Friday, 31 January 2014

The Beginners Guide To Hangouts

Last year I wrote for Comms2Point0 about what Google+ can offer.

Communities such as the one run by LocalGov Digital give you a great new way to connect interest groups. Pages are another way to promote one's brand or organisation, but like much of Social they're still reminiscent of the telegraph and newspaper era of traditional media. It's Google+ hangouts that bring Social into the radio and television age.

Skype has been offering video chat for years but it's more akin to the telephone than broadcast media and with the number of features to help one engage with one's audience being added to all the time, hangouts really feel like the the next generation of Social.

So here's my quick guide for get the most out of attending a hangout:

Step One

Join Google+. You'll probably find you've already got a Google account if you use Gmail, or Google Calendar, or Google Drive, or one of the many other things Google provides.

Step Two

Buy yourself a webcam to connect to your laptop or desktop. A few quid on one from eBay will do fine.


Use your smartphone: Many will have a camera and most can run the Google+ App. The only drawback to this is you'll have less of the hangout features available to you.


Don't bother doing either. It's not vital that people see you, so long as they can hear you well and most computers and all smartphones will have microphones good enough for the task.

Step Three

Start a hangout on your own; press all the buttons and see what they do; share your screen; give yourself a silly hat (you'll see). Get all of those rookie mistakes and "how does this work" moments out of the way without anyone else there to see when it goes wrong.

Step Four

Find some headphones (useful to avoid feedback and echo) and join an existing hangout. When I say join in, I don't mean fully participate, unless you're feeling brave. For my first hangout I muted the mic and just listened for much of the time.

If you're using it on a desktop, you'll have access to a traditional chat room that runs as a back channel to the hangout. You can ask questions in here and people in the hangout might discuss them.

At this stage you might want to do Step Two again as you've seen a hangout in action so you'll have a better idea of how you could use all the features. I still do this when Google add something new. If not, you're ready to go.

So that's it. Four easy steps, not to make you a pro, but certainly not a novice any more.

When you're ready to think about starting your own hangout, you might like to read Conor P's guide to running video conferences.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.