How to get started with Google Chat rooms

People inside--and outside--of your organization may use Google Chat rooms to message, share files, or start a video conference with Google Meet.

How to get started with Google Chat rooms

Google Chat lets you message with people inside and outside of your organization. Recently, Google added the ability to invite people external to the organization to new rooms in Chat. Previously, a Google Chat room only contained conversations among people within your organization.

This change makes it possible for Google Chat to serve as a significant communication channel for people in organizations that use G Suite. You may now invite customers, partners, suppliers, vendors, professional colleagues, parents, board members, or volunteers to Chat rooms. Within a room, members have access to multiple threaded discussions--all searchable.

SEE: Google Sheets: Tips and tricks (TechRepublic download) 

A G Suite administrator may manage Google Chat settings for a domain. This includes the ability to choose default options for chat history (on/off), chat invitations (auto accept or not), and bots (allowed or not). An administrator also may choose to prevent people from creating or joining any external rooms, or to disable the Google Chat service entirely. In most cases, though, an administrator will want to sign in to, choose Apps | G Suite | Hangouts Chat (or, when the name is updated to reflect branding changes, select Google Chat), then make sure the service is On For Everyone and that both Chat Externally and External Rooms are ON (i.e., "allowed") (Figure A).

Figure A

Screenshot of G Suite admin Chat page settings, found at | Apps | G Suite | Hangouts Chat.

A G Suite administrator may manage Google Chat settings for an organization. In many cases, an administrator will want to turn the service on for everyone, and allow external rooms and external chat.

Anyone who wishes to use Google Chat will want either to install a Google Chat mobile app (for Android or iOS) or to access Chat in a web browser. The Google Chat app also works as a Progressive Web App: Look in the top-right area while in Chat on the web for the More menu or Settings menu to locate and select the Install option.

Once you have access to Google Chat, the steps below can help you create a room, invite colleagues, and collaborate.

1. How to create a room in Google Chat

Before you create a room, know that room types can't change. Rooms created before external members were allowed will remain internal-only rooms. New rooms you create may either allow external members or not.

To create a room in Chat: 

  1. Put your cursor in the search box, then choose Create Room. 
  2. Enter the name of your new room. 
  3. Check the box next to Allow People Outside Your Organization To Join to create an external room. 
  4. Select Create to make the room.

2. How to add members in Google Chat

In your newly created room, choose Add People & Bots, then add email addresses to invite people. Everyone you invite to the room will need a G Suite account, a Gmail account, or a Google account in order to join. To understand the distinctions, see: The difference between Gmail, a Google account, and G Suite accounts.

People outside of your organization will be sent an email invitation to Join, which they will need to accept. Typically, people within your organization will automatically be added as members to the room--this is the standard setting, since any person who adds irrelevant guests repeatedly will likely be admonished by coworkers. As the creator of a room, you may remove any member, if or when needed.

3. Use Google Chat to message, share files, or video conference with Google Meet

Chat rooms provide teams of people--inside or outside an organization--a central, searchable, communication stream. Members of a Google Chat room may start message threads, share files, or video conference with Google Meet. Importantly, Chat lets you use emoji in message threads. When you share an item from Google Drive in Chat, such as a Google Doc, the system prompts you to adjust access permissions. This makes it possible for room members to view, comment, or edit G Suite files shared to the room.

What's your experience?

Has the ability to create Google Chat rooms that include people outside your organization made Chat more useful to you? How has the process of adding external members to a Chat room worked for you? How do people in your organization use Google Chat to collaborate and communicate? Let me know--either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

Also see

Hand drawing of Google Chat icon (center), with two person icons (left) labeled "Inside org" and two person icons (right) labeled "External". Lines with arrows between each person icon and the Google Chat icon in the center.

Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic