I originally wrote this piece for Vizzeco (original article here) and find myself constantly referencing it, so here it is again…
Tips on Planning and Holding Effective Meetings with Google Hangouts
With the continued growth and success of online meetings, it is vital to execute a process that ensures success for your business meetings. Just as in-person meetings need simple things like an agenda, minutes, etc. online meetings need the same discipline for success.
There are many advantages to using Google Hangouts for your online meetings, you can see a comparison with Skype here. Hangouts are a highly effective tool enabling you to execute all of the components of a well-run, online business meeting:
- Chairperson (responsible and in-charge of success)
- Meeting Agenda (shared document, email, Hangout invitation)
- Minutes of Meeting (Hangout on Air video or a shared doc)
- Action Items (Hangout on Air video or a shared doc)
- Meeting Execution (Hangout-staying on task and on time)
Here are some suggestions to help you have successful Google Hangout meetings – meetings that are enjoyable, productive and simple to execute.
Successful Google Hangouts
1. How-to Instructions:
The best way to get meeting participants on board with Google Hangouts is to send them how-to instructions for downloading and installing the Hangouts plug-in. Do this several days before the meeting to ensure participants have time to set up (for those who are not familiar with Hangouts). If they don’t yet have a Google account, give them simple instructions for acquiring a free account, which can be found here: sign up for free account.
Inform participants that they will need a camera and a mic to participate.
It is highly recommended that ear/headphones be used in order to separate the sound output from the audio-input, thus keeping voices from echoing back into the conversation. In today’s day and age, most people are investing in a good headset which combines the mic and headphones in one device.
2. Meeting Agenda:
Every meeting, Hangout, phone call, and event should have an agenda. It’s a simple discipline that keeps everyones time respected and meetings successful. An entire article could be written about agenda making but the primary key is consistent implementation.
Be sure to issue the agenda to all the participants either by email or you can even include it in the Hangout invitation (when using Google Calander or G+). Be clear in explaining what is going to happen (are you discussion, concluding, deciding, brainstorming…), this will keep everyone on the same page.
We like to use something called Communication Notes, it’s our way of ensure that all communications (including Hangouts) are effective. It is a consitent way of documenting, having reference and filling in others – if needed. As you can see from the sample shown, creating a Google shared document is a simple way to produce, collaborate and share the event – and yes this is where we ensure the Agenda is in front of the participants.
Be cautious of timing, send out an invitation 20 minutes before you want to hold your Hangout, may not always be productive. Enure your team has the appropriate time to properly schedule or rearrange their calendar, in order to attend your Hangout.
3. Execute the Hangout:
If you are initiating the Hangout (vs. an invitation where the recipient has a link to join the Hangout), be sure to start a little in advance of the start time (I start my Hangout 10 or 15 minutes in advance, earlier if we are going to have some Hangout “rookies” involved).
As previously mentioned, using a headset is recommended and you can access the Settings to control your mic, speakers, headset from the “cogg/gear” icon (you can control all your computer’s settings for these here).
Once started, the chairperson should handle any introductions and of course re-itterate the agenda and timing for the meeting/Hangout.
A quick tip, it is good to recommend to participants to mute their microphone (upper right corner of Hangouts) when they are not speaking. Use your discretion and this also depends upon the type of meeting you’re having. If someone’s microphone is generating excessive noise and they forget to mute, you can mute anyone by hovering over their video feed at the bottom of the Hangout.
4. Meeting/Hangout Apps
Once you are in a Hangout, one of the first tools participants should be made aware of is the Chat feature, these additional features are found along the left side of the Hangout window. You can write your messages in the lower right corner and the history of Chats will appear in the “Group Chat” section above it. Written chats can be useful for brainstorming items, sharing links, and posting other written information.
The chat box is quick and easy, but Google Hangouts integrates with Google Drive and all your Google Docs. Any participant can initiate a document in Hangouts, but the document will not be seen by other participants until they install the Google Docs app (in the left menu, shown above).
You can of course share existing documents using this tool, which is another effective way to make meetings more productive. If an agenda item, for example, calls for discussing and revising a press release, that document could be pulled up and collaborated on during the meeting.
The Screenshare app is another useful tool. A participant can click on the Screenshare button and select to share an open window or an entire screen on their desktop. The screenshare will replace the video cam and show what’s on your desktop screen. You simply deselect the Screenshare button to go back to the camera.
If any of your particpants have “technical challenges” one of the first things to check is to ensure they do not have another video program, such as Skype, running in the background. This can have effects on the quality of a Hangout connection for that participant (result do vary from computer to computer, but it’s always a good idea to shut these other applications down, during a Hangout). You can also have participants, who are suffering from bandwith or WIFI strength, turn off their video only – this will hopefully help their local connection throughput.
5. Minutes of Meeting
If you’re holding regular meetings as a group, organization, or business, you will probably want to take minutes for your meetings to review tasks, assignments, and summaries of discussions. There are several tools for doing this. A useful one is simply creating a minutes template in Google Docs, a sample is shown to the right.
However, when you type while in Google Hangouts, participants will hear the typing on your keyboard, even if you’re using audio headsets. So whomever is typing and taking minutes will probably need to mute his or her mic while typing.
Company procedure or policy may have an impact on whether you need to always produce written minutes. Some organizations will simply use Hangouts to Air and use the YouTube video recording of the Hangout as the minutes.
We like to use the video recordings of Hangouts and Communication Notes (above) to cover the key points and action items. We use formal minutes of meeting for client meetings or sensitive topics.
Make sure you decide at the outset of your Hangout, who is going to be responsible for minutes and assignment of action items. If you have planned to do a Broadcast to Air (which records the Hangout), be sure to remember to hit the “record button” and be sure that all participants are aware of this – it’s a common courtesy. Once complete, check your YouTube channel to ensure the appropriate settings are there for your video (ie. Private vs Public).
The purpose of this article is to provide you a process for successful planning and execution of a meeting, using Google Hangouts. Hopefully you’ll find the tips helpful and here are few handy resources to keep on hand.
For more information on Google+ and Google+ for Business, checkout our Ultimate Guide for using G+ (this is a continual posting, so be sure to check out the latest version).