How to Have a Google Hangout

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We love to meet our clients face-to-face in our office, but with new technology, we can have clients all over the world.

While SKYPE is very popular, we prefer Google Hangouts.

Google Hangouts are online video meetings for up to 9 people.

That means we can have a whole marketing staff meeting at the same time, and not pay the upgrade that SKYPE has so you do.

Google Hangouts offers a free and relatively easy way to meet with my colleagues, my clients or my prospects.

This how to explains some of the key points about how to create your own Hangout, and points you to some useful resources.

1) Join Google+

Before you can have your first hangout, you will need to join Google. If you already have a Google account for any of its services, including Gmail, Google Reader, or Google Docs then you’re nearly there – you just need to also join Google’s social network, called Google Plus.

Anyone you want to include in your Hangout will also need to join Google+, so this is something you will need to check before the day of your proposed meeting.

Google+ allows you to file your contacts into what it calls circles, so it would be a good idea to put everyone you want to invite to your Hangout into the same circle in advance.

2) Set up your video and audio

Give yourself plenty of time to set up your webcam and any microphone that you are going to be using: try them out a few days before to be really sure. Turn your webcam on and see how you look – you may need to draw curtains, turn lights on or off to reduce glare or improve visibility, or even move your chair so you have a plain wall behind you.

Think about having a trial run with perhaps a colleague to see whether your microphone is picking up your voice properly – remember, if you plan to record or live stream your Hangout then make sure you don’t have too much background noise as this may swamp your individual voices. If you can’t control the background noise then think about using a headset microphone rather than relying on the one on the webcam.

Google Hangouts detects if you have a camera and microphone attached to your computer and will set these on or off accordingly for the call.

You can toggle these on or off yourself once in the call. There is also a slider on the hangout screen that you can adjust during the hangout if you are on a slow connection preventing video from steaming or you want to temporarily have an audio only portion of the call.

3) Install the Google plugins

Before you can try out your Hangout, you’ll need to install Google’s plugins for voice and video. You can download them here, and over a reasonable connection this shouldn’t take more than a minute.

If you are planning on recording or live streaming your Hangout, then you will also need a YouTube account. Once you start your Hangout you may be asked to verify your YouTube account using a code they will send you via text message. It doesn’t take long, but it’s worth trying to get this done in advance.

Some tips and tricks

The best way to find out whether a Hangout will work for your organisation is to give it a try, but here are a few things to look out for:

  • Highlighting one speaker (by clicking on their thumbnail image) means their picture fills most of the screen and isn't interrupted when other people speak.
  • If highlighting, remember that the other thumbnails will continue to show the video feeds of the other people in the Hangout - you are not hidden from view!
  • You can toggle on and off your camera and microphone and make adjustments during the call to compensate for slow connections.
  • If you want to livestream and record your Hangout, you need to choose this option at the point you set up the Hangout. You can't go back and choose it later. If you want to have a dry run, then record, you'll need to do the dry run in one Hangout, then close it and start another one for the recorded version.
  • Anyone invited to a Hangout can invite anyone else to join it, so bear this in mind if what you are going to be discussing is confidential.
  • The Hangout screen will show whichever participant is speaking or moving. If you are going to be using sign language, then you should check out these keyboard tips for ensuring the focus is on the right person at the right time.

Learn more about Google Hangouts directly from Google here.

We look forward to meeting our clients on Google Hangouts!

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