The ultimate guide to producing professional Google+ Hangouts On Air

The ultimate guide to producing professional Google+ Hangouts On Air

As media professionals living in the age of Google+ Hangouts On Air (a public video chat that streams onto your YouTube channel), we're not only required to to be the Will McAvoy but also the MacKenzie McHale, all the technical folks and frankly everyone in The Newsroom. Producing a Hangout On Air requires a great deal of coordination, promotion, research and preparation to do it well. 

Whether you're a journalist looking to build your expertise in a certain field, a CEO looking to grow your company, or a publicist trying to promote a client's thought leadership a Google+ Hangout On Air can be the perfect way to generate buzz while creating a compelling piece of video content that can live on for years to come on your YouTube page. Here's a one-stop guide to both researching good topics for Hangouts, planning and producing the Hangout On Air and promoting the Hangout before and after it airs.

Identifying guests and topics that will help you spice up your Hangout and reach more viewers:

  • Users or prospective users and clients are the perfect group to pull from for interesting guests for your Hangout. Use this as an opportunity to help them gain buzz while building a strong relationship with them.
  • Use Muck Rack Pro to research topics relevant to your Hangout and to see which journalists talk about them often. Invite one or two of the most relevant journalists to your Hangout.
  • Sign up for an IMDB Pro account to reach celebrities and their teams ($10-$16/month for the account).

Setting up a Google+ Hangout On Air event page and promoting the event:

If you're producing a Hangout On Air purely to get viewers interested in a certain topic (like we occasionally do for our weekly #MuckedUp chats) then you can create a Goolge+ Event page where you can encourage viewers to RSVP in advance. You will also be able to add in a video embed of your Hangout before you go On-Air . Here's how you do it. Make sure to select "Public" when it asks who you want to invite so anyone will be able to RSVP when you share the link with them.

Make sure to add content to the Google+ Event page. Photos of your guests and snippets about who they are are perfect to share on the page. When guests come to the page they'll see a lively community instead of white space. Also, start promoting this link across an editorial calendar that incorprates your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other relevant social networks.

Setting up a Google+ Hangout On Air event page to generate email addresses:

Gaining RSVPs on a Google+ Event page won't let you generate email addresses like you would with a traditional webinar. If your goal is to generate emails from a Hangout, here's how you can achive that goal.

1. Use a form building tool like WufooUnbounce, HubSpot, or Google Forms  and create all the fields you normally would want (less is more) like name, title, company, email, etc. Hublished is another great tool that provides forms that allow you to even sign up in one click with your LinkedIn information.

2. Edit the confirmation page of the form (meaning the page a user sees after they complete filling out the form) to include a link to RSVP to the Google+ Event page so they can only click through to it after they've filled out their info. In Wufoo you will find this under "Form Settings" under "Confirmation Options" on the left. Here's one we made for a Hangout we did for the Shorty Awards (which Muck Rack's parent company Sawhorse Media produces) about Pinterest.


3. Make sure to only promote the form page instead of promoting the Google+ Event page directly. Users can technically share the Google+ Event page (that doesn't contain the form) on their own but as long as you promote the form page users won't will come to that link for the information.

4. Alternatively you can avoid the Google+ Event page altogether and post the Hangout on a blog post or website via it's YouTube embed code.

Custom the event permalink (whether it's the Google+ Event page or the form) so it's easy to share with (e.g. 

Testing your guests audio/video in advance of the Hangout and preparing them for the segment:

Always make sure to test the audio and video of the guests you'll be having on your Hangout On Air, in advance of the Hangout. Make sure you're testing their tech on the actual computer they'll be using.

-Recommend they join the Hangout from a quiet room, even nearby noise can sometimes come through on their microphone. 

-Recommend that they use headphones if they're not in a completely isolated area.

-Show them how to add a lower third (a graphic at the bottom of the screen that displays a name, title, segment, etc.) with the following steps.

Adding in lower thirds from the Hangout Toolbox to make your Hangout On Air look more professional: 

To make your Hangout On Air look like a professional segment you can create lower thirds (the rectangular box at the bottom of the screen that will say your name company, etc) by accessing the Hangout Toolbox. Make sure you have a .png file of the logo of your choice preferably 640x360 px.

Here's how to add a lower third if you or your guest is joining a Hangout On Air from a personal Google Account:

1. Save a PNG file to your computer, preferably 640x360px.

2. In the Hangout window, click the Hangout Toolbox app in the left hand menu. If you do not see the option in the menu, click view more apps. If you still do not see the option, click add apps. 

3. The Hangout Toolbox will open on the right hand side of the window. Under the section that says Custom Overlay, choose the PNG image that you were sent, then toggle the on/off switch for that section.

4. Even though the image will appear backwards on your video stream, the other participants and viewers see it normally. If you would like to see what you look like to everyone else, click Mirror my own video.

If you plan on joining the Hangout On Air as a brand page you'll have to adjust your settings a bit to make sure you can access the Hangout Toolbox. Here's how you do it.

1. Go to page settings while logged in to Google as a manager of the brand page.

2. Scroll down below all the check boxes until you see Third Party Tools.

3. Click Set up a Password and keep the username and password even though you will probably never need it after today (can't hurt to save this info somewhere securely just in case).

4. Log out and log back in with that username and password.

5. Start a Hangout On Air, launch the Hangout Toolbox and play around with it.

6. Then log out and log back in as yourself (or any manager) to test if you can now control lower thirds on the page - it should work from this point forward for anyone using the brand page who's a manager.

