I’ve used Google+ Hangouts for several meetings now out of the necessity of bringing together three other colleagues from across North America to collaborate on a day long seminar. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked, not only as a group video conferencing tool, but also as a document collaboration platform (using the embedded Google Docs functionality). For me these two features combined made it almost easier to conduct our meeting remotely from the four corners of North America than it would have had we all been in the same room.
In preparation for our meeting I initially assumed we’d be using Skype for the meeting, and wondered if anyone had a paid account so we’d be able to use the group video conferencing feature (person to person video is free on Skype, but multi-person video is only available if one of the participants is a paying customer). When I realized that the main focus of the meeting would be to prepare the outline for our seminar, I remembered reading something about the collaborative document editing feature in Google+ Hangouts.
My suggestion to use Hangouts was agreed to, and the meeting was very productive. The video and audio quality were excellent, and the ability to co-edit a our outline document, and see who is editing the document in real time, was extremely useful. The ability to take and share our notes speeded up the meeting considerably, as once a point was typed out, if everyone agreed, we simply moved on. If there wasn’t agreement, we discussed further and the point was edited. No misunderstanding, no rehashing who agreed to what days later. Here is a short video (with no audio) demonstrating the co-editing feature of Hangouts.
That said, I highly recommend you give Google+ Hangouts try for an upcoming meeting, even if the participants are local! Here are the pros and cons of the software from my perspective:
Google+ Hangouts Pros:
- High quality video and audio for up to 10 users.
- Cross platform: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS.
- Collaborative document editing.
- Screen Sharing.
- Sketch pad capabilities.
- Hangouts on Air feature allows more than 10 users to view the meeting.
Google+ Hangouts Cons:
- Everyone has to use a google account to participate.