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Does your computer have a video camera? If not, you might want to pick one up (USB cameras are quite inexpensive.) Although we’ve had Skype for video chat for a while, and more recently, FaceTime, I think Google Hangouts is going to bring video chat into the mainstream. Google is embedded in the lives of many people, and Hangouts provides the ability to include multiple users. It’s fun technology, and it can save you travel time.

Have you tried a Google Hangout yet? You can have up to 10 people in on the conversation, and you can even broadcast live on YouTube if you want to.

video chatGoogle Hangouts also gives you the ability to add funny visual and audio effects, but it can be a great tool for professional meetings and education sessions as well. All you need to participate is a free Google account, an internet connection, and a camera connected to your computer or tablet. Since it’s web-based, there is no need to worry about platform-specific clients as with Skype (I’ve read that the latest version of the Skype client is proving difficult for Mac users.) Although if you do have an Apple product and a wi-fi connection, you may enjoy FaceTime. As of this writing, I haven’t found FaceTime to be very reliable.

One difficulty in using video chat services is the amount of bandwidth it takes up, and if you don’t have a fast internet connection, or if you’re using video chat at peak internet-use times, you may run into a lag with the video. But you can also shut off the video and use the service like a phone, eliminating long-distance charges, even internationally.

I’d love to hear your experience with video chat, and if you plan to use it more this year. Feel free to share your feedback in the comments below, or via email to maura at regainyourtime dot com.

Thanks for reading!