Google has offered so many different communication apps over the years, it's been quite a challenge to keep up with all of the changes. There was Google Talk, Google Wave, Google Chat, and several others. At time of writing (and this could change soon), Google plans to offer four chat and video conference applications moving forward. Here's a quick crib sheet:
- Allo- a consumer-focused instant-messaging application (like What'sApp or Signal)
- Duo- a consumer-focused video conference application (like FaceTime)
- Hangouts Chat- a business-oriented chat application (like Slack)
- Hangouts Meet- a business-oriented video conference application (like GoToMeeting)
This article is just going to focus on Hangouts Meet, the video conferencing tool.
While there are a lot of different applications and solutions available for videoconferencing, Hangouts Meet has some distinct advantages over competitors Skype, Zoom, Facetime, or GoToMeeting:
- You don't have to remember another set of login credentials; you can use your TSS Google Account.
- Your attendees don't need to have a Google Account or sign up for anything to join a meeting. They just need to click on a link.
- It will work on any device, whether it's a laptop, phone, or tablet. GoToMeeting doesn't have a strong mobile app and FaceTime only works with Apple devices.
- You don't have to run any special software in the background to receive meeting requests (like with Skype and GoToMeeting), you just need to be logged into your Google Mail account to receive an invite.
- It allows up to 50 people to conference together; FaceTime only allows two-party chat.
- It allows for screensharing, a feature also missing from FaceTime.
- There's no limit to the number of Hangouts that TSS employees can have at once. Since the organization only has one set of credentials for GoToMeeting, we can't host two different meetings at the same time using GoToMeeting.
- Participants can also join a meeting by using a dial-in phone number.
- Hangouts works really well with Google Calendar. You can attach a Hangout request to a calendar event and then invite your guest(s) to the calendar event.
This article will walk through the basics and features for how to host a video conference session using Hangouts Meet.
Adding a Meet Video Conference to a Google Calendar Event
The easiest way to set up a video conference with Hangouts Meet is to use Google Calendar. You start by creating a new calendar event, like you normally would. When you're editing the information, you'll see an option labeled 'Joining Info' with a link to click if you want to 'Add video meeting details.'
After clicking the link, you'll now have a scheduled video conference:
After creating the event, you (and all of your attendees) get a unique link for the video.
You can send this link to any additional participants, even if they don't have Google accounts. Anyone who clicks the link will be able to join the video call.
Starting a New Meeting Using Your Web Browser
1. First of all, you'll need access to a computer with a webcam, microphone, and speakers/headphones. Visit meet.google.com and log in with your TSS credentials. You can use Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer.
2. The Hangouts Meet interface is very simple. You'll have three main options, visible on the right-side of the screen. You can start a new meeting, enter a meeting code for an existing meeting (if someone else has organized a meeting), or click on one of the meetings that you've scheduled. Click 'Start a new meeting' to get going.
3. If this is your first time using Meet, you may be prompted to give your web browser access to your camera and microphone. You'll need to grant permission for Hangouts Meet to work:
4 . From here, you'll see a welcome screen. You can go ahead and click the big teal button to 'Join Meeting', but it's also a good idea to test your camera and microphone settings. If you click on the 3-dot menu in the lower right hand corner,
5. In the Settings menu, you can select and test your Video, Microphone, and Speakers. You'll know if your microphone is worknig if you see 3 green bars dancing around in the corner of your video image (shown below). If you don't see the green bars move when you talk, check your microphone settings. You should also play a test sound to make sure your speakers or headphones are working. When you're satisfied with your webcam, microphone, and speakers, click 'Done' to return to your meeting.
6. Finally, click the 'Join Meeting' button.
The Hangouts Meet Interface
Here's a quick tour of the Hangouts Meet interface.
Most of the controls are along the bottom of the screen, with meeting details on the left. The center controls allow you to mute your microphone, end the call, turn your webcam on and off (respectively). The controls over on the far right allow you to share your screen ('Present') or access the settings menu. Lastly, there's a sidebar that shows you who's in attendance. If you expand the sidebar, you'll have some controls over the attendees of your meeting. You can mute any of your participants by clicking on the small microphone icon in the lower-right hand corner of their video frame:
While Hangouts Meet will switch the main video window to whoever in the meeting is doing the talking, you can focus your attention on one participant by clicking on their video frame. A small thumbtack icon will appear when an attendee has been pinned. Click their window again to unpin them.
You can also kick attendees out of your meeting if you expand the sidebar, then click on the small circle with a line through it