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Things to know about Google Meet

Video meeting with nine people on screen

This first section is intended to help you familiarize yourself with the latest video chat software to hit the market, before moving on to the slightly more technical side of things. It's here where I answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

After this I’ll demonstrate how you can practice holding meetings yourself, using two different devices such as a desktop and smartphone. Right here and now!

What is Google Meet and how do I access it?

If you’ve heard of Zoom meetings then you’ll know what meet is all about. The thing that separates this neat little gem from the rest of the pack is the way it works seamlessly with Google’s other apps, such as Calendar and Chat, previously known as Hangouts.

Google Meet is a video conferencing application and is one of the core applications bundle which come with any Google account. If you haven’t yet got an account, the guide to creating a Google account will get you started.

In case you’re not familiar with these apps, gmail is one of the more famous ones. And of course everyone’s heard of Youtube, arguably the most famous of the entire fleet.

How much does Google Meet cost?

For personal accounts video meetings are absolutely free. However this plan does have some limitations, although the allowances are quite generous.

Google Workspace for business plans, all of which include the full range of apps, start at £4.60 per user per month for the basic plan.

What can I use Google Meet for?

The current covid crisis has created several innovative ways of holding virtual meetings and get-togethers. Group chats and video conferencing being the two most commonly used.

Businesses are often thought of as the only or main benefactors of being able to have group meetings. However: this is far from the case.

Stay connected: Families can still stay in touch, or even see more of each other. Regardless of travel restrictions, limitations on gatherings, or distance.

Virtual pubs: Drinking with friends doesn’t have to end because of lockdowns. So get the beers out, pull up a chair, and let’s have a Meet party.

Visiting the sick: Ill health shouldn’t mean that we have to spend our time in total isolation, or be constrained by hospital visiting times. Virtual visits are the ideal way of monitoring those who have succumbed.

What’s the difference between the paid and free versions of Meet?

Aside from the cost, there are what I believe to be three major differences between the free and paid plans.

  1. Time limit: Users of the free version have a limit of 24 hours for one to one meets and one hour for three or more people
  2. Number of participants: For the free and basic business versions there is maximum of 100 participants
  3. Recording ability: The free and basic business plans don’t have the inbuilt ability to record meetings

Work arounds for Google Meet limitations

Don’t let these limitations put you off. While the number of participants is usually more than enough, there are workarounds for the other two.

The limit is on time, not on the number of meetings. Several meetings can be arranged to continue one after the other, or participants could agree on a second meeting to begin a few minutes after the current event ends.

Any meeting participant using a desktop or laptop can record the get together with a third party program.

Although a couple of hours to learn the features is needed, Open Broadcast Studio (OBS) allows you to make high quality recordings of all, or specific areas of the screen. The videos can then be shared with individuals or on social media. And the best part: this software is free!

We can hold and record a Google meet session on all operating systems. Both OBS and Meet are cross platform, meaning they can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How can I access Meet?

You can organize video meetings from your gmail home page and from the apps listing of any Chrome browser. Google Meets can also be scheduled using Google Calendar.

Do I need the Chrome browser to access Meets?

I’m not aware of any browser that can’t access Meets, but there will be one extra hurdle to jump through. I regularly use Firefox and Brave browsers to access my Google account and therefore any of the apps .

When signed into a Google account with the Chrome browser, all the core apps are accessible from the nine dot app icon in the top right. This icon is visible on every new tab we open.

However: with none Chrome browsers, the dropdown is only visible from the tab we use to sign into our account and then any of the core features we open.

Which devices can I create and access a video chat on?

WOoman drinking coffee sitting in fromt of a laptop and holding a smartphone

We can carry out a video meeting on all modern devices providing we have an internet connection. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops are all suitable.

The obvious requirement is they must have video and audio functionality, which eliminates those devices from the pre smartphone era.

How to initiate a Google Meet

This simple guide is a basic introduction to holding live video calls on desktops and laptops. A later section covers mobile devices . The main objective at this point is to get you familiar with the major features..

Regardless of how the meeting was started, either from gmail or the meet app, they will eventually lead to the same ends. So I'll briefly discuss the gmail options before covering the second path, then the meet dashboard.

Starting a Google Meet from gmail

In the left sidebar of your gmail homepage, near the bottom, you should see a couple of options under the Meet heading, providing you have meets activated in the gmail settings,

The Meet section in gmail

Enabling Google Meets in gmail

  1. Click the gear icon in the top right
  2. Click See all settings at the top
  3. In the row of tabs select Chat and Meet
  4. Click Show the Meet section in the main menu
  5. Click Save changes

You should now see the meets heading in your gmail sidebar.

See full gmail guide

I’ll cover how to join a meeting further down. For now, let’s just focus on starting an instant video meeting. We do this by clicking New meeting

This will open a modal with options to copy the meeting link and possibly share it on social media. Likewise the dial-in option. Clicking the Send invitation button will permit you to Share via email. Which in turn will open a preformatted email and the ability to add recipients.

The 'Share your new meeting dialog box

The other option, Join now opens up a new window. It may already have your camera view, or you could be asked to allow access to your mic and camera. Then click Join now.

