The Basics for Enjoying Google+ Hangouts
Google+ Hangouts is the most popular feature of Google+.
I started holding my weekly Wednesday G+ Lunch Hangout this week.
It’s a regular Hangout where I invite my subscribers and a few other friends to ask questions and share their expertise about Google+
If you’re interested in participating, subscribe to my Weekly Google+ Tips Newsletter and you’ll be put in the invitation circle.
Now, let’s move on to some Google+ Hangout basics.
I’ve participated in a number of Hangouts and they all have something in common; glitches.
It may be as small as poor lighting or as big as the host’s site crashing.
The point is that it’s technology. And technology’s only human.
Hangouts can be intimidating. It was for me.
But with the encouragement of a generous host like (Martin Shervington) and practice, I now use it a lot for meetings, networking and sharing a coffee with friend in our digital café.
It’s become a valuable tool for building communities.
In a ‘regular’ Hangout, only the people invited can enter and view the ‘show’.
Unlike Hangouts On Air (HOA), it’s not recorded, broadcast or uploaded to YouTube.
What you need:
1. Software –
Plugin for Google Voice and a Google account (of course). This is easy and only necessary if you’ve never done a Google video or voice chat before.
You can do this directly once you start a Hangout. You’ll be prompted to install the plugin then run through a test of your microphone, speakers and webcam.
2. Equipment –
You want to be seen and heard as well as hear what others are saying so make sure you have a good quality webcam, microphone and speakers available.
Most desktop computers have decent a/v hardware. If you are or planning to use your laptop or mobile, then external headphones or earplugs are a must.
Audio is the most important thing in video.
We can put up with bad lighting, or blurry images but if we can’t hear we can’t engage.
Headphones. Mandatory unless you have an external mic that is a distance away from your speakers. A regular headset or iPod type earphones works equally well.
Do Not Use the internal speakers AND microphone, especially if you’re using a laptop.
You’ll cause feedback as the audio coming from your internal speakers will be sent out again through your mic and on and on and on.
Microphone. I use the Yeti Blue, a usb desktop microphone that’s probably overkill for most people. When I do Hangouts and demo videos, it’s important that poor audio doesn’t distract for the experience.
As I mentioned, your internal microphone is fine as long as you use a Headphone. A combination headphone/earplugs like the ones we get with our iPods or iPhones work very well.
Webcam: Most built in webcams will work with Google+. Laptops, tablets and mobiles will tend to less than perfect but adequate as long as you can be heard. (see above).
If you’re using an external camera, turn off any special filters, and auto focussing features as they suck up bandwidth and can cause lags.
Tip: Place the webcam as close to eye level as possible so that we’re not looking at the top of your head or into the depths of your nostrils.
Internet Connection. The faster your connection, the better and it’s preferable to have your hangout on a wired connection.
If that’s not possible and you find your wireless connection weak or unstable, you can change your internet speed settings in the Hangout settings.
3. Setting –
Whether you’re hanging out with a best friend or a panel of communication experts, you want to be seen and heard.
– If you’re in an office or noisy environment, an iPod style earphone with mic will help keep out extraneous noises.
– Don’t sit with your back to a light source such as a window or lamp. We’ll only see your shadow. Instead, sit facing the light source.
– If using a laptop, try to get it situated as close to eye level as possible.
– At home, reduce any sound sources as possible such as phones, radios etc..
– Be aware of what the camera sees. It’s best to have a neutral or cluttered background. You don’t want guests distracted by trying to read book titles on your shelf instead of listening to you.
4. Hangout –
– When you’re invited to a Hangout, you receive a notification in Google+ or in your email box (if that option is set in notifications).
– Click on the “join Hangout” to enter.
– After the first three people, anyone else joining the Hangout is automatically muted. This is to prevent people disrupting an ongoing conversation. Once you’re settled, unmute, and say hi at an appropriate time.
– It’s good etiquette to mute yourself when not speaking. This leaves you free to type, clear your throat or sing a broadway tune without disturbing the rest of the guests.
– If you feel you need to scratch an indelicately located itch, you can also mute your webcam for the time it takes you to satisfy it. 😉
– If there’s a conversation going on that you want to engage in but can’t find an opening, use the chat window to notify the others.
– If there are people who don’t know you in the Hangout, install the Hangout Lower Third to let them know who you are. Even when introduced, we forget names quickly. (At least I do).
– If you’re not sure how to install this app, see my demo video here: How to Install a G+ Hangout Lower Third
Technology aside, a Hangout is a gathering of people who have something in common. Treat it as such and behave as you would in any social setting.
Listen, observe, engage… and be polite
Do you have any questions about Google+ Hangouts or Google+ in general?
Please leave them in the comments below or you can also subscribe to my weekly Google+ Tips newsletter which will also get you into my G+ Hangout circle.
Have a great week.
Ray Hiltz is a Google Plus Specialist and Social Media Strategist helping small businesses establish their brands and build their communities on the social web.
A strong proponent for the power of collaborative communication and "humanized" digital networking, Ray writes about social media, social business and Google Plus.
His clients include hotels, restaurants, consulting firms, entrepreneurs, writers and individuals just trying to make sense of "social".
Ray is a popular speaker on Social Media, Social Business and Google+.