Getting the most out of Google Hangouts Meet video conferencing

Being a remote team, we make a lot of use of video calling, including video calling with our clients. To do this we tend to use a Google product called Meet. This article explores how to get the best out of using Google Meet.

Here at Highrise Digital we are a remote team and as such we don’t often get to sit in the same room. You can find out more about how we work successfully as a remote company is a previous article we wrote here. To help us, one of the tools we use is video conferencing. It enables us to converse with each other, and of course with clients, almost as though we are in the same place.

What is Google Meet?

Formerly know as Google Hangouts, Meet is an online tool which you can use to make video calls to multiple people at the same time. I guess it is a form of video conferencing where multiple people can join the conference and each member can be seen in “the room” at the same time.

Each member of the call can use a camera on their laptop or computer and the microphone so that others on the call can see and hear them. It is like a virtual meeting room where everyone can get together to chat.

The Highrise team during a Google Meet call for our daily stand-up.

What are the main features of Google Meet?

There are many features in Google Meet that are excellent, but here are the ones we use the most often:

  • Screen sharing – any person on the call can share their screen with others on the call. This is really handy for demonstrating what you are talking about or even sharing a slide deck for a presentation
  • Chat window – as well as having audio there is also a chat window where participants can add text which everyone else on the call can view. This is great for sharing links that other users can click on
  • Present to all – tied in with screen sharing, any user has the ability to present their screen to everyone. This means that others on the call will see that persons screen all the time. The default behaviour is that a users view switches to whoever is speaking.
  • Dial in – Google Meet allows users to dial in to the call through a phone if they have not got access to the internet. These users have voice but not video.

What hardware do I need?

In order to get the best out of using Google Meet, to make sure that the quality of the audio and video are good there are a few requirements in terms of hardware that you need on your computer.

A set of headphones

To avoid audio feedback (where the voice of someone else on the call is picked up by your microphone) always use a set of headphones. This ensures that all of the audio noise from the call itself if not ‘heard’ by your computer and picked up by the microphones.

To be honest, any old headphones will do, in fact most of the team use a standard headphone that come with your mobile phone.

A headphone splitter

Whilst on the subject of headphones, if you have more than 1 person joining a call using the same device (for example two people sat at one laptop) it is still important to use headphones. Of course your device is likely to only have 1 input for headphones and therefore a simple and cheap headphone splitter will allow you to plugin both sets of headphones into that input.

For just a couple of people this simple Audio splitter should be fine. If there are more than 2 people this offering from Belkin should do the job.

A decent quality microphone

Blue Snowball mics are decent quality mics which are relatively inexpensive.

The most important part of any call is being able to hear others on the call nice and clear. To get this you need a decent microphone. In our experience the one that is built into your device is not all that good and has a lot of echo with it. Therefore you are better with something external.

Most mobile phone headphones will come with a microphone and these are certainly better than the built in microphone. However if there are more than 1 person on the call using the same device, then you need something which is going to pick everyones voice up much clearer.

We would recommend the Blue Snowball Ice microphone. This is a nice microphone that picks up sound from the front of the mic to anyone say within about a metre. For a little more investment the Blue Snowball mic picks up sound from more than one direction, meaning it will be better quality if everyone is not in front of the mic.

Webcam

Meet calls are always better when you can use video to see the other participants in the call. It gives the call more of a physical feel as though everyone is in the same room and also helps each person know when they can speak.

To do this you will need to make sure that your computer has a webcam. Most laptops these days have a webcam and if you are connecting via the Google Meet app on your phone, it is also most likely to have a front facing camera. Desktop computers however often don’t have a webcam, depending on what monitor you are using and therefore you will need to have a webcam installed.

We would recommend this Logitech webcam as it provides an excellent quality of picture.

Good internet connection

Of course when you are on a video call, you are sending video out to others and receiving multiple video streams back to your device. For this reason you need a reasonably fast internet connection in order to get good quality audio and video.

Often we find public or train WiFi doesn’t really cut it and if you can hardwire you computer rather than going over WiFi it will always be better.

If you are short on bandwidth, due to a poor interest connection there is a few things you can do on the call. Meet allows you to control the bandwidth you use, so you can set this to low to try and make the call more stable. Additionally you could turn off you video so that is not being sent and therefore reducing bandwidth.

About the author

Mark is the lead WordPress developer at Highrise Digital. He has been working with WordPress for over 13 years, way back to 2005. He focuses on back-end development, integrating the website build with WordPress so it can be editable.