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How to have a Google Hangout

Google Hangouts are online audio and video meetings for up to 10 people. They offer a free and relatively easy way to meet with colleagues, supporters or people from other organisations over the web. Hangouts can be run on all PC operating systems and using the smartphone app on Android and iOS devices. 

Hangouts can also be live-streamed over the internet via 'YouTube Live' and recorded as a YouTube video.

This how-to explains some of the key points about how to create your own Hangout, and points you to some useful resources.


Things you'll need

  • A Google account (for the organiser of the Hangout)
  • For the desktop version, a PC with a 2GHz or greater Dual Core processor
  • For one to one video calls, an internet connection ideally with a download speed of 3.2mbps and an upload speed of 2.6mbps. For group calls a download speed of 4.0mbps is recommended.
  • A web cam with microphone, although Audio only Hangouts are possible too
  • A quiet space

Join Google

Before you can have your first hangout, you will need to join Google. If you already have a Google account for any of its services, including Gmail, YouTube or G Suite then you're nearly there.

Only the organiser of the call needs to have a Google account, other participants can be invited in as guests using just their e-mail address or through a link to the Hangout. 


Set up your video and audio

Give yourself plenty of time to set up your webcam and any microphone that you are going to be using: try them out a few days before to be really sure. Turn your webcam on and see how you look - you may need to draw curtains, turn lights on or off to reduce glare or improve visibility, or even move your chair so you have a plain wall behind you.

You will need to agree to allow Hangouts to access your camera and microphone when you start the Hangout call.

Think about having a trial run with perhaps a colleague to see whether your microphone is picking up your voice properly - remember, if you plan to record or live stream your Hangout then make sure you don't have too much background noise as this may swamp your individual voices. If you can't control the background noise then think about using a headset microphone rather than relying on the one on the webcam.

Google Hangouts detects if you have a camera and microphone attached to your computer and will set these on or off accordingly for the call.

You can toggle these on or off yourself once in the call. There is also a slider on the hangout screen that you can adjust during the hangout if you are on a slow connection preventing video from steaming or you want to temporarily have an audio only portion of the call.


Install the Google plugins

Before you can try out your Hangout, you'll need to install voice and video browser plugins for Firefox, Safari or MS Edge. Google Chrome should already be ready to go. You can download the plugins here, which over a reasonable connection shouldn't take more than a minute.



Hangouts are very easy and there are some good instructions on Google, but nothing beats actually trying these tools out. Pick a friend or colleague and have a trial run to get to grips with the technology.

Practice things like sharing your screen, and highlighting one person by clicking on their thumbnail image.


Starting a Hangout

Start Hangouts, choose if you'd like to make a video call, an audio call or just send a message. Then add the e-mail address (or list of addresses) of the people you would like to invite into your Hangout.

You can also share the link to the Hangout with people outside of the Hangout which they will click on to join.

Alternatively, after starting Hangouts click on the 'Conversations' icon on the left of the screen to start a conversation with an individual or group you have met with before.

Google+ allows you to file your contacts into Circles, this can make calls easier to facilitate with all participants already placed in a Circle before the a Hangout takes place. This way you can also keep in touch with participants after the call to share links and exchange messages. 

As a Google Hangouts user, it is possible in the 'Settings' option to configure your account so that people have to request to invite you to a hangout rather than just add you.


During your Hangout

The best way to find out whether a Hangout will work for your organisation is to give it a try, but here are a few things to look out for:

  • Highlighting one speaker (by clicking on their thumbnail image) means their picture fills most of the screen and isn't interrupted when other people speak. 
  • If highlighting, remember that the other thumbnails will continue to show the video feeds of the other people in the Hangout - you are not hidden from view!
  • You can toggle on and off your camera and microphone and make adjustments during the call to compensate for slow connections.
  • The Hangout screen will show whichever participant is speaking or moving. If you are going to be using sign language, then you should check out these keyboard tips for ensuring the focus is on the right person at the right time.
  • You can share pictures, doodles and notes with fellow participants in a Hangout. Click on the little 'mountain' icon in the bottom right corner to bring up the sharing options. This can be really useful if you are discussing a document or just want to design as you go.
  • To share your screen with viewers during a Hangout, click the 'Video Camera' icon and then click 'Share screen'. 
  • For fun during a call you can add 'Effects' and animations to the images of presenters. It's on the left side of the screen - have a play in your next Hangout!

Editing your video

Once you've livestreamed and recorded your Hangout you can edit it using YouTube's inbuilt video editor

Further information

Google Hangouts Help Centre

Setting up a YouTube Live event 


Page last edited Apr 28, 2017 History

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