Offices are closing. Travel is restricted. Employers are scrambling to switch to digital for workers that are now required to work from home. At the start of the year, the spread of COVID-19 was predicted to affect our daily lives and working conditions.
As the COVID-19 outbreak spread worldwide, we become reliant on our household internet connections. With an influx of people switching to working from home, video calls have become the norm to help stay connected as best as possible.
Among the tons of options for video chatting, Zoom emerged as the most downloaded video calling app in April 2020, with Google in close competition with its Meet at eighth. To name a few others, Facebook, Microsoft, and Skype have all recently released new free group video chat features and services.
Although the basic features of video chatting are pretty universal, each platform is a bit different and offers different capabilities for your calls. We probably won’t make a how-to for all of them, but we’re sure that the individual companies want it to be as easy as possible for you to use.
This post is a how-to guide for Zoom, and Google Meet has everything you need to know to help you get started on the right foot when you’re invited to a video meeting. Below, we’ll share with you how to get started with each platform and offer tips and tricks that inexperienced users may miss out on.
You can find all the information you need to start meeting of your own and much more instruction for each service on their websites or support pages.
- Visit Zoom Help Pages at https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/
- Visit the G Suite site to learn more about Google Meet or view Meet’s help guide
So, you’ve been invited to a Zoom or Google Meet meeting. Now what?
If this is the first time you’ve had to attend a video meeting, it might seem overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, we’re here to help! It’s actually a straightforward process to join in. Before you to get started with video chatting for the first time, there are a few things you’ll want to do:
- Check out the system requirements for the platform to make sure you’re using a supported browser and operating system.
- Download and install the latest version of the plugin or app.
- Have a device with a video camera and microphone, either built-in or separate (most modern computers, smartphones, and tablets have this built-in). Make sure you have the latest drivers for your webcam if you’re using a computer.
- Have a stable broadband internet connection. If you are using Wi-Fi, ensure you are getting a strong signal by moving closer to the Wi-Fi base station, or use a wired connection.
Zoom: The Most Popular Video Calling App
- It’s simple, yet still has a variety of advanced features that are useful for increasing productivity
- Collaboration tools
- Free account available
- Connects to conferencing equipment
- Works with all operating systems including Linux
- Host up to 500 people
- Call-in access costs start at $100/month
- Must disable popup blockers to use
The Rundown on Zoom
Zoom is the most downloaded video conferencing program right now and for a good reason with its ease-of-use. It has many collaboration tools and works with every platform, including Linux, Mac, Windows, smartphones, and tablets. You can share your screen to give presentations, create breakout rooms for one-to-one collaboration, have more than one host with administrative capabilities. Zoom also allows you to share videos, files, and images for download through its chat feature during your meetings.
This video conference program is best for connecting to conferencing equipment to have several people to join a call from a single place and device. Zoom has an impressive list of video and audio conferencing equipment that integrates with it beyond telecoms and wide-lens webcams.
While Zoom is easy to use, it can be annoying to have to disable popup blockers or grant permission for popups within Zoom.
Plans & Pricing
There are four plans available for Zoom. The most popular now, without a doubt, is the free tier. Free accounts actually quite feature-rich, allowing users to conduct HD video meetings with audio. Up to 100 participants can join via their PC or a telephone line, and both desktops and mobile apps can be downloaded.
The main limitation with the free Zoom Basic account is that group calls are limited to 40 minutes. When the meeting times out, you can simply re-initiate the call after the cutoff if need be. Zoom Basic doesn’t allow call-in participants or recording for reference later. For these features, you will need to upgrade your purchase to a paid subscription. Still, Zoom Basic is an excellent option for businesses that don’t need too many fancy features and are okay with meeting time caps.
Zoom’s paid plans all come with additional features like an increase in meeting duration limits, cloud recording and storage, single sign-on options, and custom branding.
The lowest-cost plan is Zoom Pro, which is charged at $14/month per host. This plan has all the features of Basic but doesn’t have a cap on your meeting times. It comes with 1GB of cloud storage for saving MP4 or M4A recordings. You can also purchase additional storage and add on call-in capabilities that allow participation over the phone.
Zoom’s higher Business and Enterprise plans allow you to create meetings for 300 and 500 participants. The Zoom Business plan gives you the option to receive transcripts of your meets. In contrast, Zoom Enterprise gives you unlimited cloud storage and discounts on webinar add-ons.
You can learn more about the features of the free and paid accounts at https://zoom.us/pricing.
