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Google Plus Hangouts On Air: Joys and Frustrations

Google+ Hangouts On Air are becoming more and more popular and are also a powerful business tool, which can be used for a wide variety of purposes. They can make life fun, but understanding the limitations also helps us to more readily handle situations where Google+ seems to fail us.

There are many things about Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts On Air that are fun and easy for most peopleto use. This includes the browser technology that automatically finds the built-in web cam in your system as well as the peripheral cameras and microphones plugged into the computer. In addition to that, Google+ allows you to change settings for whichever connected camera or microphone is used. The benefits that Google+ was designed to include, seem to make it easier for the novice to reach that point of visual and audio connection with other people.

Knowing Where Google+ Hangouts On Air Fall Short

At the same time, Google+ does not necessarily hit the mark on all levels of professionalism. The image is often grainy (because of the lower web cam technology versus a professional video camera), the sound quality is not what would be acceptable to a trained sound engineer, and the switching between people shown front and center is not always ideal, as it zooms in on an individual with each little sniffle or cough. However, these very things are the same functions of Google+ that make it easy to use. For example, while switching between people may not be what we would like it to be, there is a lot less work involved, in the video editing process. If a professional setup is used, the video editing process would be more manual, editing two or more video feeds and combining them. So, when it comes to the pros and cons of Google+, many of the daily drawbacks in the use of this tool are actually very critical to why Google+ is so universally convenient.

Managing Expectations

As a business using Google+ Hangouts On Air, it is essential that these limitations be understood. If the expectation is that Google+ is going to behave in a manner that is expected in a corporate setting, the business is simply using the wrong tool and should look elsewhere. Google+ Hangouts, natively, are not intended to be top of the line, but rather, to be accessible to the average person, with a somewhat common or standard computer configuration. That doesn’t mean that businesses cannot use Google+ Hangouts On Air but that the expectation of what can be done needs to be in alignment with the technology that is being used. There are also enhancements that can be done to use a professional camera and sound equipment with Google+ Hangouts On Air, but, even with the enhancements, the core foundation of Google+ platform needs to be understood so that those expectations may be managed.

Identifying and Addressing Google+ Glitches

Even with the best laid plans, Google can sometimes have a “bad day” and there is nothing that can be done. In those cases, keep your audience informed, as much as possible. It is helpful to remain calm and not panic. After all, if it is broken on the Google server level, panic behavior is not going to change it or decrease the resolution time.

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It is best, before blaming Google or the Google servers to run through a checklist to determine whether the issue exists on your end. This includes arriving early for your event, preferably, at least 15 minutes. With Google+ Hangouts on Air, there is an option to start the hangout and start inviting people to join before clicking the “broadcast” button and allowing the world to see what is going on in the hangout. This is the time to test connections, camera placement, microphones, etc. Of course, you also want to test these things days before to make sure that your equipment is functional. Having backup equipment, especially if you do hangouts frequently, is also highly recommended.

Note: One of the drawbacks with Google+ Hangouts On Air versus the Hangout On Air is that there is no option for people to “join” on a Google+ event page. Rather, you set up the Google+ event and need to post the URL (web address) of the actual hangout after you have started a new hangout. This seems to be an intended behavior so that you can control the environment for the public event, but it can become confusing to people new to this procedure. Keep that in mind as that link will need to be posted somewhere in order for people to join. Also, there is the option to send invitations, but in the case where Google+ may be having a bad day, don’t assume that your invitations have always gone through. If this is a public event, for anyone to join, a public link is best.

Here is the checklist to run through, to determine if it is your equipment that is giving trouble or not:

  • If you have multiple microphones or cameras, switch to the alternates to determine whether it is the original camera or microphone that is giving trouble. With Google+, there are settings buttons in the upper right where you can click and test and select (from a pull-down menu) alternative sources for the microphone and camera.
  • Ensure that other applications are not using resources, especially the camera. For example, if you have Skype preferences open, it is likely that Skype is using the camera and you will appear as a static image on the Google+ hangout.
  • Delete temporary internet files and restart the computer. Just like any other browser cache, Google+ is capable of becoming hung and logging out of Google+ and deleting temporary internet files (cache) can help get rid of that bad cache. Since you are already taking the time to delete this cache, this is a good time to restart your computer, as well.
  • Similar to the first item, test the hangout on other computers, if possible, especially computers that have not been logged into Google+ before, if that exists. Remember that not all devices will accept a Google+ Hangout On Air event, even if they have a camera. And, in some cases, a Google+ Hangout will work on some devices and not the Google+ Hangout On Air. It is best, when testing with another device, to use a computer with a camera and microphone, rather than alternate devices and smart phones.

If these tests fail, and especially if you identify that the issue continues on another device, it is likely that the problem is on Google’s end and it is a matter of waiting for Google to correct the issue. No doubt, with the amount of users that Google has, they are aware that there are glitches. In some cases, time is your best friend, as Google server cache “expires out.”

If you only do a Google+ Hangout or Hangout On Air once in a while, be prepared that glitches can happen and don’t panic. If you do Google+ Hangouts frequently, prepare as much as possible, with timing, practice, and having alternate hardware available, as well as other hosts who can pick up the hangout if your internet should go down. If all else fails, again, don’t panic, and let Google do its thing, realizing that even Google+ has its good days and its bad days.

Conclusion

Google+ Hangouts On Air are an effective, innovative and exciting tool that will enable you to bring your business (as well as your online interactions) to the next level. You should take advantage of it as much as possible and know that it is worth the time and effort you put into it.

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