I wanted to share some of the resources online that are available to host a meeting or a video conference with coworkers or friends if you are not set up with one already. The hope is that this is a temporary situation, and finding an expensive vetted solution that requires training or monetary investment is not something you are prepared for. For now, I will share with you some of the free/low-cost resources that are out there. If you have a solution that works for you, please feel free to write in the comments so that others can benefit from your advice.
1) WhatsApp – This is a great way to chat online from anywhere in the world. In fact, many people in remote areas as far as the Middle East will use this to chat with family around the globe. The problem with this solution is that it only allows you to video chat up to 4 people at a time. It is limited to chat and video, and does not have an option to remind others on a calendar.
2)Microsoft Teams – If you already own Office365, Microsoft Teams is available to you. This is a great solution that allows you not only to chat, but share documents, have one-to-one chats or group chats. It integrates nicely with Skype so that you can use their social functions and it feels more like a casual use of technology rather than a stiff office tool. You can also integrate use of Microsoft tools like Powerpoint, Excel, Planner, etc. Like Google, you can schedule out video calls that connect to your calendar, and invite others.
3) Google – Google Hangouts, Duo, or Chat has been around for a while. It offers a very clean and easy to use solution for video chatting, and it allows you to video chat up to 8 people simultaneously. You can use it on android, iOS or on your desktop, but you’ll have to set it up from a mobile device to create a login. If you are using Google calendar, you can set up video conferences as quickly as you would create an invitation. In fact, it automatically adds that capability for both video and audio, and your invitees can join that using the link provided in the invitation.
Here is a video of Google Duo using Video function:
4) Zoom. – This is the solution that educators around the world are using today to hold classes, teach, and engage their students. Churches have been using this function for a long time as well because it is a free video conferencing solution that allows up to 100 people in the free version, and up to 1000 in the paid version. This may be the solution you want if you need to video chat with a crowd bigger than 8 people but don’t need the office functions that Microsoft Teams provides. It also allows you to have chat on the side while the main video is happening.
Here are a couple of videos on using Zoom: