What exactly is a Google Hangout?
Google Hangouts are conversations, whether with all your loved ones, one-to-one or your work team.
Hangouts can be private, public, two people or many. Hangouts allow video feeds and screen sharing for up to 10 people, so are perfect for virtual meetings or virtual training sessions.
Most often, Google Hangouts are held by regular people to have personal conversations or larger business meetings, but higher profile hangouts involving personalities and celebrities are becoming more common place as more and more people start to realise just what a powerful tool Google Hangouts really are.
What do I need to join a Hangout?
You’ll need a [free] Google+ account. If you don’t already have a Google+ profile, you really need to get one. If you’re blogging, you should consider claiming authorship of your content and even if you’re just a social media mogul, you’ll find Google+ to be an extraordinarily engaging platform.
If you have a GMail/Google Mail account, a Google Profile, YouTube account or anything else that relies on a profile in Google, there’s a good chance you already have one. If not, head over to Google to create one.
Another great feature is that Google Hangouts is available for everyone, whether you’re Android, iOS or computer based, you can enjoy Hangouts.
I have my Google+ account, what now?
Let’s assume you’re attending an event scheduled by a Google+ Page. Head over to the events page and just under the date and time the Hangout is scheduled for, you’ll see the ‘location’. In this case, it’s a Hangout; clicking this link will cause your computer to open Google Hangouts and attempt to join the session. If you’re the first person there, be patient. As people join, you’ll see them appear in the lower section.
If you’re having a personal Hangout with someone and decide to take it visual, just click on the camera icon in the upper corner and you’ll initiate a call with them. Hangouts work cross platforms and devices, so we’re really put in control with this technology.
Why Google Hangouts and not Skype?
- Skype is not supported across all platforms (I use a Chromebook, so find myself Skype-less)
- Google Hangouts provides the features for free that Skype requires [at least one] participant(s) to pay for
- The integration of Google Hangouts into Google+ makes scheduling and promoting your events easy
- You can broadcast (live stream) your Google Hangout
- You can upload your Hangout On Air to YouTube
I’m a big Google fan, so frankly, this was an easy decision for me. Whether you’re using Cisco’s Webex or GoToMeeting, Skype or any other conferencing tool, give Google Hangouts a trial and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
What happens during a Hangout?
During the video call, you’ll notice that there are [probably/hopefully] several people shown in the lower section of your Hangout window. You’ll be able to see the live feed from each participant, but whichever feed is currently providing audio (i.e. talking) will be selected as the main (upper section) feed. As different people talk, the main feed will change so you can keep up and see who’s contributing.
Because of this, it’s important to keep your audio muted if there’s the chance that any incidental audio may be heard by the other participants. This includes phones ringing, you typing on your keyboard or if there’s a radio playing down the corridor and you just can’t help but sing along as Titanium comes on. You may well find that if you’ve forgotten to mute you own audio, the facilitator will mute you (you can always unmute yourself if you want to ask a question).
Down the left handside of the Hangout window, you’ll see other features which can be incredibly useful during your call.
Have you ever been in a meeting and thought to yourself “You know what? Sarah would LOVE this talk!” (No? You obviously haven’t ever been to one of mine), well now you can click the invite button, type in Sarah’s name and bingo, she can join the meeting.
Use to send text based message to the whole group (or privately). This is sometimes used to collect questions (so you don’t forget) during a presentaion which the host can then revisit during the designated time.
Gives you several option including being able to share your whole screen, or certain parts. Perfect for demonstrating a featured topic or sharing a slidedeck.
If there’s something interesting happening on the screen and you don’t want to miss, take a quick snap shot. If the event has been organised as a Google+ event, pictures taken during the event will automatically be uploaded to the event page.
Use to share documents created/hosted within Google Drive, part of the Google Apps service.
A feature rich toolkit for adding fun effects to you and your surrounding.
I’m in a Google Hangout, how do I set my ‘Lower Third’ (the banner overlaying your video)
- Start your Hangout, select (hover over) the three dots from [bottom of] the left hand menu and select “+ Add Apps”
- Locate and click “Hangout Toolbox”
- The “Lower Third” is the banner that will appear in the lower third of your screen and be a part of your picture being broadcast. Traditionally, your name would go in the first box followed by your company name/job title etc. in the second
- Toggle the lower third ‘on’ and it will place itself over your camera shot
- Your camera will picture you in a ‘mirror fashion’, so you’ll notice that you, your background and your lower third will appear backwards to you. The rest of the viewers in your Hangout will see everything correctly, but if you’d feel more comfortable being able to read the text, click “Mirror my own video”. Note: this has no impact on how others view you, it is only for your view.
- If you want have more features than the ‘out of the box’ lower third allows, you can create your own custom graphic. The image should be a transparent background (otherwise no one will be able to see you), but you can add whatever cool features/design you like.
I get asked all the time how I created my custom graphic, so here’s what I tell most people. Use a web site called Pixlr and here’s the graphic I use in PXD format, so you’ll be able to change all the layers (text, colours etc.) yourself. Obviously just swap out my name and details for yours.
These are the main questions I tend to get asked about the tool. If there’s anything I haven’t covered, let me know.
Social Solutions is a solutions partner for #BiteSizeHangout, a free weekly training session that provides social media training and support in bite size chunks. If you’d like details about the sessions, or would like to join in, please visit the page for Google Hangout based bite size training. All sessions are funded (so they don’t cost you anything) and are available globally (but only in English).
Update: Changed the ‘Available on your computer’ link from https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hangouts-call/kbpgddbgniojgndnhlkjbkpknjhppkbk with https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hangouts/nckgahadagoaajjgafhacjanaoiihapd