Long ago in the distant technological past, only the most intrepid, patient, and nerdy among us could bear the frustration involved in trying to place a video call to one person, let alone a group of them. Now, Skype and Google, among others, have removed the pain from the process, and even made it, dare I say - fun! So, check your teeth, brush your hair, clear your throat, and get ready to regale distant friends, family, or colleagues with wit and wisdom. Here’s how:
Step 1: Get accounts. You will need to make sure you and all the people who participate in the video call are signed up with the same service. Two of the most popular options in the U.S. are Skype (sign up and download) and Google Plus (this is one of many applications that Google provides when you sign up for a free Gmail account). Skype allows free one-to-one video calling, but provides group video calling with up to 10 participants only if at least one of the people on the call has Skype Premium or Skype Manager, both of which cost money. Google Plus allows free group video calling and can accommodate up to 10 participants as well.
Step 2: Get equipment. You and everyone participating on the call will need a computer or a smartphone. If you use a computer, you will need a video camera (built in or external), microphone (built in or external), and speakers or headphones. If you are a K-State student, staff, or faculty member you can borrow all the equipment you need from the IT Help Desk on the 2nd floor of Hale Library. They have six laptops with Skype pre-installed and also have six headsets with microphones. You can have the equipment for 4 hours and can take it anywhere you like.
Step 3. Get connected. If you are using a computer, you will need to have a broadband connection to the Internet. In theory, 3G or 4G on a smartphone would work, but wifi is much better.
Step 4. Launch a video call and invite people to join you.
With Google Plus:
- Go to https://plus.google.com/
- Click the "Start a Hangout" button. You will be prompted to download a plugin the first time you do this.
- Check your video camera and microphone and headset. You can change settings by clicking the gear icon. When you are ready, click the "Hangout" button
- Click the "Invite" button to find people to invite to your hang out.With Skype:
- Check your audio and video settings. You can do that by clicking "Call" from the menu bar.
- Use the add contacts panel to find the people you want to call and add them as contacts.
- If you want to call just one person, double click their name in the contacts list and then click "video call."
- If you want to call several people, first create a contact group and then click "video call."
Step 5. Talk, smile, chat. Repeat.
***Both Google Plus and Skype allow much more than simply talking and listening and seeing video cam feeds. In each you can also type messages and share your screen. Skype also allows you to send files while Google Plus has several apps to enhance your hangout, including one that allows you to collaborate on Google Docs.
Know of a better way to make group video calls? Please share in the comments!