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You’ve decided to do a Hangout on Air for yourself or your brand. Great idea! They’re a lot of fun and can help you provide value to your fans and solidify relationships within the industry. They also can make you want to pull your hair out.
That’s why I created this checklist with all the things that you want to do when you’re planning your Hangout on Air. This’ll take you from A to Z in chronological order, with a few side trips in between.
To get you pumped and ready to go, here’s an overview of the steps:
- Install G+ Hangouts plugin and make sure Hangouts are enabled
- Schedule the Hangouts on Air page as your brand page
- Connect the correct YouTube and Google+ accounts
- Think through the roles of your team
- Do a test run before the event
- Send panelists and participants an email about hangout structure and additional preparation
- Embed the Hangout on your event page or website
- Set up the apps in the Hangout
- Broadcast your Hangout on Air and have some fun!
**Everything has been updated in December 2015 to give you the most accurate, up-to-date information**
One note before we dive into the deep abyss of Hangouts on Air. Google+ has two products that are very similar: Hangouts and Hangouts on Air. Hangouts on Air is different because:
- You can embed the live video stream of the Hangout on Air to your YouTube channel, a G+ Event page, and even your site.
- You can have millions of viewers watch the Hangout on Air, but not actually participate in the Hangout.
- The Hangout on Air is recorded and published onto YouTube so anyone can watch later.
For the purpose of this post, assume that when I say “Hangout”, I mean “Hangout on Air.”
Let’s get started.
Way before the Hangout
If you or your Hangout participants don’t use Google+ much, you’ll need to install the G+ Hangouts plugin and test it. Also, if your account is controlled by a domain administrator, they’ll need to make sure that Hangouts is enabled for your account.
There are two ways you can create a page on G+ for the Hangout on Air to live. You could create an Event page or schedule a Hangouts on Air page. The only differences between the two options is that with the Hangouts on Air page, you can use the Q&A app (more on this later) and you don’t need to embed the video on to the Hangouts on Air page. For those reasons, scheduling a Hangout on Air page for the date of the Hangout can be an easier option for people. You can create this page ahead of time to use for promotion of your Hangout.
Whichever way you create your Hangouts page, you need to create it as your brand page, not with your personal G+ account. The Hangout will not be associated with your brand if you create it from your personal account (unless you’re hosting it as yourself in which case disregard the above advice).
Another item you want to do before you go playing around with Hangouts on Air is to connect the correct YouTube and Google+ accounts (mainly your brand accounts) if they are not already connected. You will get a notification on this if you have not done it by the time you schedule your Hangout on Air.
Here’s another warning for you: only 10 people are allowed on a G+ Hangout on Air at a time (meaning you can only have 10 individuals or screens total inside the Hangout although you can have an unlimited number of people watching it). Plan accordingly. Before you get too far into your planning, also think about the roles your team will play during the Hangout on Air:
- Who’s moderating?
- Who else will have control of the Hangout? More on this later.
- Who will be your tech person (meaning someone who is knowledgeable about G+ who can work out technical difficulties you may/will have with the Hangout)? They must be on hand for the Hangout if they take on this role.
- Who’ll be live tweeting and monitoring activity on social media?
Along with this, you may want to set a hashtag for your Hangout so that your followers can follow along on other social media outlets like Twitter. I’d recommend making your hashtag short, unique, and descriptive of the event.
During your test run of the Hangout
Yes, you must do a test run, especially if you’ve never ever done anything with Google+ or Hangouts on Air before. Hangouts is a great tool, but you will run into technical difficulties. Do not compromise on a test run to save time or effort. Google+ Hangouts on Air is not the most intuitive platform so familiarize yourself!
It’s best to do a test run about a week before your event. You should run through all the steps in this post as well as test the location, sound, and lighting of the person who is moderating the event. You can decide whether to invite your panelists to join in that particular test run or do another one just for them (depending on how comfortable with G+ Hangouts they are).
In the days leading up to your Hangout
About 3-4 days before the event, I will send participants info in an email about the structure of the Hangout, questions they can expect, and other logistics or prep they need to know about.
A few things that I make sure to cover are:
- Tell them you will be inviting them to the Hangout 30 minutes before it starts (or goes on Air) to take care of a few last-minute logistics and make sure all is well before go-time.
- Make sure they know they need a Google account and have the plugin installed on their computer before they can log into the Hangout.
- Remind panelists that internet bandwidth is important so they should ask their team not to upload/download big files, back up their computers, or all watch the Hangout during the Hangout itself.
- Ask for their cell phone numbers in case of internet issues. That way you can communicate with them easily if something goes wrong.
- Have a logo file ready to upload for their footer during the Hangout (more on this below).
- Let panelists know that you will be muting them during the Hangout when they are not speaking so that there are no audio issues. They can unmute themselves when they want to chime in and then mute themselves again when they’re done talking.
30 minutes before the Hangout
You made it this far and you only have a little more to go before you’re ready to rock your Hangouts on Air. To start the Hangout, you either go to your Hangouts on Air scheduled page and get started there, or you can start a Hangout on Air from scratch.
To start or schedule a Hangout on Air
- Go to the Hangouts on Air page (it’s also in your left-hand nav under Hangouts). The new Google+ layout has Hangouts on Air in slightly different place when you go to the Hangouts page so I took a screenshot for you:
- Select “Create a Hangout on Air” on that page – don’t worry, it won’t start broadcasting until you tell it to.
