Video chat services are now more necessary than ever, and Google Meet is the last big name to enter the arena.
Google’s business-focused video conferencing app recently got a free tier for ordinary people like you and me. You can include up to 100 people in a call, and at least until September 30, there is no time limit. Take that, Zoom.
However, if you’re going to use Google Meet to show your pets to your friends, there are a few things you should know. The free version of the app is self-explanatory and light on advanced features, but you should still master these tips to make your video calls the best they can be.
Make the right first impression
This is going to seem basic, but trust us: take advantage of the virtual waiting room that you see before entering the Google Meet chat.
Seriously! Google Meet shows you a preview window of what everyone else will see before you choose to join your meeting. Do you see those camera and microphone buttons in the video? Make good use of those. Do not go into a meeting with the camera or microphone on if you are embarrassed by anything that other participants see or hear.
One would think this would be obvious, but too many people parachute into meetings regardless of these things. Do not be one of them.
Fix that resolution
Another good thing about Google Meet is that you can easily scale the quality of your video if you have internet issues. WiFi isn’t always reliable, and ultimately watching might not be as important as listening when it comes to catching up with people you can’t contact in real life right now.
Once you’re on a call, click on the three dots in the lower right corner. From there, go to “Settings” and then go to the “Video” tab. There aren’t a lot of options in the free version, so you probably won’t miss out here. Once you’re on the tab, you can reduce or increase the quality of your outgoing and incoming video feeds, like this:
Obviously, lowering your resolution will make things worse, but it can also ease the strain on your Internet connection. If you’re not using a professional-grade webcam, it probably won’t matter that much, anyway. Try it if you feel the need.
Why play around with a graphical interface when you can do things with keyboard shortcuts? You can feel like a digital god with full dominance of your video chat domain if you learn the easy Google Meet shortcuts, some of which are conveniently listed here.
Okay, that’s a little hyperbolic, but the point remains: keyboard shortcuts are often easier than trying to figure out how to get things done with the mouse cursor. You can use them to quickly turn off your camera or microphone, for example. They are also useful for opening and closing the text chat or the meeting participant list.
In a Meet call, press control (or command on Mac) + the question mark key to see all available keyboard shortcuts.
One very interesting thing about Google Meet is its choice of live captions. Just press the subtitle button in the lower right area of the screen and everything that is said will be transcribed automatically and quickly. I did some quick tests of the function and nothing terribly wrong went:
There is not much more to say about this feature. It is ideal for people who are hard of hearing or if they just notice parts of a conversation. That said, it’s not always going to be perfect, but it’s fast and good enough, from what I can tell.
Learn how to present
Last but not least, Google Meet allows screen sharing to be quick, easy, useful and intuitive. The “Present Now” button in the lower right corner (you guessed it) of the screen offers you three different options, which are self explanatory.
You can present your entire screen, which obviously has its drawbacks. You may not want your friends to see everything that is going on. I won’t judge you in these tough times, of course, but privacy is important. You can also share a single window with your friends or family, but again, sharing a Chrome or Firefox window carries the risk of exposing your embarrassing bookmarks and tabs.
However, the best option here is the one that allows you to share a single Chrome tab and nothing else. Google recommends doing this if you plan to share, for example, a YouTube video or anything else with motion. That’s fantastic, to be sure, but the best part is that it keeps the rest of your browsing activity safe out of sight.
Again, the free version of Google Meet is a bit basic compared to its business version. What it does provide are reliable video calls with enough flexibility to do most of the things you would like to do with your online friends. So memorize those shortcuts, hide your tabs (if necessary), and most of all, have fun.