More and more groups are starting to experiment with Google Hangouts for things like board meetings, team collaboration, and co-working across multiple locations. However, it can be difficult to get everyone up to speed with how it works and how to conduct a successful meeting, which is why we’ve put together this guide for you as massage therapists!

google-plus-hangout-nfl-650x0

Why Google Hangouts?

To begin with Google Hangouts is an incredible resource–and it’s FREE. Only a few years ago, access to this type of technology would cost $50/month or more. Video conferencing brings virtual meetings to life by allowing attendees to see each other and use screen sharing for demonstration purposes (which is super helpful if you’re demonstrating a new massage technique).

This adds the element of facial expressions and visual feedback to meetings, giving them some of the “feel” of an in-person meeting without the travel expense.

Attendees can join a Google Hangout via computer, tablet, or smart phone which makes them very convenient, especially for massage therapists on the go. You don’t have to have a Gmail account, but you do have to have a Google+ account, which is easy to do with any email address.

Examples of How to Use Hangouts

One excellent example of how massage therapists are using Google Hangouts is the Google+ Massage Therapy Community. They have monthly Hangouts with members, discussing important massage therapy topics like ethics, research, education, and regulation. Participating allows you to network with leaders, as well as average MTs from around the world–which is really cool!

You could create a local group in your area and do similar types of virtual networking, creating referral source for new clients.

Want more ideas? Join other Google+ Communities beyond massage therapy–like for nurses, PTs, chiropractors…More than anything, Google+ is about branching out beyond where you are at now. You may be surprised by what you learn so give it a try.

Below you’ll find some elements and best practices that can ensure that your Hangout is successful.

Participating in a Hangout

When most teams start experimenting with Google Hangouts, they end up giving in to the temptation to have part of the group cluster around the computer. This happens when some of the group’s members are in the same general location and others are not.

Unfortunately, this usually ends up causing problems. If you cram multiple people in front of a single computer, you end up degrading audio (and video) because you can’t get everyone as close as they need to be to participate effectively. This means that either one person in that cluster can be heard at the expense of the others or none of the group can be heard well because no one is close enough.

The other problem with this is that it creates an imbalance in the group. Those who are in person together have the greatest communication advantage because of their physical proximity and this can put the attendees joining virtually at a disadvantage.

To remedy this, make sure that everyone joins from their own computer or device, even if you happen to be in the same building or office.

Getting great audio

We highly recommend using a USB headset to participate in a Google Hangout, or use your iPhone earbuds (they work great!). This will ensure that your audio quality is good and more importantly, that you are not causing echo when someone else speaks.If you’re joining Hangout from a mobile device, like a smart phone or tablet, audio is less of a concern. (Most newer mobile devices have decent built-in audio.)

Getting great video

If you’re joining from a smart phone or tablet, your built-in camera is fine. If you’re joining from a Mac, your webcam is likewise fine. Sorry, PC users – yourwebcam is not guaranteed to be fine. For this reason, we recommend the Logitech HD Pro Webcam. It’s small, high-quality, and fits nicely atop your monitor.

The right location

Try not to join the Hangout from a noisy coffee shop, your office break room, or in front of the TV while your kids watch The Wiggles. Find a quiet room (perhaps your massage room?) and close the door. Background noise is very annoying to other attendees.

Lights, camera, action!

Don’t sit with a window behind you. It will cause your image to be washed out and dark and no one will be able to see you. Try to sit with a wall behind you and light shining on you rather than behind you.

Decor

Try to sit so that there is something interesting behind you. A blank white wall looks so sad and bland. Since you’re exciting and fun, why not set up your environment to reflect that?

It’s all about angles

Be sure to place the camera directly over the screen that you will be talking to. This ensures that you make eye contact with the other attendees, which improves non-verbal communication. Again, not an issue if you are joining from a mobile device.

The early bird gets the worm

Figure out your hardware well before the meeting. Test your headset. Make sure your computer is running fine. Check out your camera. Then join early so you’re ready to go before the meeting is scheduled to start. The organizer and the other attendees will appreciate it.

Mute is your friend

Mute yourself when you’re not speaking and as you participate in the Hangout, keep your cursor (or finger if you’re on a mobile device) poised over the mute button. When you want to speak, you can then quickly un-mute yourself, say your piece, and then re-mute. This ensures that you will reduce the amount of background noise (such as your typing) that seeps into the meeting.

Be specific

To help solve this, try to direct questions and comments to specific people whenever possible. Rather than ask a question by saying “what does everyone think?”, try directing dialogue to people by name. For example, “I’d like hear what Jane thinks about that since she has the most interaction with that part of the process.”

Now that you’re comfortable using Google Hangouts, you can start using this great new (free!) tool for your board meetings, collaboration sessions, or any other meeting that includes people in different locations. Jump in, follow these guidelines, and enjoy all the travel expenses you’re saving!

 

Comments from original Massamio post:

THANK YOU for posting this today! I was just about to “learn” the ins and outs of Google Hangouts, and thankfully I came across this blog post. It’s totally clear, and has saved me lots of time. YEAH!!!! 🙂 — Posted @ Monday, February 24, 2014 9:18 AM by Angela Palmier

thanks Ben some good tips and hopefully i can get in on the next G+ massage community hangout — Posted @ Saturday, March 08, 2014 5:34 PM by Jamie Johnston