When you get a Chromebook and make that switch to the world of Google you’ll inevitably get sucked into doing Hangouts. Jumping in and out of ‘m like it’s nothing, expanding your network and influence both inside and outside your company. That’s the Chromebook life and I’m experiencing it every single day. It’s wonderful.
I never imagined that the impact of Hangouts would be so profound on building relationships that matter. There’s something about seeing the other person on a screen in front of you that makes for a much tighter personal connection than you would get with a face to face meeting.
The thing with Hangouts to remember is that the better your audio is, the better you’ll get your message across. Just like is the case with podcasts and radio shows.
The Best Sound Quality For The Hangout
Don’t get me wrong, Hangouts are great even with on-board microphones. But when your sound quality is really good Hangouts become more than just that, they become mesmerizing.
It’s very simple. Decades of highly produced TV programs, movies and radio shows have taught us that good sound quality equals authority. Think about it. You don’t listen to a radio show when the sound is bad. Let alone to a crappy sounding podcast using headphones or earplugs directing sound straight into your head.
On the other hand, when you hear a nice and dark voice with some good bass tones you’ll be listening all day. Its even something good telemarketers select and train their reps on. Better sounding, lower voices communicate more trust and get more results. Use that fact to your advantage.
Three Kinds of Hangouts
Doing Hangouts on an almost daily basis I’ve noticed that there are different kinds of Hangouts you can end up in. Depending on the reason why the Hangout is being held you’ll end up in one of three different settings. Each with its own behavioral rules, social dynamics and varying demands on sound quality.
The Conference Room Hangout
I remember seeing my first conference room. It was quite some time ago when I was working for an energy giant, before Hangouts where a thing. A prestigious looking room with heavy office chairs, a long oval oak table and a large flat screen on the wall. A minibar in the back.
You can imagine the kind of procedural, almost ceremonial type meetings this room produced. People in suits speaking only when spoken to, really only there to listen to the big boss and nod approvingly at the appropriate times. Guess what, there are Hangouts like that, kinda.
Difference being that the official, statesmanlike conference room has been replaced by a fun and inspiring Hangout Room where participants are encouraged to interact and contribute. They’re not different in that they are official, planned ahead of time and you are expected to show up like at any other meeting.
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Sound and video quality for the people in the Hangout Room is of course taken care of and most likely excellent. Participants logging in from home or an off side location using their Chromebooks have to take care of their own sound quality. It is appreciated that during these conference Hangouts your sound quality good, or at the very least good enough not to be disturbing. A great Hangout microphone to use here is the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone, also called the podcasters microphone.
This mic is used by many podcasters for good reasons. Its a dynamic microphone which means it is good at getting rid of the background noise and focusus on the sound in front of it, benefiting the capture of your voice. Dynamic mics are directional and cardioid mics reject sound the strongest from the back, but still pick up some sound from the sides. This makes that pretty much the only sound you’ll be transmitting to the Hangout is your voice and not, say, your baby playing in the background.
Listen to me using the ATR2100. The sound you’re hearing is the result of plug-n-play. No settings were changed or tricks done to make the sound better.
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The Scheduled Meeting Hangout
Much less official than the conference room version, this one is simply you and your directs, maybe your boss one level up and depending on what you do maybe also your client. The ones I attend most are weekly meetings with the client and my management team.
Important, yes for sure. But not ‘the official moment’ I spoke on earlier in this article. These people know you. Most likely you’ve been working closely together with them years already. You’re not, or at least you shouldn’t be, an enigma to them. You have aligned goals and work together. When you’re hatching a plan, they are your culprits. What I’m saying is that substance, trust and mutual involvement are much more important here than showmanship is.
So when it comes to how you sound, you just make sure you’re not a distraction. Using the on-board microphone is fine. Make sure you are in an empty room and you’re good to go.
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One thing to be careful with is the risk of audio feedback. I’m sure you’ve heard that somewhere before. Someone is walking up to a stage, at a wedding or school event for example, and starts talking. And as soon as he or she does this high pitch, pulsating sound that gets louder and louder makes everybody cover their ears in pain. That sound is the result of audio feedback. Sound entering the microphone going through whatever system you use, Hangouts in our case, and then exiting the speakers to yet again enter the microphone. It’s a loop.
Laptops and Chromebooks are prone to that because the speakers are closely to and directed towards the microphone. If you suffer from feedback every now and again, stop using your on-board mic.
The On-the-fly Hangout
Google Hangouts is much, much more than ‘just’ a video conferencing tool, it is full blown conversation tool. The beautiful thing, I think, is that it runs on every machine you have. Yes, your Chromebook, Windows PC and Laptop, Mac, Linux machine, iPhone, iOS and Android Tablets and your Android phone, they all run the Hangouts app.
It knows which machine you’re on, so when you leave your Chromebook or PC to go somewhere you can continue the conversation on your mobile phone. The app there has the entire conversation on it. The other way around works just as well, you walk into the office, open your computer and continue the conversation you where having coming in. Real easy, really useful.
What you do is you drop a chat message saying something like “QQ: got 5 mins to Hangout? Want to talk about redecorating the office.” The other person then has the chance to say yes or propose another more suiting moment. This makes that both parties are ready to have the conversation, and have some time to prepare if necessary.
These Hangouts don’t have to take place in a separate room unless the subject is not for others to hear. So just as is the case when you’re placing a regular phone call, most of the time you do these Hangouts sitting at your desk or lounging in the public area.
Getting back to the sound quality, there are two things you can do here. You can use a headset (remember, you’re at your desk. Playing the Hangout over your speakers is annoying to your colleagues and somewhat uncomfortable for the other person on it.) and simply use the on-board mic. Or, you could do what I do and go with a pair of earbud headphones made by Skullcandy. They work great. You can clearly hear the other person, and the sound quality on your part is much, much better than that of the on-board microphone, it’s almost on-par with the Audio-Technica microphone(!).
Take a listen to this short mic test. You’ll be surprised at how well it sounds.
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Hangout Microphone Conclusion
The most important thing I learned is to keep in mind the setting of the Hangout you’ll be joining. That pretty much dictates how well you should sound (and look by the way, but that’s a whole other article).
When you’re in an important Hangout, be it with your boss two or more levels up or doing a job interview, you make sure you sound your best. I’ve settled on the Audio-Technica as it is a great Hangout microphone, but it isn’t the only one. You can go for a much more professional, and still not too expensive setup using a small Behringer mixer coupled with the world class Heil PR40 microphone (I sometimes dream of owning a PR40, it’s that good.), but you don’t have to sound really good.
When you’re making use of Hangouts more often you should think of getting a dedicated Hangout mircophone like Earbud Headphones with a mic.They’re cheaper than a professional type microphone, and much easier to carry around with you. There are many different makes and models and none of ‘m will cost you much. These Skullcandy ones cost me less than twenty dollar.
Whatever you do, try to stay away from the on-board mic.
Alright, this is it for now. Thank you for reading this far. I’d love to read in the comments what your experience using Hangouts is, and of course what kind of mic you think is best.
Till next time, Kain.