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Google Hangouts - How to organize and broadcast your video-conferences?

Google Hangouts is a complete video conferencing tool open to all subscribers of the Google + social network, which emphasize on the organization of online virtual meetings and collaborative work. It also gives you the ability to broadcast a public video conference on Youtube (communicate about events, create turtorials...etc). How to organize a Hangout and take advantage of all its features?

Hangouts: a video-conferencing service for web and mobile platforms

Google Hangouts is a free video conferencing service, accessible from:
  • Google Plus.
  • Gmail.
  • Google Hangouts mobile applications (Android, iOS).
  • The Hangouts extension for the Google Chrome browser.

Prerequisites for using Google Hangouts

The use of Google Hangouts requires a webcam, speakers (or headphones), Internet connection (broadband) and of course a Google account.

Key features of Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts includes several tools that meet the communication needs of individuals and professional users:
  • Free audio or video conferencing with up to 10 participants.
  • The opportunity to join a conference or to be contacted by telephone, via the Google Voice VoIP service (paid service).
  • Send instant messages to other participants.
  • Screen sharing and access to Google Docs: text, spreadsheet and presentation
  • Live broadcast of video conferencing on YouTube.

How to start or join a Hangout from your PC?

You can start a Hangout:
  • From Gmail: In the left column, you will find a feature to start video calls (a plugin is installed on first use). From there simply invite your contacts to join the video conference (invitation by e -mail, Google Plus circle, names).
  • From Google +: Read Google Plus - How to schedule an Hangout?

Organizing the Hangout: The best practices

Before the Hangout :
  • To facilitate the organization of a Hangout : add contacts to a Google + circle.
  • Notify your contacts about the time of the hangout before sending the invitations.
  • If necessary, create a web page dedicated to the event ( integrated feature).

During the Hangout :
  • Use the virtual console available to the right of the screen to moderate the debates in real-time: it allows to control the audio or video stream of each participant or adjust the volume of a speaker .

Some tips for the participants

  • Check your equipment before the video-conference (microphone, speaker or headphone)
  • Choose the right environment (optimal lighting, no background noise.etc).

How to enrich your hangout?: The interactive tools

Control the video stream and chat module

All participants connected to a Hangout (up to 10) are displayed in the form of video thumbnails, in a banner at the bottom of the window:

Note that: the video stream of the active participant (speaker) is displayed in the middle of the window.
During a video-conference:
  • The organizer must animate the Hangout and manage how the conference will unfold (who will speak first,..etc).
  • Once their speech is done, participants must cut off their microphone to reduce noise interferences (The mute option is located top right).

Collaborative and sharing tools integrated to Hangouts

  • The screen sharing module as the name suggest allows you to share the screen of your computer with other participants (web browser, Office documents) .
  • The YouTube module allows each user to share a YouTube video for simultaneous viewing.
  • The Picture module is used to share screen captures during the hangout.
  • The "Google Effects" module is used to add visual elements to your streamed video : backgrounds, annotations..etc
  • Click on "View More Applications" to discover the other module

Broadcasting your videoconference live on Youtube (Hangouts on Air)

  • The "Hangouts On Air" service allows you to broadcast a live Hangout video-conference via a verified YouTube account.
  • The broadcast is public and therefore accessible to a very large audience.

A few words of thanks would be greatly appreciated.

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