Hanging Out Has A Whole New Meaning!

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Google+ has been open to the public for about 11 weeks now… Of course, in that short time, there have been many a blog post on it with the topics ranging from how it may or may not be the death of Facebook or Twitter to the rants and raves regarding the likeliness of its survival. One thing is for sure – no one can predict what will happen with this new networking platform and honestly, there is no lost sleep over here.  I satisfy my passion for social networking and connecting over on the aforementioned sites… Well, except for one thing – my beloved Hangout (aka: cloud video conferencing).

It was “love at first experience”… that moment I attended my first Hangout. Sure, you can video chat inside Facebook or Skype, but the technology on those two platforms can’t touch the Hangout. The G-geeks behind the tech truly leverage the power of Google’s infrastructure – not like the peer-to-peer (P2P) tech embraced by the others above.  Not to mention, one of my favorite Google+ Hangout features, the automatic switch of focus to the person talking; promoting that person to the main screen, while the other chatters are featured in small tiles underneath the big screen.

Yes, I’ve heard the loud whisper of complaints about the browser integration Hangouts currently require you to download a plug-in… but no worries, Google is already working on a solution for this.

Alright, that’s enough geek-speak… for now, all you need to know is that their current solution dramatically reduces the latency experienced in multi-user video chat – a definite PLUS in my book. (pun intended)  Oh, and it is FREE.

People often ask me what happens in all of the Hangouts I participate in and host… and my answer is simply – CONNECT. Your sphere is likely growing “geographically” like mine is, right? If I only stop and catalogue the Inman events attended over the last 18 months… all of them have inspired and solidified many connections with people from all over the globe! So, how can anyone truly keep in touch with these new connections IRL – especially when there are hundreds or thousands of miles between them? Well, my solution has been IVL (In Virtual Life) using Hangouts.

For the record, the “Hangout” was created to be serendipitous and “public” in nature.   If you can SEE people hanging out that means you are welcome to join in… period.

HOWEVER, most of my interactions are in focused, invitation-specific Hangouts. I just create a circle of friends on Google + and “schedule” Hangouts with them using Google Calendar. For example, my #powerwomen group meets twice a month to share business development ideas, inspire progress/growth, and provide a valuable support network. Other fave Hangouts have been about harnessing the power of apps like Evernote, brainstorming ways to integrate an iPad into Real Estate client interactions, and even watching a few YouTube training videos and then discussing them – right inside Hangout.

Still not convinced?  Here are some more examples of how I use it:  My BFF shoots me a text that she needs to chat… and my immediate reply is text or Hangout? A coaching client on the East Coast has a question about her biz strategy – the two of us pop on Hangout and hash it out. I also actually offered the newest #swaggagurlz team member her job via Hangout!!  This communication platform has replaced nearly 80% of the “phone/conference calls” on my calendar. If the other person is not on Google+, I send them an invite, walk them through the set up, and voilà- we are off and Hanging Out!  Every single connection has gone on to implement the Hangout in their lives. The bottom line is that a Hangout is more focused and productive than a call. Simply put, you HAVE to pay attention – they can SEE you. Need I say more? Okay, how about they are usually more FUN and engaging too? :)

If you haven’t put your toe in the G+ water yet – do yourself a favor and try it, if only to adventure in “Hangout Land”. I am happy to share a Google Plus invite if you need one… and believe me, once you are there, Google’s “How To Host a Hangout” instructions will be all you need to get going!

If you are using Hangouts in a creative way or have a unique idea, please share that in the comments below.  Also, Google announced another round of exciting upgrades coming to Hangouts, including: screensharing, sketchpad, and Google docs integrations… Let’s imagine the possibilities together!

Happy Hanging Out!