How To Set Up and Run Your First Google Hangout
Google Hangouts are starting to catch on. They’re quickly becoming the hot new way to communicate with a closed group, share data in real-time, brainstorm as a team, and teach informal workshops; or just… hang out.
What’s holding you back? If it’s fear of technology or just plain don’t-have-time-to-learn-another-thing, don’t procrastinate any longer. It’s incredibly easy, and this guide will strip setting up and running you are first to hang up down to the bare essentials.
One caution: You may not be able to tell whether or not some essential component is compatible or working until you run your first hangout. Test it out with one or two trusted friends or co-workers before planning that big, live Broadcast on Air, to iron out any “glitches”.
Step 1. Enable Chat
The first step you have to take: Log into your Google+ account and enable “Live Chat”. You’ll know if you haven’t yet done that because you’ll see this message over in your right-hand, vertical sidebar…
This will enable you to chat with others not just via Circles, but via Gmail and other apps and systems.
Once you click the “Enable Chat” button, set up is instant. You’ll immediately see this box open up…
Step 2. Create a Hangout
Now you can create your first Hangout. Here’s how…
- Press the “Create Hangout” button.
- A new, large pop-up window will open, showing who is available; plus you’ll see your profile photo at the bottom (letting people know you’re the Hangout Admin).
In the two Textarea boxes to the left of the Profile shots, name your Hangout and click on individual Profile shots or select (within the box) from your Circles to invite up to ten participants.
- Decide right when you’re setting up your Hangout if you’d like to go Live, on “Air” and be recorded. If you would, click-and-tick the radio box to the left of “Enable Hangouts on Air”.
People can also join you by telephone: Just phone them to add them to your invitations.
You can find more instructions on the various ways to add or handle telephone participants in your Google+ Help Section.
- Until people have joined your hangout, you’ll see a “waiting” screen. (If someone doesn’t get the message, quickly Gmail them at their Google+ Gmail address.) You can keep on inviting more people while you’re waiting for the first few to appear in your Hangout…
- Once they’ve joined you, you can begin your hangout. Introduce yourself and set out the rules quickly (e.g. “Please mute microphones when you’re not speaking”…)
The person speaking should be shown on the screen. Be alert: When someone “takes the floor”, click on their small thumbnail to feature them in the main talk window.
- If someone’s webcam is not working, you will see their static profile photo (or a dark screen, if they are joining by phone or choosing to cover up their webcams).
- People online without webcams can use the “Group chat” option to type their input to the Hangout. You have the option of answering them in real-time, verbally, on-screen, or typing an answer via “Group Chat” back to them. (You can even use emoticons, though that’s not recommended for business.)
- You can use several options to enhance your hangouts; for example, you can create screen captures, or screen-share Google Documents or other programs…
…And even add “special effects” (auditory sound effects, or visual “enhancements”)
You can also choose to run your hangout in HD or low-res (the latter saves on bandwidth). If you are streaming live, your hangout should be broadcast on a wired (not wireless) connection.
You can choose “Studio Mode” for your headsets (everyone should have USB headsets, for best quality) – but be aware that this mode, while providing superior sound and reducing echo, will gobble bandwidth like there’s no tomorrow. Save it for when you and your participants are using wired, rather than wireless, connections.
- When you are ready to sign out, thank everyone, tell them where they will find the recording and let them know it’s time to disconnect. Press the disconnect button.
And that’s how you run your first, simple hangout.
Essential Google Hangout Tips
- If enabling Live Chat in your Google+ page sidebar didn’t work for you, check to see if you have the correct Google plugins installed.
- Send out invitations. Let people know in advance exactly when to join your Hangout. (They will receive them in their Gmail or their stream.)
- The more participants you have, the more bandwidth you’ll all use.
- Ask people to be aware of ambient noise in the background – even on their computer. For example, if they have a browser window open showing your Hangout streaming live as they participate, you will hear an “echo”. Ask them to mute their microphones, when not talking.
- Try not to move around too much, when presenting your Hangout. Make sure light falls on your face from in front of you; not behind (otherwise you’ll look like one of those anonymous, silhouetted witnesses in protection speaking on a TV tell-all!)
- Do write yourself a “script” beforehand, so you make sure you cover everything you planned.
Google Hangouts on Air
But what if you want to broadcast your hangout to the world, stream it live and record it on YouTube?
We’ve already spoken about simply pressing the “Enable Hangouts on Air” button. Here’s what you need to know, before trying this option…
- You can still only invite ten actual participants, but you can broadcast your Hangout, live, to the world
- You will need a verified YouTube account. (If you don’t yet have one, YouTube will ask you to link and verify yours.)
- Your Google+ page and your YouTube Channel will simultaneously carry it, live, for people to click on
- It will be recorded to your YouTube channel afterward and the recording will appear in your Google+ stream.
- Be aware that the public will see exactly what you see – except most apps you are sharing and your Group Chat window, which will be visible only to the actual participants.
If you need the general public to know what someone is saying via Group Chat, tell them before answering the chatter’s question. (E. G.: “Bethany in our Chat window is wondering which browsers are supported.”)
- To finish your live stream Hangout, you will need to press the red “Stop broadcasting” button, rather than the little disconnect.
- You can edit your Hangout and change the name on YouTube, once it’s recorded – but you cannot change the Hangout name in Google+. (Access your recorded Hangout for editing via your Video Manager on YouTube.)
Google Hangouts offers many possibilities for augmenting your business and social presence and authority. Start one right away, with just a friend or two, to try it out.
You’ll see it’s one of the easiest ways to promote your business yet!