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With today’s Internet technology, holding online meetings can be both efficient and cost-effective especially if you pre-plan them and make use of time-saving tools. For the last couple of months I’ve participated in online meetings using Google Hangouts.
Though it has limitations, the voice and video platform is fairly easy to use, and it includes extra features useful for holding meetings.
Google Hangouts Preparation
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.
Inform participants that they will need a camera and a mic to participate. A mic, even it’s a pair of iPhone earphones, separates the sound output from the audio-input, thus keeping voices from echoing back into the conversation.
Next, develop with an agenda for the meeting. An entire article could be written about agenda making. But one important issue with creating agendas is in addition to listing agenda items, you should also provide a short description or purpose for each item. For example, if the item is “company potluck” or “social networking,” state what you or the other members want to accomplish with that item.
Will you discuss why you need to build a social network, or do you want to review an existing a plan for social networking? Or maybe the purpose is to report and evaluate data about social networking. Providing a purpose for each item will help decide how much time each item needs, and what resources are needed to discuss to discuss them.
Send out an invitation to the Hangout at least 30 minutes before the meeting is to be held. This will give participants time to set up their camera and mic. Unfortunately, you have to send out invites each time you hold a meeting in Hangouts. Invitations can be done via email or from your Hangouts page, and only 9 people can participate in an Hangout at one time. Also, try to start and end meetings on time.
In the Hangouts area, one of the first tools participants should be made aware of is the Chat feature, on the top far-left of the page. 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 Docs, which is in the menu bar of Hangouts as well. Any participant can initiate a document in Hangouts, but the document will not be seen by other participants until they select Google Docs in the menu bar.
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 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.
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.
I prefer however to use an iPad app called MinuteTaker ($7.99.) It’s very useful for taking and managing minutes, and there’s no background noise when you use the built-in keyboard on the iPad.
When I use MinuteTaker, I can pretty much finish and email the minutes right after the meeting. The biggest drawback to the app is that you can only share minutes in PDF format; however, you can copy and paste the content into a regular text file. The online app, minutes.io, is another tool for minute taking as well.
Meetings are never perfect, but with good planning and the right tools, they can be more efficient and less time consuming.
We have previously written about Google Hangouts. Check out some of the previous articles below :
Let us know if you’re using Google Hangouts to hold meetings. What have you found to be the advantages and disadvantages?