Zoom's Best Alternative
Why Around.co is the best tool for small remote meetings
Around is the best tool for remote team meetings. Zoom and Google Meet are fine, but Around has a range of features that make it a better choice, in my view. Free to download, easy to use. Just launch a meeting and share a link. I’m Jeremy 👋 and you’re reading the weekly Wonder Tools newsletter.
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7 reasons I prefer Around to Zoom
Get my screen back
Around takes up much less of my screen. No clunky menus. Participants appear in small circles, so I have space to see my browser, notes app, slides or whatever else. Zoom, Google Meet, Teams et al have more menus and eat up more of my monitor.
Softer self view
Around offers subtle filters to reduce the distraction of seeing yourself front and center while you’re talking with someone. You can change or remove filters, but I find that they make it easier not to worry about how I’m appearing onscreen.
A special shared tab lets anyone in your meeting jot down notes, share links or add info that everyone can see. Unlike Zoom’s waterfall-style chat box that can’t be edited or reorganized, Around’s notes can be edited or reordered. The notes automatically get emailed to the meeting host, who can then share them with everyone. I love having notes built-in as opposed to having to open separate apps in multiple windows.
To reduce the awkwardness of meeting openings when people are gradually arriving, Around has a new feature that lets you add a music vibe and a moving background visual. You can change to a different song, adjust the volume, and turn it off whenever you want. This is a new feature; I noticed a bug where the music speed can occasionally be uneven.
Add a little timer to keep your meeting on time. It’s helpful if you’re leading short timed activities or if you want to keep a meeting agenda on track.
Share reactions, quick text or gif messages
A little text box below everyone’s video circle makes it easy for each participant to share a quick text response or link. You can also share a gif that appears right in your video window. It’s all part of the Around aesthetic, which is a little more relaxed and creative than the more button-down Zoom style.
For hybrid meetings, Around helpfully eliminates the annoying echo effect that sometimes occurs when more than one meeting participant is in the same room. Instead of having to send people to separate physical rooms to avoid echo, just use Around.
How to make the most of Around
Switch to audio-only mode to talk freely without worrying about video
Use minimal mode to get your full screen back for working, or campfire mode to see a medium-size circle of those you’re meeting with
Share screen just as you would with other meeting tools
Remind guests that they don’t have to download the Around app - they can join directly through a Web link you send them
Use “Face-Mask” mode to clarify muffled speech for those wearing masks
Add the Slack plug-in to start meetings directly from Slack
Keyboard shortcuts make it easy to interact nimbly in a meeting. M = mute/unmute; H = raise hand; U = thumbs-up; W = wave hello or bye
Here’s how the Around team uses its own product for meetings
Around has been free over the past year and will remain so until it leaves beta later this year. After that one-on-one meetings will remain fully free, while group meetings will be capped at 45 minutes for free accounts. When pricing rolls out, ~$9/month will get you unlimited usage.
Desktop: Mac, Windows and Linux.
Mobile: iOS and Android
Web: Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Edge
No polling or breakout room feature
Limited to 50 participants
The recording feature hadn’t launched yet as of this writing
It takes a minute to get used to Around’s interface. The first time I meet with someone on Around they need a moment to get situated. Usually they say that they appreciate the break from the customary Zoom interface. Sometimes they’re a little confused at encountering something new, but mostly they like it.
Gatheround is great for team icebreakers. Free for up to 10 people
Here’s my post about how to improve Zoom with apps
More on how to use alternatives to Zoom for more creative meetings
Try it. As a Wonder Tools reader, you’re invited…
…to see Around in action, join me at 2pm ET on Friday, Feb 18 to try out Around at this link. No RSVP necessary. We’ll tour through the various features within Around. 📆
tl;dr If Zoom, Google Meet and Teams are the McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s of remote meeting services, Around.co is the cool local indy burger joint.
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