I’m back with another Tech Luv Thursday. Winter is almost upon us. One of the things I hear all the time in Pittsburgh is: I couldn’t make it–the roads were too bad. Hey, I get it. I mean, living in this part of the country can be pretty nasty in mid-January. It’s even worse the further north you travel. This turned into a big problem for my weekly writer’s critique group last winter. Temps regularly dipped below zero degrees and ice storms became our norm. Enter Google Hangouts.
The truth is, that if you’ve never done a hangout before it can be pretty intimidating. Yet, we were faced with the prospect of missing a month’s worth of meetings. With one of our members wintering in Florida, we decided to take the plunge.
Why We Chose It
Google Hangouts isn’t the most well-known video conferencing solution. In fact, when you discuss holding an on-line meeting, most people are more apt to say, “What about Skype?” or “What about FaceTime?” Both of those solutions are awesome if you only want to Skype with one other person or have an Apple product handy. In the case of Skype, you need to be willing to pay to add on more than one.
Google Hangouts is free. Plus, it works. We tried Skype to begin with, but it crashed constantly. Whereas, I’ve held short Google Hangouts from my smartphone and tablet successfully. So give it a try for your larger group.
What You’ll Need To Do
- Before you begin the call, be sure that you’ve enabled your device’s speakers and microphone. If you try to do this after you’ve started the call–it won’t work. You’ll need to leave and join again. Therefore, make this your first step.
- Next, open your browser. I recommend using Google Chrome for this. You don’t have to, but it may save you some headaches down the road. For example, whenever I access Hangouts through Safari, I’m asked to activate the Google Talk plug-in. I do (even though I’ve done it countless times) and it works. Still, it’s a needless hassle.
- Access the Google Hangouts site.
- The main welcome page will load. Here, you’ll have the option of placing a Phone Call, a Video Call, or Messaging someone. The Video Call allows you to start a video conference. The Phone Call option will allow you to place an audio call over your PC/Laptop or device. The Message option will allow you to send a message to anyone. Keep in mind, they won’t see the message unless they use the Hangouts app and have set it up for the first time.
- We’ll choose Video Call.
- I’ll enter a title for my video call: techluvthrsday.
- From there you’ll have the option of inviting the person or sending the link to the call. It’s your preference. I personally fin it easier to copy and paste the link into an email with instructions on how to join.
- Sit back and wait for others to join the call!
- Once participants have connected, use the icon beside them to control who the main presenter is.
If you are interested in giving Hangouts a try, you’ll want to consider a few things.
- What kind of Internet connection do you have? If you’re one of the few still using DSL or (covers face with hands and gasps) dial-up, you’ll want to consider an upgrade. I had the 75 mbps package (translated 75 megabits per second). The speed refers to the rate that data packages can be sent to the Internet (upload rate) and sent back to your computer from it (download rate). The faster your Internet speed is, the better your Hangout experience will be.
- Consider using a wired connection. Unless you have an excellent wireless connection, in all places in your home, consider a wired connection. If you use a desktop, you already have one. For those of you on a laptop, you’ll need to plug an Ethernet cable into the back of your laptop and into your router. Once the connection’s there, turn off your WI_FI on your laptop. Wired connections don’t rely on a signal streaming through the air, so this will offer you a more stable experience.
- Test it ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than sitting around waiting for some joker who decided to wait until the last minute to test his or her connection to the Hangout. Try it ahead of time. Access the site, try it with a friend–just don’t let it go. You want to be able to join easily, otherwise others you’re meeting with will become frustrated quickly. There goes your Hangout. Time to dig out your mittens.