What if you don't see any green bars at all when you talk, or you don't see yourself in the small window in the middle? Click the Settings button at the bottom of the screen. You'll see a screen where you can test every aspect of your setup: camera, microphone, and speakers. Even if your camera and mic are working fine, it's worth clicking the "play the test sound" link to make sure you'll be able to hear the other people in the hangout, and that your speakers and mic -- especially a built-in laptop mic -- don't create a nasty feedback loop.
If you're using any equipment that didn't come with your computer -- a USB headset or webcam, for example -- make sure the proper devices are selected in the Camera, Microphone, and Speakers drop-down menus. Below those menus are two checkboxes you'll probably never turn off. The first one helps prevent echoes, which is nice for everyone listening. The second box gives your computer permission to send reports about your hangout back to Google. It doesn't send anything personal, just notes about how fast your connection is, the frame rate of your video connection, and other geeky numbers that the network engineers at Google would love to have. If you tweaked some settings on this screen to get everything working, click the green Save button. If you don't want to save your changes (or you didn't make any), click the "Cancel changes" link or the X in the upper-right corner of this screen to get back to the setup screen.
Inviting People to Hang Out
Depending on which stream you were viewing when you clicked the "Start a hangout" button, the box on the setup screen below your image will either contain a rectangle representing "Your circles" or a particular circle. If the rectangle represents the group of people you want to hang out with, you're all set -- click the green "Hang out" button and flip to the next section.
If you want to hang out with a different circle or with specific people, the process is just like choosing who else gets to see a post or photo. Start typing the name of a circle or a person in your circles (or even someone who isn't in your circles), and then click or use your arrow keys to choose an item in the list of suggestions that appears.
Inviting someone to hang out means they'll see a notice in their stream that you've started a hangout, and they can click the "Join this hangout" button to join you. (They'll see the "Check your hair" screen before joining, too).
If you've invited fewer than 25 people to a hangout (including circles and indi-viduals), then the invitees will also receive a notification that they've been invited to hang out (unless they've changed their settings not to receive them, as explained in Chapter 4). And any Google+ members who happen to be signed into Google Chat when you send out the invite will also see a window with a link to your hangout.