I’ve been forcing myself to plumb the depths of Google+ recently. For most people, it’s a distraction and a hopelessly fledgling social network that may or may not survive. If Google+ was ONLY another social network option, I might have written it off completely. However, I think Google+ Hangouts may be one of the things that may keep Google+ around long enough to survive—and perhaps thrive.
Skype has long been the go-to option for web-based meetings for the everyday person. For the business, GoTo Meeting has emerged as a well-known and trusted option. (I remember using LiveMeeting way back in 2004, so I’ve been exploring the benefits of online collaboration for business for almost 9 years.)
The problem with Skype, GoTo Meeting, etc. is they are awkward and cumbersome. You have to be a paid subscriber to both if you want to host a group meeting. Even then, the meeting controls are not intuitive and can become a distraction. In 2004, we had one person dedicated to the technical aspects of running the meeting so those of us who needed to meet could do so online. That might have been acceptable back then; it is not acceptable now.
Let me introduce Google+ Hangouts.
Four reasons you’ll immediately love this new tool:
- It’s free. (Cool!)
- It’s simple to use. (Bonus!)
- It’s accessible to anyone with a Gmail account. (Who doesn’t have one of those?!)
- It’s available on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. (Freedom!)
I’ve used Google+ Hangouts to:
- Quickly share my screen. Sometimes it’s hard to explain something without showing the other person what I’m seeing.
- Collaborate on a Google Doc with everyone online and “in the room.” I love Google Docs because of the online collaborative elements built into its design. Now I can be in a Hangout and edit a Doc instead of being on a conference call with the Doc open.
- Clarify an idea or objective when an online chat or email won’t do. Ever start with an email, move to a Chat, and then pick up the phone? I have. Now I don’t have to leave Gmail to do that. With just a few clicks, I’m looking at the person (or people) I need to connect with to be sure everyone is on the same page.
Two added features that make this tool even more valuable for real-time, online collaboration:
- Host up to fifteen people on a single Hangout. Until recently, only 10 people could participate in a Hangout session. Now, that has been expanded to fifteen.
- Live On-Air. (Note: I haven’t personally tried this yet, but I am making plans to try this out with a small group after the first of the year. I have—however—participated in a Live On-Air Hangout.) Live On-Air allows you to host your normal Hangout—only an unlimited number of people can join and watch. The Hangout is automatically recorded and quickly shows up in your YouTube account as a video that can be archived and made available for playback later—by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
There is certainly still a place for in-person meetings. That will never be replaced. But sometimes you don’t need to get in your car and drive across town or jump on a plane for a quick overnight trip. Sometimes you just need a way to connect that is more personal than a voice yet not as time-intensive as an in-person meeting. Technology should make it easy for people to connect, collaborate, and create change. I think Google+ Hangouts definitely does that.
Have you used Google+ Hangouts? What benefits are you getting from this service? How is it helping you achieve your business or organizational objectives?