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My Tips and Tricks for Running Hangouts on Air

Now that everyone on Earth has the ability to broadcast Hangouts on Air, I've updated this document with all the most recent features. Hopefully this will help you as you run your own Hangout. It's an amazing technology, it's going to change everything, and now there's nothing stopping you from trying it out.

Get broadcasting!
Tips and Tricks for Hangouts on Air
updated June 8, 2012

+Felicia Day just asked for some advice on running Hangouts on Air and I jumped in with some suggestions. But now I'm thinking I'll just make a public post, to let more people see the suggestions.

In case you weren't aware, Hangouts on Air are like regular Hangouts, but any number of people can view the Hangout as a live broadcast. It essentially emulates a television station. Right now access to this feature is in a limited beta, and I have no idea how to get access to it.

- The quality of the video camera and microphone matter a lot. Get a good webcam like a Logitech 910C and a headset microphone. Don't settle for crappy embedded webcams.

- Most headset microphones can sound really bad too, so invest in a USB headset, or even better, a desktop microphone like a Blue Snowball.

- You want to run your hangout on the fastest computer you have at your disposal. That will make the video as smooth as possible.

- Every participate should use a wired line (not wireless) to maximize your upload speed.

- Everyone needs to wear headphones or earbuds to reduce echo. No exceptions.

- You want to avoid backlighting, which will make a person dark in the video. Don't have a bright window behind your back. Get some kind of light pointing at you.

- Try to have an interesting background behind you. A plain white wall is really boring. But a big living room can look really great. Just clean your kitchen first.

- Try to get the camera positioned at eye level or even pointing slightly down at you. If you're using a laptop, you'll want to put it on a box or some books. It'll look much better.

Initial Preparations
- If you're going to have a lot of people participating, start the Hangout early to get everyone in and settled, with the right devices, etc. Remember that the Hangout is secret until you actually hit broadcast.

- You can only invite people in your circles into the Hangout, so make sure you have all the people you want in a circle beforehand. It's very difficult to invite people specifically if you don't have them in circles. If you do need to invite someone, and don't have them in a circle, email them the URL to the private hangout interface, and they'll be able to get in.

- You can't invite the "Public" into a Hangout on Air. If you do need to do that, you can always copy-paste the private URL to the chat, so people can join it directly.

- Minimize the amount of programs running on your computer. You might want to screenshare various parts of your computer during the Hangout, so make sure you're not going to be broadcasting anything private. Strip down your browser toolbars, turn off chat programs, etc. Autohide your dock/start menu so people don't see it if you need to screenshare.

- Think about copyright/intellectual property before you start streaming. Make sure you own the rights to anything you broadcast, or there'll be hell to pay, with angry lawyers.

- You can join a Hangout twice from two different devices. This will let you put up screenshots, videos, etc in another pane.

- Queue up all your other methods of promoting the Hangout, like Twitter, Facebook, etc. When you go live, you'll be able to copy-paste the URL and multiply the number of viewers.

- To maximize the viewership, try to stick to a regular schedule. We record Mondays at 2000 GMT and Thursdays at 1800 GMT.

- Create an intro screen graphic beforehand that introduces the Hangout. You'll run this in your hangout for the first 5 minutes before you actually get started.

Running the Hangout
- The Hangout doesn't go public until you actually click "Start Broadcast". Your YouTube recording starts after that point too.

- When you do hit broadcast, the Hangout will appear in your stream, so you'll want people to link directly to the post that contains the Hangout. That way you can get people to post comments, give feedback, etc. You want to corral people into this single location.

- You can get the permalink to the Hangout by right-clicking on the timestamp of the post that contains the Hangout.

- For the first 5 minutes of your Hangout, run a graphic that explains that the Hangout is about to start. Get all of the participants to mute their audio/video so it's all black screens. You can't talk to each other, but you can coordinate through chat. This will give your audience a few minutes to join in, and settle down. It also gives you time to Tweet, FB share and embed your Hangout in all your websites.

- You can get the embed code for the video in the upper right-hand corner of the window. You can put that into websites.

- Your live video will also be broadcast over on YouTube. People will be making comments over there, so make sure you watch for comments on both Google+ and YouTube.

- People find typing and background noises really frustrating, so encourage people to mute their microphones when they're not talking

- You're the director. This means that you can override the camera switching that Google normally does. If you click on a person's pane and make them the focus, the viewers will see that too. But you can also just let the Hangout handle the switching on its own. Just don't forget to click the focus off again.

- It's okay to be casual and make mistakes. Viewers appreciate that it's real and they're not seeing some overly slick production. But try to create the highest production quality you can.

- Screensharing from a browser is very memory intensive. If you just need to show a picture, consider using an image utility to do that, not the browser. Try to get another participant to screenshare an image, instead of the person talking.

- During the course of the Hangout, you'll see the total number of viewers listed in the upper right-hand corner of the Hangout. Yay!

- If you want to let the public into your Hangout and join the broadcast, you can post a link to the Hangout into the comments. Anyone who clicks that link will appear in the Hangout. Once publicized, though, it can never be un-publicized. You're stuck with anyone who jumps into your public show.

- The output video dropped into your Youtube account is pretty low quality, so you'll want another way of recording it if the quality is an issue (something like Screenflow).

- That output video is set to public by default. It's also embedded into the original post on Google+ where you hosted the live show. And there's no way to remove it, without deleting the whole post.

- The trimming tools on Youtube take 6+ hours to render, so it's better to just post the whole hangout if you're happy with the quality and didn't say anything embarrassing in the beginning. You'll want to practice minimizing the initial preparations, so you don't need to even trim it.

- Make sure you embed the output video somewhere accessible after the fact. We find we get about 20x the viewership afterwords than what happened live. People will expect to be able to see what happened in the hangout.

Key Extensions

There are three extensions that will make your Google+ Hangout on Air much much easier to run. Unfortunately, at the time I'm posting this, you can't actually run all three together:

+Hangout Comment Tracker by +Gerwin Sturm 
This will give you an additional pane in your hangout, and show you all the comments getting generated on Google+ and on YouTube for your hangout. This way you don't have to switch around to multiple windows. 

+Hangout Lower Third by +Moritz Tolxdorff 
Creates a lower third graphic title, so people watching the Hangout know who everyone is.

Pro Studio by +Chad LaFarge 
Gives you a ton of controls over the hangout, including muting members, letting participants raise their hands - you can even kick people out of the hangout.

P.S. Make sure you have verified your YouTube account. You want to make sure your account can handle videos longer than 15 minutes, otherwise, your Hangout won't get saved.
Paolo Amoroso's profile photoPaul Lathrop's profile photoAsmara Khurram's profile photoMatt Uebel's profile photo
Thanks Fraser, good points! Have a nice weekend. Michael
P.S. Blue Origin is (at least to me) one of the more interesting companies, as they have already tested their crew vehicle. Try to talk more about this Co. sometime. Thks. M.
Great tips Fraser.  Thanks!!!
Great, great info and a huge service. Thanks.
Thank you. That is the list I have been seeking.
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