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In this series on productivity, author Jess Stratton takes you through the latest tools that will help you run your business and life more efficiently. Each installment covers a particular feature or technique in a different online tool, such as Google Apps, Skype, YouTube, Mint.com, Etsy, and more. Learn about topics ranging from recording and publishing video chats to managing your finances online.
Hi, I'm Jess Stratton, and welcome to Monday Productivity Pointers. This week we're talking about Google hangouts, and I'm actually going to have a remote meeting with my producer, Shea. Google hangouts is a video conferencing system that lets you and up to nine other people have a video meeting. These are great for remote workers, there's no mucking around with firewall settings, no VPN software to install, and chances are you probably already own everything that you need to get started.
You need a browser, like Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari, with an active internet connection, and you need a webcam and microphone. Now, you can use a headset or even your monitor may already come with the built-in webcam and microphone like a lot of them do nowadays. These are great for corporate meetings. If you're a remote worker, chances are you go long stretches without seeing any other faces, so it's great to see some real face time with your co-workers and employees. Also, sometimes on a conference call, the sound can be so muffled that even though you hear what's being said, you're not sure who said it, and sometimes that's important.
But in a Google hangout, the active person who's talking becomes larger on the screen, so everybody knows who's talking and what they're saying. Now, there is one drawback: you have to have a Google account, and everybody who's going to need also has to have a Google account. So if your company doesn't use Google, then you'll have to give them your information so that they can add you as a contact. If you don't want to give them your personal Google account, then just set one up just for your meetings, all right? Let's get started.
I've logged into google.com, I've signed in as myself, and now I'm going to click the Plus beside my name to get into Google+. From here, on the right-hand side I'm going to click Start a hangout. This is going to open up the Google Hangout screen, and from here I have a couple of choices. I can invite people into the hangout, or I can check my microphone, start the hangout, and then invite people in. But before we start, I'm going to test my microphone and my video camera and make sure everything's working just perfectly.
Over here on the top right, I can go into Settings. This is going to pop up a screen where I can check my microphone and my camera. As you can see, the camera is working just fine. Now I can check my microphone. I know it's working because as I talk the green bars are going up. This means that it's getting a signal. If I had another device that I wanted to use, I can select it here. Lastly, I'm going to play a test sound. (phone ringing) I hear the tone.
That means my headphones are working just fine. This means that I'm going to be able to hear everybody else who's also in hangout. When I'm happy that everything works, I'm going to choose Save Settings. Now, we are ready to start inviting people into our hangout. I'm going to invite my producer, Shea Hansen, and give my hangout a name. In this case, I'm just going to call it Meeting because we're not doing anything special, it's not going on air. We're just having a meeting. When I'm ready to go, I can click Hang out.
Now all we have to do is wait for Shea to get the invitation, respond, and enter the hangout. And here she is. Hi Shea! Shea: Hi! Jess: So, here's what's neat about a hangout, because this is my screen and there's only two people in here, Shea is on a larger version of the screen. At anytime I can click my name, and there I am. Now, if there's many people in here, the person who's currently talking will be big on the screen so you'll never miss what's being said, and you'll never have to wonder who said it.
Let's go through what some of the things are that you can do in a Google hangout. The first thing that you can do up here on the top right here is mute the microphone. If I check this, Shea can't hear what I'm saying right now, and I do get a reminder that I'm muted. What a lot of people tend to do his keep their microphone muted until they're actually ready to say something. This way you won't have a dog barking or something unfortunate enter your meeting that you didn't want other people to know about. I can also turn my camera off. If I click this button, the picture changes to my default Google+ profile picture.
This is useful if I want to minimize the browser and do something else. A lot of times it's very easy to minimize the browser, keep working while you're in a hangout, and completely forget about the fact that your video camera is still up and running and everybody can see you. Over here on the left, we can click Invite People if at any time there's more people that we want invite into our hangout. I can also chat with Shea. I can click Chat and on a little box on the right-hand side, I get a chance box, because sometimes it's useful to just start typing things rather than talking.
I can close it out anytime. I can click Screenshare. Screen share is excellent because I can share what's on my screen while the video camera's still running. I actually have a Word document ready to go in the background because this meeting is actually about a presentation that we're giving later on. So, I'm going to click on this document that I already had open, select Start Screenshare, and now Shea is actually seeing what I'm doing here. So, we could work collaboratively on this document while we're having our meeting.
To get back into my hangout, I just open up the browser and uncheck Screenshare. I also have Google effects, which is more for fun, not so useful for a meeting, but you can add things like sounds, silly headwear, silly eyewear, things like that. Again, just click on it and it'll go away. We also have the Hangout Toolbox. This gives us useful items and neat things that we can do, such as embed videos right in our hangout.
We also have the same silly things that we could do with the Google effects, but we can also mute the entire hangout, and we have some more utilities that we can do. Finally, you can get tons more apps from Google by clicking View more apps and choosing Add apps. From here, you can browse featured apps, see what they do, and if any one of them sounds interesting or sounds like it could help you, select Add to this hangout. I'm going to hit cancel because we're not going to actually add anything to our hangout right now.
When you're all done, the meeting is over, and you've said everything that you had to say, to end the meeting, go up to the top right and choose Exit. Bye Shea. It's going to take you back to your Google+ site, and now you can go on with your day. So that's how you can have a Google hangout and work collaboratively and actually get some face time with some workers, especially if you're remote. You'll find that it's just nice to see other people's faces once in a while.
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