Our team uses Google Hangouts almost daily. We do a team check-in every morning, have one-on-one meetings weekly, hold client meetings and sometimes just work together on video for the fun of it. Since we’re a virtual agency, Google Hangouts offers us a way to stay connected with each other and get that face-to-face interaction that’s missing when you don’t share a physical office space.
As much as we love Google Hangouts, they can be a little tricky to get the hang of. Below are 5 tips to help you get started with using Google Hangouts.
Google Hangouts: Tips for Getting Started with Video Calling
1. You Need a Google Plus Account
If you already have a Gmail account or Google Apps account, you just need to activate your Google+ profile to use Hangouts. Click on your name with the plus sign next to it in the upper right of your Gmail inbox, and you’ll be guided through the steps to set up your Google+ profile. If you don’t yet have a Gmail/Google Apps account, you’ll need to set one up.
2. Launching a Hangout
If you are initiating a Google Hangout, you can do it a few different ways:
- From Gmail – if the person you wish to call is already one of your contacts and appears in your contact list in Gmail, you can just hover over their name and click the little video camera icon to start the Hangout. Alternatively, you can click the video icon next to your own name. The Hangout will launch in a new window, and you’ll be able to invite people by adding their names or email addresses.
- From Google+ – The other way to start a Hangout is from your Google+ account. Go to plus.google.com (you’ll need to sign in to your Google account if you aren’t already). The Hangouts panel is on the right side of the screen. Click the “Start a video Hangout” button at the bottom, or click on one of your contacts to launch a Hangout with that person.
Note: Your first time using Hangouts, you may be prompted to download this plugin before you can launch or join a video call.
3. Inviting others to a Hangout
When you’re already in a Hangout, you can invite more people by clicking the first icon on the top toolbar of the Hangouts screen. Another way to invite others is to copy the URL from the Hangout window and send it to the person/people you wish to invite. There can be up to 10 participants in a Hangout.
4. Troubleshooting Microphone/Speaker Issues
Even though it’s a great tool that we rely on heavily, our team has experienced all sorts of odd glitches and technical issues with Hangouts. It’s fairly common that one person can’t be heard by the others, or there’s an echo, or someone’s video feed cuts in and out. Here are a few tips that may help solve these issues:
- Check your settings – Click the gear icon at the top of your Hangouts screen to make sure your webcam, microphone and speakers settings are correct – and if you aren’t sure, just experiment with different settings until you find what works.
- Make sure you aren’t muted – You can mute yourself during a Hangout by clicking the microphone with a line through it in the top toolbar. If those in your Hangout can’t hear you, check to make sure your mute button isn’t clicked. (When you’re muted, the mute button will turn red.) Also, Google will automatically mute you if it detects that you are typing.
- If you hear an echo – It’s probably because someone’s microphone is picking up their speakers. Try using headphones, or ask the others in your Hangout to turn down their speaker volume.
- Try restarting the Hangout – if all else fails, try ending the Hangout and starting fresh. Sometimes this is all it takes to solve a weird glitch.
This a feature that our team uses all the time – free screensharing. To start a screenshare while in a Hangout, click on the green icon with the arrow in the toolbar on the left of your screen. You’ll have the option to share your full desktop, or one of the windows you currently have open in your browser.
We hope these Google Hangouts tips will be helpful if you’re new to the service. Once you get comfortable with it, there is so much more you can do with this tool, such as watching YouTube videos as a group, collaborating on projects in Google Drive or broadcasting a video using Hangouts on Air.
Do you use Google Hangouts for video meetings at work, or have another tool you prefer, like Skype? Any tips you would add to our list? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.