- You’ll be asked to put in the event name and details. Select ‘starts now’ (or later if you’re scheduling it).
- You can invite your audience by typing in their emails or their names to find them on Google+.
- Then, select Share.
- You may get a screen that asks you to connect your YouTube and Google+ accounts. This is something to take care of when you test out the Hangout on Air.
You’ll now see this:
Now you still need to do a few things before you click that tempting Start Broadcast button at the bottom.
1. Embed the video stream on your Events page (skip this step if you scheduled a Hangout on Air instead – it will do that automatically)
2. Embed the video on your site (if you plan to do so)
3. Set up your apps
4. Do a final check with your panelists
Embed the video stream on your Event page
If you’re using an Event page to stream your Hangout on Air, you’ll need to embed the YouTube embed link there.
- Grab the YouTube URL from the lower right corner of your Hangout screen.
- Plug that into your Events page if you created one. Go to your Event page, then Edit Description, Event Options, Advanced, and then Show More Options. If you did a Hangouts on Air page, just ignore this step.
You’ll see the YouTube URL on the second from the last line. Paste the URL in there. Save.
The video on the page will show a coming soon type message until you start broadcasting so you can get this going ahead of the hangout.
Embed the video on your site
To embed the video on to your site, grab the video embed link just below where you grabbed the YouTube embed link. Paste that into your page where you want your video stream to be. Update your page and save. Just like the Event page, the video will show a coming soon type message until the Hangout starts broadcasting.
Set up apps
All of these apps can be found on the left-hand navigation panel or can be added as an app from the Add an App feature.
Control Room app
If you want to give control to co-moderators or managers to mute/unmute or take someone off screen, this is the app to do that.
- Hover over that participants name and click the dropdown button to the right of their name.
- Choose Give Controls and they’ll now be able to do the same things that you can do in the Hangouts on Air.
- If someone comes on to your Hangout uninvited, this is the app you’ll use to shut them down (don’t laugh – it’s happened to me before).
This app controls the broadcast and how panelists come on. I follow Google+ Hangouts mastermind Max Minzer’s advice and select yes, no, yes on the three options. Like so:
Hangouts Toolbox app
This app will take your Hangout on Air from amateur to pro in 1 minute flat. What it’ll do is create a footer below each panelist with their name, company, and company logo.
- Click the add app extension in the left-hand nav. Find and add the Hangout Toolbox app.
- It’ll ask for your permission.
- The app will then show up on the right side.
- On the tab that has the person in the circle to the left, enter your name and company name; upload your logo; and change the color scheme of the line in the first box to the right.
- Where it says “Lower Third” – click to change it to “On.”
- If you want to make changes to your name or logo, make sure you turn the lower third off, make the changes, then turn it back on.
- Your panelists will need to do this themselves, but that’s why they should come on early to the event so you can walk them through this.
If your footer shows up in reverse, all you need to do to change it is to click the rotate or mirror icon and rotate until the footer looks right.
This app lets your audience ask you questions before or during the Hangout. You’ll need to set this up before you start broadcasting and you’ll have to use a Hangouts on Air page rather than a simple Events page. In order to enable the Q&A app, you need to click on the Q&A icon on the Events page preview video.
It will go from greyed out to a color icon when the app is enabled. You will do the same for the Showcase and Applause apps from this page if you want to use them.
With this app, you can share links to resources, content, products, and sites without disrupting your broadcast. This is helpful if your participants mention articles when they’re talking and you want to send listeners to those pieces, or if you have a call to action you want to send viewers to.
You enable the app for use the same way you enabled the Q&A app above by clicking on the icon on the preview image on your Events page before the broadcast begins. In the screenshot below, it’s the yellow icon in the middle.
To use the Showcase app:
- Once the app is enabled, you can use the app in the Hangouts on Air window.
- Click the yellow Showcase app icon on the left-hand navigation in the Hangouts on Air.
- You’ll see the text field where you can add a URL. Once you add the URL, you will see the item you can show when the time is right.
- When you’re ready to show an item, just click the checkbox next to it and it’ll be visible to your audience. Unclick the checkbox on that item when you’re done with it.
To learn more about the ins and outs of the Showcase app, Mark Crosling has additional tips and tricks for you.
You can use this app to allow your viewers to express their thoughts about the Hangout via thumbs up or down icons. If you’re looking for specific feedback or questions from the audience, the Q&A app would be a better option. However, if you want to get votes or do a simple poll during your broadcast, the Applause app would work well.
Final Checks Before Going Live
There are a few final things to check before your broadcast goes on air:
- Is everyone there? If not, copy the link to the Hangout on Air and send it in an email to them. Some people don’t get the notification from Google.
- Does everyone’s sound and video look ok?
- Does everyone know where the mute button is?
- The camera should automatically go to the person who’s speaking. To override this, the moderator can select the video image at the bottom of their screen to select the person he wants to be show.
Once you’re all ready to go, click Start Broadcast and you’re on air as well as streaming the video to YouTube and your site (if you chose to). Live tweeting the Hangout can enhance the experience for all and provides easy retweets to those who are listening and following along. You’re all set to start hosting your own Hangouts on Air now!
Do you have any questions I didn’t answer? Run into an issue? Want to commiserate about the difficulty of using G+ Hangouts? Share in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter.