So, you want to start meeting virtually as a home group during lockdown but, after a quick Google search, you are lost in the maze of options. To help you navigate the maze, here is a short introduction to five popular digital meeting platforms.
Zoom is the industry standard for digital meetings. This means that it has top quality video and audio but also has more features than a home group will need. As a result, it’s not the easiest to use if you aren’t too tech savvy.
The meeting host needs an account to host meetings through the platform. Meeting participants don’t need an account but will need to download Zoom’s app. Zoom is available for free but meetings are limited to 40 minutes. For a monthly fee this restriction is lifted.
Google Hangouts is a simple platform to use with much fewer features than Zoom. It is completely free and requires no downloads but does require each participant to have a (free) google account. Meetings are easy to set up and join using an email invite or sharing a link.
All you need to use Facebook Messenger is a Facebook account. Create a group chat containing everyone in your home group and start a video call when it’s time for your home group. This is a free option with the bonus that it will also create a channel for group communication and encouragement throughout the week.
A relatively new platform, Whereby is very simple to access. All attendees need is the meeting’s web address and they can join the meeting. However, to host meetings of more than four people, someone will need to pay for a monthly subscription and the room size will still be limited to 12.
This option is limited by its cost and meeting size. But it makes up for it in elegance – this platform is easy on the eye. Moreover, when you start an account with Whereby, you create your own permanent online room. This means that the group can meet in the room at any time without needing to set up a meeting. They just need to enter the URL and they’ll be in the room.
Skype is an old name amongst digital meeting platforms but is still worth considering. It is completely free whilst boasting high quality video and audio and a simple design. Attendees do not need an account and are not required to download an app to access meetings, making this one of the simplest options on the list.
Note. You may have seen Zoom’s online security features come under scrutiny in the press recently. If you are concerned about keeping your meetings secure, check out this helpful guide from the Evangelical Alliance: https://www.eauk.org/news-and-views/online-meeting-security.