As shelter in place orders continue, the days of being able to go out with friends, partake in your favorite social groups, and fulfill your need for socialization in person have come to a halt. At this stage in the game, you probably already know that there is a wealth of technology based alternatives you can use to #GroupForward and still get together and host virtual group events while practicing social distancing. While the question of how we will connect is answered, the question of which platform is the best for my group may still remain.
Best Free Video Chat Services for Group Events
You’ve already decided that establishing virtual group events is the best idea for your particular group, club, or social circle, but knowing what service to use is critical. For some insight, here are our top three choices for free group video chat services that are worth looking into. All three of our selections are available on Desktop, Web, iOS, and Android so your whole group can join no matter what device they're using. We’ll give you an overview of each platform and dive into their benefits, pitfalls, and the types of groups whose needs they meet best.
Zoom - Not Just for Businesses
Zoom is the most popular video conference application used right now. From teachers to remote workers, Zoom is a reliable source with cutting-edge features. While Zoom is best known for its business plans, it’s not just for companies anymore. With a feature packed free tier, its high reputation, and ability to fulfill a diverse range of group events, this is a platform that you may want to consider for your own virtual get together.
- The Benefits: Zoom’s free tier allows for an unlimited number of meetings with a maximum 100 participants; fun features like virtual backgrounds along with the ability to attend without creating a Zoom account are a draw for the casual crowd; and unique features such as scheduling breakout sessions for your event make it a heavy hitter.
- The Pitfalls: 40 minute time limits on group meetings and concerns on security are the pitfalls to keep in mind when considering Zoom as the platform for your virtual group event. Don't let these pitfalls dissuade you from using Zoom...the company is already working on improving the application’s security. Schedule your events in different, continuous session times to work around the time limit.
- Best for: Large groups and mixed groups that break into smaller sessions.
HouseParty - The New Kid on the Block
Another rising and high-quality option is HouseParty. First launched in 2016, it’s a relative newcomer to the group video chat landscape. This particular application received its name due to its mission to allow teens to chat with their groups of friends without having to leave the house. Today, people of all ages are utilizing it to generate their group video chat sessions.
- The Benefits:People can join quickly and there are also built-in games such as Heads Up! And Trivia that can make your group have an even more enjoyable time together.
- The Pitfalls: The maximum number of attendees per virtual group event is 8 and rather than allowing for scheduled sessions, users are notified when their friends are using the app. As well, users have no control over the members in their chat sessions. There are no restrictions on who can join a particular session other than the max number of attendees.
- Best for: Small casual groups.
Google Hangouts - Your Freemium Friend
Google Hangouts is another simple, yet effective platform that many people use for its ability to connect easily. Those who choose this route have unlimited video calls, can plug into existing Google contacts for smooth migration, and can send invite links with one click. Beyond the standard features of the app, for connecting during quarantine, hangouts is your freemium friend. From now through July 1, 2020, you'll have access to Google's premium and advanced capabilities for free.
- The Benefits: Hangouts is easy and works seamlessly with your Google account. Products and continuous upgrades are being added. For example: the ever popular tile view has made its way to the platform; sharing high quality video with audio is easier than ever with the new present chrome tab feature; AI controls your video quality in low light settings and filters out background noise; and it’s likely we’ll see more enhancements to come.
- The Pitfalls: Google Hangouts can only be used if you have a Google account. This is not much of a problem as many people have one but, it’s something to keep in mind when organizing virtual events for mixed groups.
- Best for: Medium sized groups, groups who do a lot of web based screen sharing, and existing Google users and fans.
If you want to be socially proactive while social distancing, utilize the free tools that are available to you so you can stay involved and connected. Though using video chat for your virtual group events may not be the same as in-person, it is still an excellent alternative to enjoy the company of others and #GroupForward during this time.
#GroupForward with GroupTools
If you’re ready to start planning your next virtual group event, head over to GroupTools and login or register to create your event plan, invite your group members, and get started today. Still not sure which platform is the best for you to conduct your virtual group events and chat sessions from the comfort of your home? Use the GroupTools survey feature to see which they’d most like to use.