It’s a weird time. Kids are getting educated online. Video meetings are riddled with cats (or half-naked toddlers) running across the screen, and girlfriend wine dates and dinner parties happen in front of a computer. How do we navigate the expansive world of video hangouts and meetings? Which ones allow multiple people? Are they expensive? How do I teach my grandmother so she can see the kids? I’m pretty green too, so decided to dig into the world of video hangouts and meetings so I could connect with others digitally. We’re all going to need to connect virtually with others as we self-isolate or practice social distancing.

Of course, Facetime, Skype or video messenger within Facebook are fabulous options for one on one calls. The ones I have explored below are for larger groups so you hang get a few people together at once. With all of the platforms below, you need an account, and then will need to grant access to your microphone and video camera. At any point, you can turn either of these off during the call. Try to ensure you have adequate lighting around your face, and headphones are a great addition for sound.

Zoom Videoconferencing

One of the only stocks that seems to be going up right now, Zoom is a trusted platform by businesses across the globe. As the host, you can invite up to 100 participants on the free version, and they can connect on any device. The image toggles so whoever is talking appears larger on the screen, and you can see thumbnails of all participants along the bottom.

Zoom Videoconferencing

 

Google Meet

For those familiar with Google Hangouts, which supported up to 25 participants, Meet is now the go-to Google app. The app allows users to join pre-scheduled meetings from calendar events, choose a link, enter meeting code and even dial in from their phones if the invitation includes a phone number. If your kids’ school uses G Suite for Education, chances are, this is what they are using to learn online from home. You allow access to your video and microphone, and you see all participants on the right side of the screen. When you unmute, your face becomes the main image. G Suite paid accounts can create a Meet, but you don’t have to be a paid subscriber to join someone else who invites you into a video chat.

Google Meet

G Suite Pricing

 

Cisco WebEx

This is one of the only companies I’ve found who added more bulk into the free plan during this crisis. There is also code below for a discount on the paid plans as well. WebEx allows you to integrate with the apps you love like Google Drive and Office 365, so your work remains connected. It’s geared more to professionals that education or wine with girlfriends but also worth a good look.

Cisco WebEx

WebEx Pricing

WebEx Home screen

Portal from Facebook

Portal is a new video program that integrates with Alexa. It takes the video and sound to the next level by being able to pan and zoom to keep up with the action, and automatically adjusts to keep everyone in view. Smart Sound enhances the voice of whoever is talking, while minimizing background noise. You can call friends who don’t have a stand-alone Portal device using messenger or WhatsApp. There are also AR (augmented reality) experiences built-in that look a lot like IG or Snapchat filters to turn you into a lion or make you animated. The only catch is that you need to purchase a Portal device – if you hop on Facebook I’m sure you’ve seen the numerous ads right now.

Portal from Facebook

Whatever you choose to use, please take care of your mental health and try to keep in touch with friends and loved ones in any way you can. It may be a long road ahead of us.

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How to Hang Out With Friends Digitally

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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