Physical items you'll need to produce a great Google+ Hangout On Air:

  • A fast computer or laptop that doesn't tend to freeze or slow down when playing web video or activating bandwidth heavy applications. 
  • An ethernet cable and port (make sure you turn of your laptop's wifi to check that the ethernet connection is actually working). If you're using a Macbook Air like I do, purchase a USB Ethernet Adapter ($29.99 USD from Apple) if you use a Thunderbolt port to connect a second monitor. If you don't use a second screen via your Thunderbolt port you can purchase a Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter, which is a bit faster ($29.99 USD from Apple).
  • If you don't think your computer's camera will cut it, purchase the Logitech C910. There's also a C920 model as well that looks good. Prices range between $60-$150. 
  • Speakers are extremely helpful if you can produce your Hangout from a conference room or closed room. Otherwise, get a great pair of headphones that will look perfectly hipster-geek for your Hangout.
  • If there are other people in the room with you make sure their speakers are off and their microphones are muted both within the Google+ Hangout (if they're joining to help moderate privately) and in their computer settings in case other apps are inadvertently open that use the microphone.
  • An external USB microphone will also help. 
  • A few stacks of computer paper are perfect for setting up your laptop so it's eye level with you.
  • Bring a second monitor into the room if you can so you can use it as a teleprompter and guide to complement the main screen where you will be Hanging.

Getting started with the Hangout On Air:

On the day of your Hangout, once the computer you'll be using is setup, connected with Ethernet preferably (turn off your wifi to make sure the Ethernet is working) you can start enter the green room of your Hangout On Air hours in advance. You just won't click "Start Broadcast" on the upper right until you're ready to go live. 

Make sure that your brand Google+ page is connected to your brand's YouTube.

If you're joining from a brand page and want the Hangout to stream and then be on-demand on your brand's YouTube page here's how you have to do it.

If your brand has a pre-2009 YouTube account (like we did for Muck Rack and the Shorty Awards) you might initially have some issues getting your YouTube account to play nice with your Google+ brand account. Here's how you can get around that with a little hack.

1. Create a new Google Account and make sure you create this account for a fake person. 

2. Make sure the person has a real-ish name or Google won't let you make it if it senses you're trying to make a brand account. We birthed Moshe Racko for Muck Rack and Shofar Awardo for the Shorty Awards.

3. When connecting your legacy YouTube account with a Google Account add this new "person's" email as the main email for your YouTube account.

4. Make this new "person" a Manager on your brand Google+ page.

5. While logged into YouTube as your channel, go to advanced YouTube settings, and click the blue button to merge your YouTube Account with the brand and then you're good to go!

Invite your guest to the "green room" early to get ready for your Hangout On Air:

Invite your guests to the "green room" early for one last a/v check. Note, you don't need to actually invite your guests via the "invite" section when you create the Hangout. Often people who aren't used to Google+ will miss the notification and not know how to join. An easier is way is to copy and paste the permalink to join the Hangout by copying the URL that appears in your browser after you've launched the Hangout On Air "green room". You should invite brand pages via the "invite" section however. 


-Spend some time preparing your guests with the format for the Hangout and give some last minute tips

-Make sure everyone adds in their lower-thirds correctly

-You or someone helping you who's in the Hangout can grab the link or embed code that viewers who are tuning into (but not joining) the Hangout can see. You can either embed the code on a blog or website as you would with any YouTube video, drive people directly to the YouTube link, or most preferably include the link in your Google Event page so people can tune in there. Here's how you add the YouTube link where your Hangout will stream to your Google+ Event page:

Tips for producing a fun and seamless Google+ Hangout On Air:

1. Use the chat feature to communicate with guests throughout the Hangout (if you can have a second team member have them privately in the chat moderating or answer any questions).

2. Use the Cameraman app to control who appears On Air and how.

3. Use the Questions App (currently in trial) to let your viewers +1 on questions you're asking and more.

4. If you're interested in having a less serious Hangout, like a pirate-themed demo, use Google effects to allow your guests to add beards, pirate hats and more!

Promoting the Hangout on-demand after the live segment:

Most Hangouts On Air will gain the most views after they air and are on-demand. 

1. Promote the on-demand video on social media, in a blog post, etc.

2. Email the guests and share a with them so they can each promote the segment they participated in.

3. Update the description, tags, etc. in the YouTube video that now lives on your channel.

4. Build a Storify of highlights from the Hangout.

Pitch your Hangout to journalists:

1. If the Hangout had interesting content and takeaways considering offer your the clips on-demand as an exclusive to a blogger or journalist to post it first before you do or anyone else.

2. Identify 3-5 main topics and amazing quotes from the Hangout to include in your follow up if a journalists shows interest in learning more after sending a 300-character or less pitch.

3. Use Muck Rack's Advanced Search to find journalists talking about that issue

4. Build a media list of journalists you want to pitch and pitch them in 300 characters or less on Muck Rack or figure out their email using Rapportive (make sure you've really researched what they cover and that it's relevant.

Good luck and click here if you'd like us to help you research which journalists you should pitch your Hangout to.


Natan Edelsburg is the SVP of Sawhorse Media (Muck Rack and the Shorty Awards) and a staff writer for Lost Remote. Over the past year he's had the chance to produce Google+ Hangouts On-Air with celebrity journalistsShorty Award winnershollywood actors, Fortune 500 brands and major executives

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