The Basics of using Google Hangouts Video Meetings

Video conferencing has become essential for both business collaboration and connecting with friends and family. There are a number of platforms that are easy to use and free, including Microsoft Teams and Zoom. However, since many people already have a Google account for their everyday email, messaging and more, using Google Hangouts is a common choice. Google hangouts provides quick and easy instant messaging but also includes a video feature which tends to be underutilized. This article provides a guide on some of the basics settings and how tos. 

Starting an instant video call

Want to dive right in? It’s super easy! In every Hangouts window is a video icon at the top. You can easily click that to start a video call instantly. The person or people in your chat will get in incoming video call request much like an incoming phone call.

If you want to make it a group chat, I usually find its easier to add someone before calling. Next to the video call icon is an add person icon. Click and add the people you want, either by typing in their name if they are in your contacts or typing in their Gmail address.

To add guests from within a video chat, the icon is the same but it will be located in the upper right of the window near settings.

Lastly, keep in mind that free Google accounts and paid G-Suite accounts have different limitations for Hangouts calls.

Scheduling a Hangouts meeting

If you want to schedule a hangouts meeting ahead of time, I usually recommend starting in the calendar app. Create a new calendar event, and within the details page there will be an option to add conferencing. Click the drop down and select Hangouts.

This is a drop down as you can integrate your Google account with a number of conferencing applications.

Add guests on the right by entering their email. After checking that everything is filled out correctly, click save at the top and an invite will be sent.

When the time of the meeting arrives, you can join the meeting by once again going to your calendar and clicking the join button from the calendar event. Your guests can do the same if added to their Google calendar, or they can click the link provided in the email invitation.

Adjusting settings in a Hangouts meeting

While within the meeting, there are some settings you can adjust to get a better video experience. Don’t forget to mute and unmute yourself as is appropriate, by clicking the microphone icon at the bottom. Whether muted or not, you can text chat using option at the bottom left.

The default view is speaker view, meaning when one person speaks their picture will be the largest picture view. If you prefer you can click on any of the guests video feeds to make them the primary view. Re-click that person’s video at the bottom of your window to reset this back to speaker view.

Click the image in the lower half to keep focus on one person (even yourself).

If you are having trouble with audio or video quality, go to the settings in the upper right of the screen. If you can’t hear or your participants can’t hear you, you may have the wrong audio input or output selected. From this screen you can also change the quality of your video which maybe necessary depending on your bandwidth.

Using Screen share through Google Hangouts

Screen sharing is a powerful tool and included in most conferencing platforms. To share you screen in Google Hangouts, click the vertical dot dot dot in the upper right of your video screen to bring up options. 

Next, click the share screen icon at the top of the drop down.

You will have the option to share your whole screen or just an application window. The whole screen is useful if you plan to tab back and forth between different windows or applications. However, if you only want to show one thing, using the single application is a great option. When you minimize that window, it won’t show your meeting guests anything else that may be on your screen.

Keep in mind you can end screen sharing without ending the hangout simply with the click of a button. That way you can get back to your video chat.

Ending the video meeting and more

Ending your call is as you may have guessed, just press the hang up phone icon.

Big red hang up button to end a call.

Hangouts is also available as an application on your phone with the same video functionality. Use your phone’s selfie camera vertically or horizontally to join the call. You can click the camera swap icon at the top so you can use your phone’s other camera and point your video at something else.

The smart phone app is intuitive and has a user interface much like the browser application.

These are just the basics of using Google Hangouts, but there is more to learn. Your video call quality will only be as good as your network, as well as your knowledge of video conferencing best practices. For more helpful tips on remote work, check out our remote work center.

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