Previously, Skype was the de facto app, if you wanted to have group video chats. But since Google introduced Hangouts, they have steadily reduced Skype’s dominance.
The only thing that plagues Hangouts seems to be the technical issues that seem to be happening to users. So how can you avoid these problems with Google Hangouts and have trouble-free video chat?
Below are some tips to make your cat run more smoothly.
1. Arrive early to check for potential problems
Arriving at the last minute and hoping for the best is risky. Ivana Taylor of DIY Marketing suggests showing up early to address potential issues. This might include reactivating yourself, something obvious, but you would be surprised how often this happens. Also check your microphone and webcam to make sure you are wired for audio and picture.
In an interview with Small Business Trends, Taylor adds:
“… enter the meeting room about 30 minutes before your scheduled live date and be sure to bring your guests in as well.” This helps you deal with the inevitable issues that may arise – bad connections, cameras not working, etc.
2. Test your Internet connection speed
Sometimes the internet connection speed advertised by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the speed you actually get are two very different things. So the next thing to try is to test your current internet speed to see if that is what you are paying for, or if it is seriously performing below it.
For this you will need a tool like Speed test, a web application that tests upload and download speeds. Click on the green “Start the exercise“and let the app do its job.
Once it’s done, compare it to your ISP plan to see if it checks. Otherwise, a call to your ISP might be in order. But before you do that, here’s another thing you should think about.
3. Restart your modem and router
To restart your modem and router, simply remove the cable from the back, wait a few seconds, then reseat it.
This will restart it, and in most cases the internet should start to get a bit faster (unless there’s some other underlying issue, of course).
4. Close all unnecessary software programs and browser tabs
Unless you have an insane amount of RAM installed on your hard drive, your computer won’t be able to handle everything at once. If you think you can access Google Hangouts while downloading large files, running security checks, or running any other heavy-duty program on your computer in the background, think again.
When you’re on Hangouts, it’s best to close all of those other programs.
This also applies to browser tabs. If you like having more than 50 browser tabs open at the same time, you will definitely notice some lag in your internet speeds. Close everything except those that are necessary. Firefox and Chrome offer the option to bookmark all open tabs at once, so mark them in a temporary folder and close them for later.
5. Make sure you don’t get kicked out of your own Live Hangout
There is nothing worse than going to the trouble of setting up a Live Hangout, only to be left out with no way back!
“The best thing to do is go to the Google Hangout tab in the main menu, schedule a live Hangout, and don’t forget to click ‘later’. Invite your circles or audience, or anyone you wish to “attend” (not “present”) – this is essential. When it’s time for Hangout, just open Hangout and “invite” your guest – it’s the secret to not being left out of your own event.
6. Prevent your microphone from getting too close to your mouth
When using an external microphone, another problem is placing the microphone too close to your mouth. Some might think that such a positioning is necessary to be heard. But, in fact, it has the opposite effect, causing the voice to break up in a hail of static.
Instead, keep microphones at a safe distance. If your microphone is working properly, it will pick up your voice perfectly, assuming the volume is set correctly.
7. Nuke any background noise
When you’re in a Hangout, you’ll want to be heard by other participants. But that won’t be possible if you have coworkers or people in your home office talking in the background.
When working from home, make sure the TV is turned off and there is no music playing in the background. You will also want to watch for barking dogs or cries of children.
Before the call, tell everyone to calm down. Or move to another room and close the door. Make it clear that you must not be disturbed.
8. Disable any programs that may be using the camera.
If you try to enter a Hangout while a program such as Skype is running, your webcam may not work properly. Indeed, the webcam is programmed to work in Skype and not in Hangouts. So, you might just have nothing more than a static profile picture where your video should be.
Before Hangout starts, turn off Skype. Next, go to your Hangouts settings and make sure the session will use your webcam to capture your participation.
9. Don’t have too many people on the call
Google Hangouts allows up to 10 people to participate at a time. But just because you can have so many people on a call doesn’t mean you need to. The more people logging in, the more pressure you put on Hangout.
So it’s only the participants who really have to be there. If 10 people show up at the event but only 5 really need to be there, roll the other 5.
10. Use Google Chrome (but not Canary)
There are plenty of internet browsers out there, but when it comes to running Hangouts, the best browser to use is Google’s own Chrome. Hangouts runs faster and easier on Chrome. Of course, Hangouts will work on other browsers, but you won’t see the same speed as Chrome.
However, be careful not to use the Canarian version of Chrome. Canary is a “state of the art” beta test release and full of bugs and not ready for prime time. Instead, use the stable version, and you shouldn’t have any problems.
11. Make sure your battery is charged and your WiFi is working.
The ability to use Hangouts on your smartphone or tablet means you can have video chats “on the go”. But if that’s what you want to do, make sure of two things. First of all, make sure your device is charged properly. Many devices will lag behind if the battery is reduced to its last 10%.
Second, connect well in advance and check the WiFi connection to make sure it is fast enough. WiFi is notoriously unstable, compared to an Ethernet cable, so don’t let a bad WiFi connection ruin your session.
Google Hangouts can be a great communication tool. But make sure you are prepared to avoid the inconveniences of this sometimes unpredictable new application.
For more tips on using Google Hangouts:
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