Google Hangouts is a communication tool developed by Google that allows individual users to keep in touch via video calls, voice calls or text chats.
First launched in 2013, Google Hangouts combined and replaced three other communication platforms developed by Google: Google Talk, Google+ Messenger and the Hangouts feature of Google+.
Although Google Hangouts was originally marketed as a social communication tool, since 2017, the company has been targeting the product at the business community. As a result, the decision was taken to split the platform back out, with users now able to use Hangouts Meet for video conferencing and Hangouts Chat for instant messaging. Google has also announced that “classic” Hangouts will be disabled by 2020.
While there are a number of business communication tools on offer, if your organisation is already using G-Suite, deploying Google Hangouts and Chat for video conferencing and collaborative messaging makes sense. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Google Hangouts, we’ve outlined five best practices to help you get the most out of your experience.
Personalise your experience
Google Hangouts allows you to personalise your experience by choosing your own profile image and updating your status to let your colleagues know what you’re up to.
The ‘Share Your Status’ feature enables individual users to select various details they want others to see, including when you last used Hangouts and what device you’re using to access the platform. You can also tell people if you’re on holiday, in a meeting, out of the office or whatever else you think might be relevant for your colleagues to know.
Google Hangouts lets you change your profile picture to further personalise your experience. However, it’s worth noting that because Hangouts is integrated with your Google account, any changes made in Hangouts will be made to your account as well.
Photos, videos and even user locations can also be shared privately in chats.
Use shortcuts and commands
Most of us already use keyboard shortcuts at work as a very small way of improving our efficiency. Google Hangouts provides users with the option of using shortcuts while sending messages.
The shortcuts fall under three main categories: moving between Google Hangouts windows, formatting messages and navigation shortcuts. However, in addition to these standard shortcuts, there are also around 20 known hidden Easter Eggs in Google Hangouts that can be triggered via specific commands.
These include ‘Happy Birthday!!’ which surprises the user with an on-screen present or cake; ‘/bikeshed’ which changes the background of your chat window to a random colour; and ‘/shydino’ which causes a small green dinosaur to crawl across your chat window and into its house.
Synch with your contacts and calendars
The collaborative nature of G-Suite means that Google Hangouts can easily be synced with your calendar and contacts list to improve the ease with which you can start conversations, schedule video calls, and connect with each other.
For example, Google has made it easy to integrate your Gmail contacts with Google Hangouts and vice versa. When logged into your Google account, your Hangouts and email contacts are separated into two different lists. These lists can be easily toggled between and you can send an email or start a Hangout session using information from either list.
Similarly, if you want to schedule a video call, all you need to do is go to your Google Calendar, open the upcoming event and select ‘add video call.’ You can also modify the guests on the call, the name of the call and even remove the event all together via this integration.
You can also search your archived Hangout chat logs from your Gmail account. Simply type “in:chats” in the search bar, followed by a set of keywords and it will automatically bring up all conversations containing those search terms.
Video call, no matter your bandwidth
If you’ve ever tried being part of a video conference where one or more participants has had a poor internet connection, you’ll know there are few things as frustrating. Google Hangouts offers users the option to restrict their bandwidth so they aren’t trying to struggle through a video call that won’t stop cutting out.
Users can set the call quality to everything from the highest, default mode, AutoHD, all the way down to Audio Only, thus eliminating any potential connection problems that could derail the call.
Once you’re part of a video call, Hangouts offers a number of other features to improve the virtual meeting. Participants can send presentations, spreadsheets and other relevant documents; change the layout of their screen, record the meeting; and turn on captions to provide viewers with a live transcript of the conversation. This last feature is not currently supported on mobile devices.
Download the app and Chrome extension
As the way we work becomes increasingly mobile, downloading the Google Hangouts app for your Android or Apple phone means you can keep up to date with all things work related, no matter where you are.
The mobile app offers the majority of features available to desktop users and helps make life easier for those who don’t spend the majority of their working life sitting at a desk.
Similarly, the Google Hangouts extension in Google’s Chrome browser helps to provide users with a more complete experience. Once you’ve downloaded the add-on, you’re able to start video calls on your computer from more places besides just Hangouts in Gmail. The application can be added to your system tray and you are given the option to pin your Hangouts list and conversations to the top of your window, meaning you can start a new conversation no matter what programme you have open.