If you're having technical difficulties during a videoconference, it can be tricky sometimes to find and fix the problem. This guide will attempt to guide you through the process of tracking down and fixing problems with a videoconference session.

It almost goes without saying that it's much easier to find and fix audio/visual issues beforehandespecially if you're doing a presentation or speaking with a large audience. If it's possible to do a trial run before your scheduled event, you'll have more time to discover and fix potential issues.

For this example, we're going to just focus on Google Hangouts Meet, but these steps will be similar for other videochat software packages. We're also going to assume that you're using a Windows PC, running Chrome as your web browser.

When you're troubleshooting issues with folks on the other end of a videoconference call, the text chat feature of Hangouts Meet can be extremely useful. The chat feature allows you to communicate with the group even if there are problems with the audio or video. To open the chat window, click on the chat icon in the upper right-hand corner of the Meet interface:

Next, you can enter messages at the bottom of the chat panel. All attendees will be able to see your messages and respond:

Problem 1: Other Parties Can't Hear You, See You, or Both

1. First, make sure that Meet has permission to use your computer's microphone and camera. For your security, Chrome and other browsers don't allow websites to access your computer's microphone and camera unless you grant them express permission to do so. To check to see if Meet has these permissions, visit meet.google.com and click on the lock icon in the URL bar. Meet will need permission to access the Camera, Microphone, and Sound in order to work properly, like this:

2. Second, make sure that the microphone and camera that you're using aren't obscured. I know this sounds obvious, but it's common for folks to put tape or stickers over their laptop's webcam and/or microphone. Make sure there's nothing that's blocking yours. If you're using an external webcam, make sure it's plugged in and connected to your computer.

3. Next, make sure that Meet is using the correct microphone and camera input. Your computer may have several options for audio and video inputs, especially if you're using external microphones or a conference cam. Click on the three-dot menu in the bottom-right hand corner of the screen, then select settings.

You should see a small thumbnail of yourself (or whatever your webcam is pointed at). If you don't see the view you're expecting, try changing the camera to a different option.

4. Next, take a look at the three audio bars next to your microphone. They should move when you make noise, such as clapping your hands. If the bars are flat, like this...

...then you should try switching your microphone input until you find one that responds to sound in the room, like this:

5. If you're still are having video problems, there may be a problem with your device's webcam and you should contact IT. If it's a sound issue, on the other hand, you can delve a little deeper into your sound settings on Windows and see if you spot any problems. If you launch the Start Menu, then search for Sound Settings, you should be able to find it.

The Sound Settings panel allows you to view your installed audio devices, test them, and even troubleshoot them if you're having problems.

In Windows, it's possible to limit the volume and microphone volume for individual apps. If you scroll the bottom and click on App volume and device preferences, you can also double-check to see that Chrome doesn't have its volume or microphone settings misconfigured.


Problem 2: You Can't Hear or See Other Parties

If you can't see or hear someone on the other end of a videoconference call, the problem is likely on their end, especially if you can't see them. Just to be sure, though, it's a good idea to double-check that the speakers on your PC are working correctly by playing audio from another website (say, a YouTube video) and make sure that it plays at appropriate volume. 

If the issue really is on the other end of the call, you can try and help the caller through the steps listed above. Remotely troubleshooting A/V problems can be challenging (believe me!), but Meet can actually help in this regard. If you ask the caller to 'Present Now', (and to present their entire screen) you can view their screen while they're troubleshooting their problems, which could give you a clue as to what's going on.

Problem 3: Broken or Halting Video/Audio

If you can see and hear the other folks on the call, but the audio or video quality isn't great, this indicates a problem with either your computer or your network connection.

1. Close applications and browser tabs that you don't need for the call. If you have 50 Chrome tabs open during your call, or if you're trying to run Photoshop, PowerPoint, Chrome, and Wunderlist all at the same time, your call quality may suffer.

2, Make sure that your network connection is as robust you can make it. Plug into a physical ethernet cable if possible and position your computer closer to the nearest wireless access point. If there are a lot of other people in the room, you can also ask folks to put their phones in airplane mode or switch off other network-connected devices to see if the call quality improves.

3. If neither of those steps are working, you can also contact the IT Helpdesk for assistance. Google recently released a webapp called the Meet Quality Tool. It enables us in IT to look at important metrics related to call quality and try and pinpoint where the problem is.  We can look at these metrics during a call or after the call is over, so we can try to help figure out why your call quality was poor on a videocall that you had two weeks ago.

As an example, we recently looked at a troublesome Meet call that someone experienced. After looking at the headline statistics, we quickly discovered two problems: 

Looking more closely, we could see that two of the participants had their computers running at or near 100%, and one participant was working from an especially congested network:

These tools don't always mean that we can always make every videoconference a perfect and seamless experience, but we can at least get closer to finding the source of the problem.