Are you on Google Plus yet? If not, you may be thinking you don’t need another social network or you may think your friends haven’t joined so why should you?
But if you aren’t on Google Plus, then you’re missing out on the fun of Google Hangouts. I recently attended a Google Hangout with the author of Life, For Instance, Lori Gosselin and people from India, Switzerland, Canada, and Texas. We spent an hour discussing all sorts of topics, laughing, commiserating, and sharing blogging tips.
What Are Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts are a group video chat. You can have up to ten people join the chat, meeting across the miles.
Google Hangouts can be professional, personal or plain fun. Hangouts have lots of tools so you can make a Hangout a valuable resource or a fun party. You can hangout with friends or meet new people.
Here’s a video from Google showing what you can do in Google Plus Hangouts:
Joining a Hangout
Joining a Hangout is easy. When you go on to your Google Plus home page you will see if anyone is having a Hangout. You can either ask for an invitation or just join the Hangout, depending on whether the Hangout is invitation only.
When you enter the Hangout, you will see the other people attending the Hangout at the bottom of the screen and the person speaking in a large window in the center of your screen.
If it’s your first Hangout, let people know when you introduce yourself so they can give you some pointers and be patient with you as you navigate new territory. Within a few minutes, you’ll be chatting like a pro and enjoying the company.
In addition to talking aloud, you can have side conversations in a text chat during Hangouts. Look for the text chat box in the right column of the screen. Text chats are especially helpful if you want to share a link to a website.
Google makes Hangouts even more fun and useful with tools.
Screenshare – Do want to share your screen with others in a Hangout? Use the Screenshare button on the right side of your screen in the Hangout and your screen will be displayed to others in the Hangout.
YouTube – You can watch a YouTube video from within the Hangout.
Lower Third – You can add a banner across the bottom of the screen with your name and other information (Twitter ID, name of your website, etc.). This is very helpful when you’re hanging out with people you didn’t know before. This can be found by clicking on the Toolbox icon at the top.
Google Effects – This is the most fun tool. You can add a pirate’s hat or eye patch, clown wig, facial hair and other fun features. These effects move with you as you move your head. These are probably best used in social Hangouts, but I’ve seen them used to lighten the mood in professional Hangouts too.
Sign Language Interpreter – If you’re deaf or hearing impaired, you can use the Sign Language Interpreter app to have an interpreter speak for you in the Hangout.
What You Need to Join a Hangout
You need to download the Google Hangout Plugin.
You should also have a fairly speedy Internet connection. I’ve been on Hangouts where some people didn’t have a fast connection and they appeared pixelated and dropped the connection repeatedly. That gets frustrating for the people whose Internet isn’t up to speed.
What Is Helpful to Have to Join a Hangout
Webcam – this isn’t technically required but it’s a lot more fun if your face is shown rather than a black square.
External Microphone – while you don’t have to have an external microphone, it can help to reduce background noise that might be distracting (or embarrassing) in the Hangout.
Earbuds or Headphones – not essential, but having earbuds or headphones can make listening easier. If you have a headset with a microphone, a Google+ Hangout would be a good place to wear it.
You can check your webcam and microphone settings by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right corner of your screen as you enter the Hangout.
Check to see what the scenery is behind you. Make sure your friends aren’t seeing glare from a sunny window or a bright lamp in the background.
What You Don’t Need to Join a Hangout
Money – Hangouts are free. How cool is that?
Hangouts on Air
Hangouts are limited to 10 people, but sometimes that’s just not enough. Hangouts on Air meshes Google+ with YouTube to broadcast the Hangout on YouTube and Google Plus, beyond the 10 people attending the Hangout. Hangouts on Air have been used by rock bands, politicians, celebrities and everyday people who want to share with the world.
You can learn more about Hangouts on Air from Google.
Finding Google Hangouts to Join
If you want to find a Google Plus Hangout to join, go to your Home page of Google+ and look to see if there is a Hangout in progress that you can join.
If you don’t see any, you can check the Schedule of Hangouts on Air to find upcoming Hangouts.
- Art Talk with the National Gallery of London
- NASA Orion Spacecraft
- How’d You Do That?: A Step by Step Demonstration of Different Digital Comic Creation Processes
- “40 Years of Spectrum” a Live Online Workshop with Billy Cobham
You can also add Google Plus to your Google Plus circles to get news of upcoming Hangouts on Air.
If you’re a blogger, you should check out Hecklers’ Hangouts with Brian Vickery and Margie Clayman on Thursday evenings at 7:00 pm ET for fascinating guests and a rip roarin’ good time.
Checking Out Hangouts After They Have Aired
If you want to watch a Hangout but miss it or can’t attend when it’s live, you can watch the Hangout later on YouTube. Earlier this week, Michelle Obama had a Hangout on Air with Kelly Ripa to promote the Let’s Move campaign against childhood obesity. You can watch the recording of the Hangout on Air on YouTube:
We’ve come a long way since the days of FDR’s Fireside Chats…
Explore Google Hangouts to chat with others, learn new things, have a virtual party on air, and share a bit of your day with your friends.
Have you ever joined a Google Hangout? Which Hangouts have you joined? Did anyone wear a pirate hat? Tell us about it in the Comments section below!
Google Plus Cover Photo
While we’re on the subject of Google Plus…
Google Plus has recently been updated so your cover photo can now be much larger than before.
Time to update your cover photo!
Not a photographer? Check out amazing photos that have been made available from Trey Ratcliff to be used (non-commercially) for your Google+ cover photo.
*Rainbow image courtesy of Trey Ratcliff