Setting up a free account
To start using Zoom, decide if you’re going to use the web browser or an app download and sign up for a free account at https://zoom.us/signup.
When you create your account, you will be prompted to type in your work email, but any email will do fine. You can also sign in using either a Google or Facebook account.
You don’t need to have a Zoom account to join a meeting! It is possible to join a meeting from any browser. Still, it sure saves you a lot of trouble in the long run and avoids browser limitations. 🙂
Next, Zoom will ask for permission to send resources, including product videos and how-to guides your way. Either click “confirm” or “Set Preferences” to choose to receive emails once a week, once a month, or never. Make your selection.
By now, a confirmation email should have reached your email inbox. When you see it, open the email, click the “Activate Account” button, or paste the included confirmation link. Following that, you will need to complete the account creation process by entering your name and making a strong password.
If you’d like to, on the next screen, you can invite others to also create an account. If not, click on “Skip this step.” Now you have the option to choose to create a test meeting, as well as add Zoom as a browser extension.
Getting Started with Zoom: Joining A Call
There are a few different ways to join a call. You can always download the app beforehand. On the other hand, it will automatically install the first time you click a Zoom invite link to join a call.
Getting Started with An Invite Link
When you get invited to a Zoom call, you will likely be sent a link that looks something like https://zoom.us/j/1010101010 (not a valid link – for example purposes only). Your link will have a valid meeting ID at the end with the nine, ten, or eleven-digit number at the end of the link.
A few minutes before your Zoom meeting is scheduled to begin, click on the link you were given, and you’re seconds away from joining the meeting. If you are using a computer, Zoom will check whether the program is already installed. If you don’t have the Zoom client installed yet, it will prompt you to download.
You will need to download the app before you can get on the call. This usually works well and should be quick and straightforward. Pretty much running itself with a little help from you along the way with a few “OK” and “Yes” answers to prompts.
Depending on your connection, it could take a short amount of time to go through the installation process. This could leave you feeling awkward and rushed if you’re trying to be on time for a call. It is usually good practice to do the installation manually before your call. Whether you will be using a computer, phone, or tablet, you can manually install the app on your device.
When the installation finishes, you should be prompted to enter the name you want to be displayed to others during the call, then you’ll click on “Join Meeting.” A small window that you can enlarge to full screen will open with your meeting.
If your computer detects that Zoom is already installed, the screen might show, “Please click Open Zoom Meetings if you see the system dialog.” In the next prompt, you’ll be asked whether you want to “Join with Computer Audio.” This refers to using the built-in microphone and speakers/headset instead of using your phone to dial in for audio. This is the option that you’ll end up choosing most of the time. Go ahead and click the button.
If you don’t have a microphone or your internet connection is unstable, you can get your audio through a phone. Once you get through those prompts and Zoom is opened up, you will be connected to the call.
Joining A Call with the Join Dialog Box
If you don’t have a link and know the meeting ID, this next method is beneficial. The meeting ID is the Zoom version of a phone number for the call. One way or another, you will need it to connect to the call. It can be found in your original emailed invitation link, as a number, or stored in the client from a previous call.
Here are the steps to join a meeting using the Join dialog box:
- Open the Zoom software before joining the meeting.
- Click on the big turquoise “Join” button
- Enter the meeting ID or use the down-arrow to reveal a list of previous calls in the dialog box
- Input the name that will identify you in the call in the second text box.
- Click Join, and choose your audio connection when the dialog box pops up.
- Now, you are ready to go!
The manual way — Downloading the App Beforehand
Zoom is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. The layout is slightly different depending on between desktop or mobile.
If you are using a computer, go to https://zoom.us/download, where you can download the right client for your machine. You’ll install it the same way you would install any other software.
If you’re using a smartphone or tablet, open up the iOS App Store or Google Play Store, search for “ZOOM Cloud Meetings,” and download the app. We encourage you to download the app on another device, even if you are planning on using a computer. Having it on a phone or tablet can come in handy as a useful backup if needed.
Having the software installed on your device before your first call will ensure you get off to a smooth start. Either way, whichever path you take is a matter of personal preference.
To download & install the Zoom app on a computer:
- Go to https://www.zoom.us, in the web browser.
- Click on “Sign Up – It’s Free” in the upper-right of the page, or go to the “Resources” tab and click on “Download Zoom Client.” Follow the instructions.
- Look for the Zoom app in the Mac or Windows App Store.
- Download and install the application.
