Video Conferencing on the Cheap

Once a day, Top Draw hosts a 5 minute daily meeting where we run through our project lists, share quick progress reports and let the team know if we need help jumping over any hurdles. These sessions are run in the Verne Harnish “adrenaline” style, if you’re interested. While we’ve had a few challenges with these meetings, we have found a solution that we’ve adopted into our daily huddle – Google+ Hangouts. It’s cheap and cheerful way of video conferencing in a few people for a meeting.

We consider ourselves a pretty progressive company, and not just in the work we do for our clients. We have one employee who’s been with us for 9 years but is out of the country for a year or two (and still working full time) and 2 employees that work part-time or modified shifts. On some occasions, other employees may be at a client meeting or conference during this mandatory meeting. Until recently, we’ve conferenced them in over the phone. This invariably results in a lost 2-6 minutes while we try to call,  join held lines, look up people’s phone numbers, accidentally hang up, etc. It’s frustrating to say the least. What we’ve attempted is to replace that process with Google Hangouts.

Google Hangouts


Google hangouts runs on the Google+ platform. We setup a business Google+ page for Top Draw, put our employees in an “employees” circle, and then simply invite our remote employees to the hangout when it’s time to start our daily meeting. They can join in with a phone, tablet, or PC. The video conferencing part is not necessary, but it does add a human touch for our employees who haven’t been in the office for a while. So far, it’s been working ok for us. We’ve asked that people who join use a headset or earphones so that we don’t get any nasty echo, and we’ve been using our polycom speakerphone for its great sound. We’re also using Google Hangouts for our monthly learning meetings, where we can switch between webcam video and desktop sharing so that we can share a website or program with remote attendees.

Other Solutions

Skype would also be a good alternative, but beyond that you’re looking at paid services like GoToMeeting, Webex, or Live Meeting. We still use for lightweight screen sharing with clients, but it’s easier to invite someone to a Google Hangout, so we’ll likely use it for internal meetings where screen sharing is required. With Android being the dominant phone OS here at Top Draw, Google Hangouts easily has the most built in support.


We have had issues with echoing if attendees use a microphone + desktop speakers combo, but we’ve found that headphones resolved that issue. There has also been minor audio crackling that was resolved once we used a more recent computer to access the hangout. We did have one of our attendees accidentally mute us the other day since since it’s possible to mute each other, so we’re still working out a few kinks. Overall, though, Google Hangouts have proven to be a quick and easy video conferencing solution that’s doing a better job of including employees out of the office.

Does your company use some technology worth sharing? Let us know!

  • Peter Reeburgh

    We also do a daily huddle, but use a company called XOP Networks based out of Dallas to make an outbound call to us each day so that all employees need to do is pick up the phone to be on the call. It’s the same system used for reverse 911 calls. However, we find that the audio quality is sometimes very poor and hard to understand everyone. Do you know of a way to automatically launch a google hangout at a certain time each day?