Early in the pandemic, all the virtual meeting platforms: Google Meet, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom, found themselves in a gold rush. Zoom was the early leader–in part because of price: a freemium version allowed group meetings of up to 40 minutes; and features like break-out rooms, chats, backgrounds, and multimedia presentations. Other players were either much pricier, feature poor, or like Microsoft Teams–bloated and didn’t play well with meeting participants outside the host organization.
That’s starting to change now. Google has been investing a lot of effort in its Google Meet product. It began as Google Hangouts. Hangouts is now being retired having spawned 2 important off-spring: Google Chat, the instant messaging tool that Hangouts started to be; and Google Meet, which is the video conferencing, calling, and sharing tool. With Google Jamboard, you also have an interactive “whiteboard” that all participants can share in and which can be saved to Google Drive as a meeting artifact or an ongoing work-in-progress.
But there’s a lot of other new reasons to consider Google Meet as your new Video Conferencing application:
- For Google Workspace (what used to be called Google G-Suite) users, it’s free and included in your account (along with Jamboard).
- It supports optional closed captioning of conversations–something useful for people who have auditory challenges or for whom the language of the meeting may not be their first language.
- Does not require any software download to attend a meeting on a Windows or Macintosh (because phones and tablets have less capable processors, apps are available for iOS and Android).
- With the “Business Standard” package, it allows up to 150 concurrent participants and allows recording of the meeting (recordings are saved to your Google Drive account). (Have more than 150 participants? Business Plus allows 250.)
- Recently added features includes: virtual backgrounds; breakout rooms; Q&A interactions so participants can ask questions and moderators can field, answer, and track them; polls to put to participants to gauge interest, concerns, or promote engagement.
This latter list of features is now accessed using a bit of an obscure menu icon:
Click on the image from geometry class and you’re introduced to a world of new tools that compete with the most popular features of Zoom: breakout rooms (rooms can be custom named), polls, and Q&A sessions to record and manage user interaction.
Google Meet still has a way to go to burst out in front of the pack but it certainly is a come from behind contender. Combined integration with Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Google Drive, a maximum of 250 participants, session recording, the ability to hide a cluttered background, and at “no cost” option for existing Google Workspace subscribers, Google Meet is worth considering as we continue to hold virtual meetings.