- Open the app and follow the instructions.
To download & install the Zoom app on a smartphone or tablet:
- Look for the Zoom app in the iPhone App Store or Google Play Store.
- Download and install the application.
- Open the app and follow the instructions.
Using Zoom: Tools & Troubleshooting for Participating In A Call
Zoom Plugins and Integrations
There are a variety of plugins and extensions to extend its functionality of Zoom and make video chatting more convenient. You can add these to make it easier to launch the program and invite people to your meeting without having to type in anything or close a program to launch the app.
Currently, there is a Microsoft Outlook extension, Chrome browser extension, Mozilla Firefox add-on, Skype for Business plugin, IBM Notes plugin, and Slack integration available. If you are going to be using Zoom for work purposes for the foreseeable future, we suggest that you select and install appropriate add-ons now.
The guides for each are below:
The Interface: Menu Options
There is a menu of options located at the bottom of your screen. If you don’t see the menu right away, try moving your cursor to or tapping at the bottom of your screen, and it will pop up. Some of the useful icons you will see on the screen include, moving from left to right:
- “Mute” — Located in the lower-left corner of the screen, you will find a microphone icon. Clicking this mutes or un-mutes your microphone. There is also a range of other audio settings and choices you can configure, depending on your hardware, using the upward arrow (^) to the right of it.
- “Camera” — Located to the right of the mute icon is a video camera icon. This icon turns off your camera on/off. When your camera is off, you can still see others on the call, but they can’t see you. There is also a range of other video settings and choices you can configure, depending on your hardware, using the upward arrow (^) to the right of it.
- “Invite” — invite others to the call
- “Participants” — see who is participating in the call
- “Share Screen” — share your screen for others to see
- “Chat” — This feature opens a panel where you can chat with everyone or a specific person on the call.
- “Chat” — record the call (with the host’s permission)
- “Leave Meeting” — Located in the lower right corner is a button that allows you to leave a meeting. When the meeting is about to end (or you need to leave), choose this option or simply close the app.
The biggest problem the people encounter using many online conferencing systems is weak internet connections. Here are some things you can do to fix it if you are having this issue:
- Quit or close any other open programs running or synching in the background.
- If a few people are sharing your internet connection, ask them to minimize their usage while on the call.
- Use the phone for the audio connection.
- Try turning your video off and back on again.
- Try using your smartphone or tablet for the meeting instead of your computer.
Google Meet: Google’s answer to Zoom
- Share screen
- Send files through chat
- Free for everyone to use
- No additional fee for call-in participants
- Additional tools with G Suite subscription
- Messy dashboard compared to Zoom
- Can host fewer participants
- Clunky and unreliable for Mac users
The rundown on Google Meet
Google is making significant moves into the video chatting space in competition with its rival video chat service, Zoom. Google Meet, previously Google Hangouts Meet, is Google’s premium video conferencing software, available to anyone with a G Suite account.
Overall, it is pretty basic but has all the collaboration tools you’ll need to conduct productive meetings. Unlike Google’s other casual video chatting apps, Google Hangouts and Duo, Meet allows up to 100 participants on a call at once. It includes features like scheduling, screen sharing, and real-time captioning.
Meet is very similar to the Hangouts video chat service but supports far more participants. Meet offers features that aren’t in Hangouts, like real-time captions and support for up to 250 participants and 100,000 live stream viewers. It lets you connect with others using audio or video through your computer’s web browser, or through the Meet app for mobile devices.
Meet can be found online at meet.google.com and on mobile apps for iOS or Android. You can just open your Gmail account on a PC, and you’ll be able to see “Start a meeting” and “Join a meeting” options under the Meet tab. The Google Meet tab is available between Gmail folder categorization and Hangout chat options.
For those who have trouble with or can’t join via video, Google supports call-ins and doesn’t charge additional fees. This includes calls through conferencing equipment.
With Meet, you can share documents, images, and files for download from your desktop or directly from Google Drive. You can also share your screen to allow others to see what you see. This is handy when using slide presentations or other visual aids, including real-time demonstrations.
Unlike Zoom, all the participants on Google Meet can freely record the call, along with the host, and save it to their Google Drive folder. Google Meet informs the participants in a meeting when someone starts to record. Upon saving, the host of the Google Meet video call will also get the recording link.
Plans & Pricing
Previously only available to G Suite users, in response to COVID-19, Google is now providing Google Meet free for consumers to use for meetings.
