Video chat services are now more necessary than ever and Google Meet is the latest big name to enter the arena.
Google’s business-focused video conferencing app recently got a free tier for regular folks like you and me. You can pack up to 100 people into a call and, at least until Sept. 30, there isn’t a time limit. Take that, Zoom.
Anyway, if you’re going to use Google Meet to show off your pets to your friends, there are a handful of things you should know about. The free version of the app is pretty self-explanatory and light on advanced features, but even so, you should master these tips to make your video calls as good as they can be.
Make the right first impression
This is going to seem basic, but trust us: Take advantage of the virtual waiting room you see before entering a Google Meet chat.
Seriously! Google Meet shows you a preview window of what everyone else will see before you choose to hop into your meeting. You see those camera and microphone buttons on the video feed? Make good use of those. Don’t hop into a meeting with your camera or mic on if you would be embarrassed by anything the other participants would see or hear.
You’d think this would be obvious, but too many people parachute into meetings without taking these things into consideration. Don’t be one of them.
Fix that resolution
Another nice thing about Google Meet is that you can easily scale your video quality if you’re having internet problems. WiFi isn’t always reliable and, ultimately, seeing might not be as important as hearing when it comes to virtually catching up with folks you can’t make contact with in real life right now.
Once you’re in a call, click on the three dots in the bottom right corner. From there, go to “Settings” and then go to the “Video” tab. There isn’t an abundance of options in the free version, so you probably won’t get lost here. Once you’re in the tab, you can lower or raise the quality of both your outgoing and incoming video feeds, like so:
Lowering the resolution will obviously make things look worse, but it may also lighten the strain on your internet connection. If you’re not using a professional-grade webcam, it probably won’t matter that much, anyway. Give it a shot if you feel the need.
Master the shortcuts
Why fumble around with a graphical interface when you can do things with keyboard shortcuts? You can feel like a digital god with total mastery of your video chatting domain if you learn Google Meet’s easy shortcuts, some of which are conveniently listed here.
Okay, so that’s a little hyperbolic, but the point remains: Keyboard shortcuts are often easier than trying to find out how to do things with your mouse cursor. You can use them to quickly turn off your camera or microphone, for example. They’re also handy for opening and closing the text chat or the list of meeting participants.
In a Meet call, hit control (or command on Mac) + the question mark key to see every keyboard shortcut that’s available to you.
One very cool thing about Google Meet is its live captioning option. Just hit the captions button on the lower right area of the screen and everything that’s said will be automatically and quickly transcribed. I did some quick testing of the feature and it didn’t get anything horribly wrong:
There isn’t much more to say about this feature. It’s great for those with hearing impairments or if you just catch yourself missing parts of a conversation. That said, it’s not always going to be perfect, but it’s speedy and good enough, as far as I can tell.
Learn how to present
Last but definitely not least, Google Meet allows for quick and easy screen-sharing that’s both useful and intuitive. The “Present now” button on the (you guessed it) lower right corner of the screen gives you three different options, which are pretty self-explanatory.
You can present your entire screen, which obviously has its drawbacks. You may not want your friends to see everything you’ve got going on. I won’t judge you in these trying 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.
The coolest option here, though, is the one that lets you share a single Chrome tab and nothing else. Google recommends doing this if you plan on sharing, say, a YouTube video or anything else with motion. That’s fantastic, to be sure, but the best part is that this keeps the rest of your browsing activity safely out of sight.
Again, the free version of Google Meet is a little barebones as compared to its enterprise version. What it does provide is reliable video calls with enough flexibility to do most things you would want to do with your online pals. So memorize those shortcuts, hide your tabs (if you need to), and above all else, have fun.