Video get-togethers with family and friends using Google Hangouts

Keeping in-touch with family and friends using the phone, SMS, or email is good, but with a video conference, you can have a great time together. There are several video conferencing solutions, some free, some fee (WebEx), and some restrictive (Apple Facetime). I've found Google Hangouts to be a great platform that nearly anyone can use.

You can participate in a Google Hangout meeting using your computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Join a Hangout

As long as your device meets the requirements, just click the link sent to you by the organizer to join a Hangout.

Google Hangout Requirements

  • Must be started by someone who has a Google account.
  • Camera (for you to be on video).
  • Speaker.
  • Microphone.
  • App installed if you're using a mobile device (see below). 
If you're using a computer, no additional software required -- it's just a website.

Pro Tips

  1. Have an older computer that is missing some of these capabilities?
    Most of us have a smart phone that will work fine.
    • Make sure your phone is connected to wi-fi (no big cell phone bills).
    • You're phone is charged up (or plugged-in/charging).
    • Has a front-facing camera.
  2. No speakers or mic for your computer?
    Use your ear buds that came with your smart phone. In most cases, these have a microphone. 
  3. You can turn video and audio on and off during a Hangout.
    When you're using your computer, just move your mouse towards the bottom of the video screen. You will find 3 options: (1) mute/unmute audio; (2) disconnect (hangup) from the Hangout; and (3) disable/enable video.
  4. Get Hangouts on your mobile device.

Start (organize) your own Hangout (from a computer)

  1. Go to https://hangouts.google.com/
    Login to Google if you're not already logged in.
    You must have a Google account to stat a Hangout
  2. Click the Video Call button
  3. When the new window opens, enter the email address or names (from your address book) of the people you want to invite.
  4. Once you've finished finding all the people, click the INVITE button.

Pro Tip

You can schedule a Hangout on Google Calendar. You can even set the invite for reoccurring meetings, so you connect with family and friends at the same time every day, week, or month.
Creating the invite
An invite in your email

Troubleshooting

Hangouts not working with your Chrome browser.

  1. Go to https://hangouts.google.com/
  2. Click the lock to display the drop-down menu
  3. Make sure Flash is either Ask or Allow -- not "Block."

  4. If it still fails, click Site Settings (last option on "Connection is secure" image above)
  5. Make sure your camera and mic are not Blocked. Below is my configuration.

Hangouts not working with your Firefox browser.

  1. Go to https://hangouts.google.com/
  2. Click the lock to display the drop-down menu
  3. Make sure your mic and camera are "Allowed"

Free alternatives

  • Zoom. If you don't have a mic and/or speakers, Zoom has a free, unlimited number of meetings (max 40 minutes per meetings), including a phone number for an audio connection. Don't expect this call to be free, though.
  • Facebook Messenger. Requires a Facebook account for all participants. Available through a web browser and mobile apps.
  • Facetime. Requires all participants to have an Apple device.

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