Video calls for free users will have a 60-minute time limit. Still, Google has said it won’t enforce that cap for anyone — including enterprises — until after September 30, 2020. Who knows, that may be all that you need for a quick video check-in. With the free version, you get the same collaborative features like screen-sharing and file-sharing, but other features will be limited.
A basic G Suite plan starts at $6/person per month and allows you to host meetings with up to 100 people. In addition to Meet, you get access to more business apps through your G Suite account, like 30GB of cloud storage. The cloud storage is helpful when it comes to recording and saving your video chats for later.
G Suite has three different membership tiers that allow you to have more people on a single Google Meet call. Each tier also includes extra Google Drive storage space and advanced data security options. There are also versions built for schools and educators, which Google offers for free to specific institutions.
- The G Suite Basic plan costs $6/month per user, and you can meet with 25 people at once.
- The G Suite Business costs $12/month per user, and you can meet with 50 people at once.
- The G Suite Enterprise costs $25/month per user, and you can meet with 100 people at once.
Signing Up for A Free Google Meet Account
To use the free version of Google Meet, first, you must create a personal Google account. Once you have created your Google account, go to the Google Meet page to enable Meet.
To start, you’ll enter your name, email, country, and choose your primary use for Google Meet (personal, business, education, or government). After that, you’ll agree to Google’s terms of service, and hit Submit to complete the sign-up.
Getting Started: Joining a Google Meet call
There are a few different ways to go about launching your video call. They are all a really straight forward process, and we’re going to tell you about each way that you can join a call.
From Google Calendar: In Calendar, click the event you want to join and follow the prompts.
From Gmail: Click the meeting link in a text or email and follow the prompts.
From Google Meet: In Meet, join a scheduled meeting or use a meeting code. Then and follow the prompts.
From a mobile device: Open the Calendar event or meeting invite to dial into a meeting from a phone.
From a third-party system: Open the Calendar event or meeting invite. Click More joining options when prompted to join using a third-party conferencing system.
Using A Meeting Code: Once you’ve signed up, follow these steps to use the free version of Google Meet on either the mobile app or a computer:
- Go to meet.google.com in a web browser, open the app on iOS or Android, or start a meeting from Google Calendar.
- You’ll be asked to enter the customized meeting code you were provided before you join. You can also just click on the direct once to join the meeting.
- From the list, select the Google account you want to use.
- Remember to allow Google Meet to access your phone or your computer’s camera and microphone when you set it up; otherwise, it won’t function properly.
- Click on Join meeting.
And voila, that’s it! You can also add others to your meeting. Happy video chatting!
Using Google Meet: Tools & Troubleshooting for Participating In A Call
Plugins & Integrations
Unlike most other video conferencing programs, Zoom included, Google Meet doesn’t require an additional add-on. The preferred browser for Google Meet is Chrome, and you can enable push desktop notifications. Your Chrome browser must be updated to a current version to ensure Google Meet works properly.
Allow Google Chrome Notifications
Follow these steps on Google Chrome on the computer to enable push notifications from Meet about incoming calls and chats. These same steps also work if you want to disable the notifications.
- Open the Chrome browser.
- Click on the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner and select Settings.
- Scroll down and select the Advanced option.
- Under Privacy and Security, pick Site Settings.
- Click the Notifications option.
- Select Meet from the list
- Click the three vertical dots and choose Allow.
The Google Meet dashboard can seem to be a little messy compared to Zoom’s, as some tools aren’t in the most user-friendly spots, but it’s still easy to figure out.
Meet puts its tools in a bright white toolbar, and you can see participants on the right side of your screen. Similar to Google Hangouts, by default, the video of the person who’s currently talking is shown in the main part of your window. Still, you can change this layout and use another view instead.
- Auto — Meet will choose the layout for you.
- Tiled — Shows up to 4 video feeds tiled in equal sizes when there is no presentation. When there’s a presentation, it fills the window with up to 3 participants.
- Spotlight — The presentation, active speaker, or pinned feed fills the window.
- Sidebar — You see the active speaker or presentation with additional participants on the side.
Google Meet Keyboard Shortcuts
If you want to master Google Meet and navigate it like an expert, these keyboard shortcuts will come in handy. Keyboard Shortcuts allow you to control Google Meet without needing to do all the extra clicking.
- Turn camera on or off: Cmd (Ctrl) + E
- Mute/unmute microphone: Cmd (Ctrl) + D
- Announce who is currently speaking: Shift + Cmd (Ctrl) + Alt + A, then S
- Announce current information about the room: Shift + Cmd (Ctrl) + Alt + A, then I
Google Meet worked well in our tests—about the same as traditional Hangouts. Its only problem is the same as every other video chat service: it drains your battery and kicks in your laptop’s fans on longer calls. If your video’s running slow, you can switch from the default 720p stream to 360p video.
Some have noticed that Mac users have a harder time staying connected than Windows and Android users.
What are the Differences
The big difference between the two software comes in with the overall price and the maximum number of participants able to join a meeting.
Zoom lets you invite way more people (up to 500) than Meet and has more “nuts and bolts” for people who are comfortable with exploring the options. Giving hosts fun options like “mute everyone in the meeting” and allowing participants to click “raise your hand” instead of just interrupting who’s talking. On the downside, call-ins are pretty high, starting at $100/month.
Zoom is an excellent option for setting up conference-style video meetings for many people from one device because it integrates with various conferencing equipment. It also allows participants to join a call from individual devices to stream the meeting. With Zoom, you can meet with up to 500 people all at once.
Google Meet is more convenient between the two because it comes with every G Suite account, which several businesses already have. With Meet, you can only host up to 250 people in a meeting. Although fewer people can be on a call at a time if you have participants that need to call in rather than using video, Google doesn’t charge an additional call-in fee. Overall, this makes Google is more cost-effective.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): Here’s A Quick Comparison of the Two
Zoom and Meet are pretty similar to each other. They both also feature collaboration tools, including share screen, breakout rooms, and support call-ins.
Zoom tends to be the best option for setting up conference-style video meetings because it integrates excellently with conferencing equipment. It allows up to 500 participants to be on a single call from a single device, or from individual devices. The free plan is limited in features, including how long you can hold one-on-one meetings and no recording option. Paid plans have all the features and tools you need, but they cost much more than with Google Meet.
Google Meets is recently available for anyone to use for meetings up to 60 minutes long, or unlimited video calls if you have a G Suite account through September 2020. With Meet, you can only host up to 250 people in a meeting. Although fewer people can be on a call at a time if you have participants that need to call in rather than using video, Google doesn’t charge an additional call-in fee. Overall, Google Meet is more cost-effective and convenient than Zoom because it comes with every G Suite account, which several businesses already have.
If you’ve made it this far, and you actually read the post, you’ll find that Zoom and Google Meet have similar features and tools that are vital for anyone working from home or in the office. We hope you could find this guide helpful for your next (or first) video call using either software. No matter which one of these platforms you choose to use, they each have a different benefit for businesses, depending on their needs.
At Brand & Press, we prefer to use Google Meet to help us stay connected with our clients as best possible during these uncertain times. For us, Google Meet is more effortless and lightweight to use because it is heavily integrated with the Google services we already use. We also occasionally use Zoom in other instances, when it calls for it.
Do you have a video meeting coming up on your calendar? Read on for 10 tips to help you crush it!
10 Pro Tips for Your Next (or First) Video Meeting
- Pro Tip #1: It’s a good idea to download and install the app on your computer, phone, or tablet beforehand. You can use this time to test it out with someone else to make sure the link works without pesky popups about downloading the program. This is also your chance to check that your camera and microphone are working.
- Pro Tip #2: If you can, you should join your call 10-15 minutes before the workshop begins to ensure that everything is working well and that you’re looking good.
- Pro Tip #3: Consider the best angles, background, and lighting for your video meeting. Position your webcam correctly and look for the best possible light in the room, so you’ll show up clearly.
- Pro Tip #4: Don’t sit in front of a lamp or a sunny window, or you’ll be backlit and hard to see.
- Pro Tip #5: A lot of people find a plain wall to use as a background. That’s up to you, but just be aware of what people will see behind you in the shot.
- Pro Tip #6: Unless you are the meeting organizer, it’s a good idea to keep your microphone muted when someone else is speaking. This is especially important if there are multiple participants, or you tend to have random background noise around you. You can always unmute yourself to make a comment.
- Pro Tip #7: Unless asked by the moderator, it’s considered polite to keep your camera on, since seeing others’ faces is the reason for using video over a phone call.
- Pro Tip #8: Using a USB-connected headset or headphones that have a built-in microphone will dramatically improve your video chatting experience.
- Pro Tip #9: Join meetings in quiet areas to minimize background noise interference.
- Pro Tip #10: For best results, try to use the app and not a browser.