you.
Once you install ChromaCam, log-in to the service using your email address. Now, join or start a meeting, but before joining, click on the three dots and click on Settings and configure your camera settings.
Under the video tab, click on the dropdown below camera and click on the option ‘ChromaCam AVS’. ChromaCam will pop up, letting you choose your virtual background. Once selected, minimise this window, go back to the Google Meet page and join your meeting.
Learn the Google Meet keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts just make the Google Meet experience a whole lot less cumbersome to use. Here are two of the most useful ones:
Toggle your camera on and off – Ctrl (Command on Mac) + E.
Toggle your microphone on and off – Ctrl (Command on Mac) + D
For a list of other shortcuts, just hit Ctrl + ? on PC or Command + ? on Mac.
Active background noise cancellation and low-light support in Google Meet
Google Meet has two new cool features coming to the platform in upcoming weeks. One is active noise cancellation, which will reduce the sounds of barking dogs and family arguments in the background. Annoyingly, this feature will only be available for enterprise and educational institutions – but fingers crossed it will be rolled out to all at a later date.
The other nifty feature coming to Google Meet is low-light support, which will brighten up your camera feed on mobile devices. Google also says that the feature will be available for desktop users soon.
Alex Lee is a writer for WIRED. He tweets from @1AlexL
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