One of the coolest things about Google+, Google’s latest social network, is Google+ Hangouts. This combination conference call and chat room has an abundance of useful tools and apps to help make your time spent with friends, colleagues, or new acquaintances an enjoyable and productive one.
In addition to the tools provided by Google, there are several key tips that can help you and others in the hangout have a better experience with the service. With these tools in hand, Google+ Hangouts could be an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Here are some Google+ Hangout usage tips.
Whether you’re in a public or private hangout, it doesn’t do you or anyone else any good if you’re simply logged in and listening to what’s going on. Hangouts are a round table in which you can share ideas and experiences with other people.
If you’re unable to pay attention to the hangout for longer than five minutes or so, it might be a good idea to simply log out and let someone else take part in the conversation. There are plenty of Hangouts On Air going on to satisfy your interests.
Don’t Be Afraid to Block
Public hangouts are notorious for strange and otherwise trollish behavior on the part of the mischievous members of the Google+ service. When a troll invades your room and the group decision is made to block the person so intelligent/civil conversation can continue, don’t be afraid to hit the block button.
When everyone in the room has blocked one individual, they are booted right out so that they don’t disturb any new members of the hangout or hog a slot from someone who might contribute more to the conversation.
Likewise, don’t be too quick to hit the block button either. Give new attendees a chance to prove themselves valuable to the conversation. You might be surprised at just how many interesting people you meet in the public spaces.
Read People’s Profiles and Circle Interesting People
If someone is interesting and you want to hang out with them again in the future, add them to a circle. I have a circle full of interesting people I love hanging out with, and invite that circle to each and every hangout I start. This is a great way to establish relationships with people you’d like to get to know better, and it could potentially earn you a recommendation to some of the more exclusive hangouts on Google+.
Use Apps to Enhance the Conversation (if Applicable)
Here at LockerGnome, we commonly start up Google+ Hangouts to create something of a virtual office where our writers and members of our community can collaborate on articles, videos, and other projects we might be working on. One of the coolest apps in Google+ Hangouts right now is actually Google Docs. This app gives you the ability to collaborate with other members of the hangout on a document, breaking down some of the virtual walls distance might otherwise put on your group’s productivity.
I’ve been in a few hangouts where everyone participated in a game of Texas Hold’em. I can’t honestly think of a better way to unwind after a long week of work with my friends and colleagues than that.
Give Everyone an Opportunity to Speak
Google+ Hangouts allow you to carry on a conversation with up to nine other people. This can create a lot of overlapping thought processes and occasionally cause a bit of a verbal traffic jam. Make sure that you are actively allowing others to give their input on a given topic. Too many hangouts have been ruined by a two-person back-and-forth conversation dominating the room while everyone else sits around patiently waiting for an opportunity to put a word in edgewise.
Hangouts also take a little verbal muscle from time to time, and you might have to slip in and take the reigns of a conversation if others aren’t sharing the floor.
Be Respectful of the Person Who Started the Hangout
One of the biggest drawbacks to Google+ Hangouts is the lack of moderation tools for room creators. If I want to start a discussion about a specific event or topic, I may start a hangout in hopes of bringing others into the mix. It can be frustrating when someone comes in and takes over the hangout, throwing the conversation out of whack or otherwise disrupting the conversation.
Take a moment to think about who has a moderator role in the conversation, and if they’re doing a good enough job of it, allow them to keep on doing it. Don’t be surprised if someone bites back if you enter an existing hangout and try to make everything about you. Trust me, it isn’t.
Respect the Flow of the Conversation
This goes hand-in-hand with some of the previous tips, but it warrants repeating. If the conversation is about the SpaceX flight, don’t start talking about your favorite fast food joint. Truthfully, everyone in the hangout taking part in the SpaceX conversation are probably there to talk about SpaceX and not about fast food.
You should, however, feel free to spark up a conversation topic if the room itself dies down and moments pass with little more than the clack of a keyboard.
Don’t Plug Yourself Endlessly
I add this one in there in part for myself because I do tend to plug my goings on now and then. As much as I try to avoid doing it, it happens on occasion.
Try to limit mentions of your business or your site by name to a bare minimum. If you’re telling a story about something that happened at the place you work or a project you’re excited about, you may not have to mention the name of that place at all. Folks will check your profile and find out exactly what company you own, site you manage, or any other important detail of your life.
Remember, everyone in that hangout has something going on that matters very much to them, and if they aren’t plugging that thing, you probably shouldn’t be plugging yours.
Watch Your Microphone
It’s easy to forget that everything and anything going on around or behind you can be heard by everyone in the hangout. Take a moment to hit the mute button before shuffling plastic bags, passing gas, or talking to someone off camera. This is a matter of courtesy and one that far too many people overlook.
Seriously, if it doesn’t benefit the conversation, don’t make everyone listen to it.