Google Plus has quickly gone from a ghost town to one of the largest social networks on the planet with 400 Million+ users, over 25% of which who are active. One of the breakout features are Hangouts or Hangouts On Air which allow you broadcast live a group video chat as well as record it straight to your YouTube account.

Being that events were recently introduced to the social network, one can easily setup a live event. Why do a Hangout On Air? They not only allow you to reach your audience on Google+ through video, but also create great content from interviews to discussions that can then be published on a blog for example

Before you put together a live event on Google+, make sure to have a rock solid action plan of your topic and discussion. A Hangout On Air with no structure will often turn out a bit rough. Have a clear focus of what you want to talk about and really bring the value by getting others in the Hangout (that is if you’re having multiple people participate) engaged.

What Will You Need?

  • Webcam, preferably HD (Logitech C910 or C920 very affordable and rock solid)
  • Microphone, either built-in to your laptop or webcam. Standalone microphone (Blue Yeti for example) ideal.
  • Dual-core or better computer with at least 2GB RAM
  • Good Internet connection. 3mbps or faster.
  • Google+ account of course!

Creating a live event and hosting a Hangout On Air is quite easy and over the rest of this post we’ll go over exactly how to do that.

Creating Your Event

First, log into your Google+ account and look at the left navigation.


Click on “Events” and that will load up the page. Now, instead of clicking the red “Create Event” button on the top right, look below the images on the right hand side and select “Plan your next hangout”.


That will then pop-up a window where you can fill in all the details. One of the first things to select is an image for the event. Using the arrow buttons, you can choose from Google’s default images, or by clicking “Change them”, you can choose or upload your own photo. The rest is very straightforward and make sure to write a detailed description that explains what the event is, what it’s about, and what people can expect.

After you’re done filling out all of the details, you can choose specific people to invite and also post it to circles or publicly. If you are to invite specific people, make sure you are very targeted. Inviting anyone and everyone will annoy people and cause them to look at you like some spammer.

Once you’ve got all of that setup, click “Invite” and your event is live. Definitely make sure to have the event post to “Public” that way everyone who has you circled can see it and then potentially RSVP.

My Event Is Live, So Now What?

While doing a Hangout On Air can be worrying, don’t be freaked out. If you’ve done video in the past, it’s pretty much the same thing, except of course you can’t start over once you’re going. Despite doing hundreds of videos myself, I still get anxiety to this day when doing a live hangout. As with anything though, the more you do it, the better you get and the more comfortable you become.

Start Your Hangout

As far as the logistics of it all, getting a Hangout On Air rocking and rolling is easy peasy. Heading back to the Google+ homepage, in the top right hand side above the chat is a button that says “Start a hangout”.

Click that and a new window will open and load up an interface that looks like this.


If you’re not familiar with the hangout interface, it’s very straightforward. In the top right, you have several different icons. Mute your microphone, mute your video/webcam, and settings.


Before starting any hangout, especially a Hangout On Air, you want to make sure your settings are right by clicking the gear icon. Once everything looks correct, click “Save settings”.


Going back over to the left hand side, this is where you fill in the details such as who to invite, the title, and selecting the box next to “Enable Hangouts On Air”.

A big mistake that a lot of people make is inviting circles or even public to a Hangout On Air. This is a big no-no and will just create a complete disaster. Make sure to invite specific people who are actually aware of the event beforehand.

Creating a great title is important as it’ll be one of the first things that people see. A mediocre title and people will potentially move on and not watch. Just don’t forget to deliver awesome value!

Once you’ve chose people to invite and done everything else, it should look a little something like this:

Click “Okay, got it” after making sure everything is correct, then “Hang out”. This will start the hangout, but not make it live just yet. You’ll see some new details on the top right hand side.

You’ll be able to see how many people are watching and can also embed the Hangout On Air elsewhere, say your website.

Before you go about starting the hangout, there are a few more things to go over.

Chat is only visible to those within the Hangout On Air itself. To see the audience’s comments, you’ll need to pay attention to the post with the live video. Sometimes it can be really distracting going back and forth between the conversation and the conversation from people watching.

If you can, have someone who can moderate and then let you know questions by posting in the Hangout On Air. This will free you up from juggling multiple things at once and allow you to focus on the topic at hand and delivering a great discussion.

The invite and screenshare option are pretty self-explanatory. If, say, you forgot to invite someone or want to invite new people, you can do that there. What’s great is, only the person who started the Hangout On Air can invite others. This way you don’t have to worry about participants inviting random people that could then potentially ruin a conversation. Screenshare allows you to show your screen. This is especially great if you have a PowerPoint presentation or are doing a how-to that requires people needing to see your desktop.

Right next to that is Cameraman which adds some nice functionality. Say you don’t want someone’s video to be visible on the live stream, you can scroll over their video thumbnail and click the video icon. You can also choose the option where anytime someone joins they will automatically be muted and not appear in the video.

Apps

Google+ Hangouts also work with various apps. The selection is currently very small, but there are some goodies in there. One app that is essential for any Hangout On Air is the Hangout Lower Third app. Hangout Lower Third puts a banner on the bottom of your video so people watching the Hangout On Air can see your name, what you do, your website, and even has space for a logo. To install it, simply find the “+Add app” button which is on the same column as Chat, Screenshare, etc.

Scroll down towards the bottom and you should see it. Then to install the app, simply scroll over and click “Install hangout extension”. It will then ask for some basic permissions and you’re good to go.

Once the Hangout Lower Third app is installed, you should see it right next to “Screenshare”. Click on it and you’re presented with various fields to enter info. It’s best to go with your name in the title and your website in the tagline. You can also choose what color for the overlay and add your own logo.


After you’ve down all that, click the button that is currently set to off and now people watching the Hangout On Air will see the overlay which will look something like this.

Going Live

To go live, simply hit “Start broadcast” and there will be a countdown from 10 before it publishes on Google+ and streams to YouTube.

Streaming to YouTube

In the YouTube stream, the Hangout On Air will look very similar to when you post a video.


The Hangout On Air will appear on YouTube just like any other video. Anyone who is subscribed to you on YouTube will get a notification in their subscriptions that you’re live. If you’ve got a decent sized audience on YouTube, you’ll need to factor in the possibility of people commenting there and not on Google+.

Currently, both comment threads don’t pull into one so this is again something that you might want to delegate to a moderator.

Ending Your Hangout

Because of how hangouts work, you don’t need to worry about selecting who appears on the live stream as it automatically goes back and forth between who’s talking. To end the broadcast, simply click the red button where “Start broadcast” was and you’re done. From there, the video should be available for replay on YouTube and for those tuning in late on Google+, will simply see the recording.

Editing

Now, say you want to edit your video and spice it up before you post it to your website. What’s great about YouTube is that you can download videos that were uploaded.

Go to http://www.youtube.com/my_videos and your Hangout On Air should be right at the top. Click the dropdown arrow next to “Edit” and select “Download MP4″.


Right now the video resolution is only 640×360, but I’ve found if you bump it up to 1280×720 which is 720p HD, you don’t lose that much quality.

So that’s how you go about hosting a live event on Google+. Hangouts On Air represent a new wave of great technology that aids not just broadcasters, but anyone who wants to create high quality content.

What are your thoughts on live hangouts?

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