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.
Here are 7 reasons why 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-downed 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 the 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 with whom you’re meeting.
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.
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.
Butter is excellent for running workshops. More on it in this prior post.
Run the World has fun and unique features for events. Here’s my post about it.
Here’s my post about how to improve Zoom with apps.
More on how to use alternatives to Zoom for more creative meetings.
This article is republished with permission from “Wonder Tools,” a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and apps.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Caplan is the director of teaching and learning at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and the creator of the Wonder Tools newsletter.