Ready to join meeting dialog box

The finer details, such as inviting people to join and the meet controls are covered in the following sections.

Starting a Google Meet using the Meet app

On the top right of your signed into Chrome browser, click on the three rows of three dots. This will open up the apps and services available to your account.

If you’re using a non Chrome browser, you’ll need to sign in to your account and access the apps from there.

Find and click the Meet icon. Then, in the new window, click New Meeting. You’ll then have three options:

  1. Create a meeting for later: Provides options for people to join by pasting a link into their bowser and requesting to join, or the ability to dial in from a smartphone
  2. Start an instant meeting: Start the meeting then invite people
  3. Schedule a meeting in Calendar: Set a time and date, when to notify people and add the event to your Google Calendar

I’ll cover the scheduling in the calendar guide. For now I’ll use the instant option.

After selecting Start an instant meeting, you’ll be given two prompts: one to allow Google to use your microphone followed by another asking permission to use your camera.

How to add participants to your video meeting

Once you accept the requests to allow access to your camera and microphone, your camera will open with a prompt to add people. At the bottom you’ll see a telephone number and pin to allow people to dial in.

The 'Your meeting is ready' dialog box with optoins to copy meeting link or add others

Clicking the blue Add people button will provide you with two options:

  1. input their email addresses
  2. Select from a list of your contacts

You can choose to invite by email or telephone using the tabs in the dialog box,

Fine tuning your meeting

Icons that are shown in the bottom right of a Google Meet screem

In the bottom right you’ll see a row of five icons. Let’s take a look at these individually.The user icon will display the number of attendees. This should currently be one. Clicking this icon will also open a side panel allowing you to add others.

1: Link to your meeting

The first contains a link to the meeting and if relevant, details of any related calendar event.

2: Guest details and adding more people

The second is the user icon and shows the number of people present. Clicking on it will open a sidebar, along with the names of everyone present. There are also three more icons which provide more functionality

View of the Meet sidebar when the bottom user icon is clicked
  1. Mute everyone’s microphone
  2. Add more people
  3. Control what features the guests can access

3: Meet chat messages

We can also send text messages and the third icon is where this feature can be turned on and off. All messages are deleted when the video ends

4: Jamboards

Jamboards are whiteboards which can be created while the meeting is active, or imported from Drive, then edited in the Meet.

5: Meet host controls

Determine which features guests can use. Such as send chat messages, share their screen and turn the camera and mic off. The presets are generally okay to leave as they are. The gear icon at the bottom will open a modal where you can choose and adjust the audio and camera settings

Toggling captions, camera, and microphone on and off

Now we turn our attention to the five icons in the bottom centre of the screen. The first two toggle the microphone and camera off and on, useful if anyone is interrupted during a meeting.

The last one is for ending the call. If you’re the person who created the call, clicking this will give the option to leave the call, or end it for everyone. That leaves us with just two that need some explanation.

Icons that are shown in the bottom center of a Google Meet screem

The third icon allows you to show a particular browser tab. Such tabs could show web pages or Drive files, which are also web pages.

The three vertical dot icon provides a range of options which are better presented using an image.

popup shown when the three dot icon in the bottom centre of a Meet is clicked

I’ve already mentioned the top option, whiteboard. The layout is where you can change how others are shown, such as a tiled effect. Full screen removes the browser tabs and bookmarks bar.

Applying visual effects opens up a new window in the side panel. Here you can blur your background, add a background image of your own, or choose one from a selection.

Adding backgrounds requires a high quality webcam and good lighting. Personally: on Google’s part, I believe this to be work in progress. I’ve also noticed that using a dark effect reduces the distortion.

Options for adding a background image to a meeting

Captions may help overcome the problem of noisy environments, but expect a little lag, especially with less than optimum connection speeds.

The settings gear icon is another way of accessing the previously mentioned features under the host control tab.

How to use Google Meet on a mobile device

Meets can be accessed via any device with a connection, both iphone and Android. To do so you’ll need to install the respective app. Click on one of the images below to get your version.

Google play icon app store icon

Once installed, open the Meet app, where you’ll be presented with a screen similar to the one shown below, with two options: New meeting and Join with a code.

In most cases, copying and pasting a code is a bridge too far. Normally, when an invitation is sent via email, the email contains a link to the meeting. Opening the email and clicking the link will open up the meeting.

For now let’s focus on starting a new meeting, which will open up a window like the one below.

For the purpose of this guide, I’m going to select Start an instant meeting. I don;t really see the point of getting the link to share, you’ll see why in a moment.

Tapping the Share invite button will open up the social media apps, such as gmail and Facebook, available to share on. I chose the gmail option and sent the link to another of my Google accounts.

My second account received an email with a link to the meeting. After clicking it, a window opened where I could Ask to join. Note this was on my laptop. Using the same camera for two accounts is not possible.

Back to my mobile device. I then receive a notification that someone is requesting to join.

Mobile meet settings

At the bottom you’ll notice the icons for muting the mic and camera. Clicking the three vertical dots at the bottom will give you a similar set of settings options as with a desktop or laptop.