Ever need a simple way to quickly communicate with your team or clients AND have access to screen sharing, real time document editing and more!? Google Hangouts have been around for a few years now and keeps on getting better as a go-to platform for small group visual chats, live broadcasts via YouTube and private webinars up to 10 participants.

1. First Step for a Google Hangout Video Calls

If you are new to using Google Hangouts, you will first need to have a Google Account, such as, Gmail, Google Apps for Business or Google Apps for Education. You will also have to activate the account’s Google+ profile which permits you to use Hangouts.

screenshot

Now it’s time to find where to access Hangouts video calls. If on a computer, you can start a Google Hangouts video call from one of two places: your Gmail inbox or Google+. In Gmail, look for the Hangouts icon in the bottom left corner, and on Google+, look in the upper right corner.

First Timers (How to be ready!):

When you connect to a Hangout for the first time you’ll be prompted to download a plugin. It’s best to plan ahead and download the plugin prior to your scheduled meeting time. So download it now and try out a test run to make sure everything is ready for your first “call” and Hangout.  Of course Hangouts work best with the Chrome browser, but for Safari or Firefox users here are some instructions for those browsers — support page for more instructions.

If on a mobile device, grab the Hangouts Android or iOS app.

2. What Do You Need to Get Started?

It’s best to use a wired network connection for Hangouts as WiFi can sometimes cause unexpected issues with lost connections, slow speed or glitches. You’ll also need a good quality webcam and microphone.  A headset or ear buds with a mic are also important to help cut down on any extraneous noises and feedback from computer/laptop speakers.  I’ve had successful Hangouts using an external webcam and the built in mic, but for BEST audio performance use a headset.

Chrome Users: You should install the Hangouts Extension which will make your life much easier when it comes to quick text chats and inviting people to a Hangout.

3. Inviting Someone to a Hangout

Now that you have Hangouts ready to use and all the equipment ready, you’re ready to invite or take your first call and Hang Out!

You’re able to invite up to 10 participants which will all join the Hangout. Of course, you can invite as many people to the Hangout as you like, but only the FIRST 10 people will connect. If you need to share content with more than 10 people, you should consider a Google Hangout On Air, which I’ll explain in the next section.

Here are a few ways to invite others to join you in a Hangout:

Invite from Gmail

Click the Hangouts Icon in the bottom left of your Gmail, or after you start a hangout from one of the other methods below, you can get the link to your hangout, shown on this screen grab.

hangout-invite

From Google+

here is the how-to from Google+ Help Page:

Start a video Hangout on Google+

1. Sign in to Google+.

2. At the bottom of your Hangouts list, click Start a video Hangout.

3. You’ll see a share box to create your video Hangout. Type a description for the video Hangout. This description will show up in the Google+ post shared with people you invite.

4. You can add specific people or circles, or make the video Hangout public. You can also use a person’s phone number to invite them. Click Add telephone at the bottom of the window.

a. Require guests to be 18 years of age or older: You can make the video Hangout only available to people who are 18 years of age or older by selecting the checkbox next to “Require guests to be 18+ to join this video call.” Other Hangout participants won’t be able to invite people under 18 years old. Once the video Hangout starts, the 18+ restriction can’t be changed.

b. Quiet invitations: If you want to invite people to your video Hangout without getting a phone-ringing sound notification, check the box next to “Quiet invitations.” They’ll still get a notification on their Hangouts list in Google+, but they won’t be interrupted.

5. Click Share to post an invitation to your friends and start the video Hangout.You can also start a video Hangout from a Google+ page you created or Hangouts on Google+.

Use Chrome Extension

The easiest way for me to start a Hangout is to use the Hangout Extension for Chrome:

After the extension is installed, you’ll find it in Chrome’s toolbar at the top of the screen. When you click it, the Hangouts window will appear and you can either click on a recent person’s name to text, video or call, OR, you can search for people in the search box.

using-google-hangouts-chrome-extension

After you select the person you want to Hangout with you’ll have the option for Video Call, Chat or Voice Call (if you have Google Voice setup).

hangout-video-call

I’ve highlighted the video call button above.

4. What’s the Difference Between a Hangout and Hangout On Air?

As I wrote in section 3, a Hangout is a private call for up to 10 participants. A Hangout cannot be recorded or saved. The difference between a Hangout and Hangout On Air is that the On Air will live-stream, or broadcast, your video call to the general public — i.e, the World! You can still have up to 10 participants or a panel of speakers on the call but the call is made available your Google+ page (if you set it up as an event) and also streams live and on-demand on your YouTube Channel. To start a Hangout On Air you need to connect your Google+ Page to your YouTube Channel account. You can learn more about Hangout On Air on Google’s website.

If you’re looking for a Hangouts On Air guide, I recommend the following resources:

5. Collaborating with Team Members and Participants

Google Hangouts offers apps to let you get more work done with the others on the video call. Some come pre-installed with your initial Hangout and others can be installed by your preference.

Pre-installed apps are things like Screen sharing, Chat, take photo. You can also connect to your Google Drive and real time collaborate on a Google Doc, Sheet, Slide.

hangouts-options

The blue arrows are the pre-installed options that you can use during a Hangout. I’ve installed Google Hangout Toolbox which provides useful features to control my account within the hangout. Here’s a link to Hangout Toolbox, you can also quickly add to your Hangouts by clicking on the 3 dots at the bottom of the options. One of the best uses, IMO, for the toolbox is the Lower Third feature. This feature creates a banner on the bottom of your Hangout screen where you can enter your name, business, G+ or Twitter, etc.

 

Have you used Hangouts before? Share your tips and tricks in our comments.

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