I’ve been diving into Google+ a little bit more lately, and this is stemming from some of the experimenting I did yesterday, when I posted how to record a Google+ Hangout with higher quality audio for podcasting or other interview-type things (great language, I know).
That led to a discussion last night with Lisa Nielson, who was trying to schedule a Hangout On Air for a discussion happening the following night. So, I did some research, and we messed around with Google Hangouts for a few minutes and found a solution. I decided to post everything I found on managing that Hangout here. So, I submit to you: how to manage Google Hangouts On Air so people can actually find the broadcast when it begins. I’m going to outline three possible solutions, and you can take your pick.
Please note that while I tested these sitting at my desk, they have not been tested in the wild, and you should do some testing before your event to make sure you’ve got everything ready to go.
The Dedicated Page
The easiest way to help people find your broadcast is to create a page on your blog where you embed the video stream. When you are prepping the broadcast, there is an embed code in the window. You can grab this code and update the link on your blog before you actually click “Start broadcast.” It will display a “Broadcast starting soon” placeholder until you actually begin the hangout. It’s a lightweight option, and you’ll need to remember to update the link, but it’ll be easy for your audience to find each time you run a show.
YouTube Live URL
YouTube and Google are peas in a pod, with a lot bleeding over into the other. Hangouts are the same. When you run an On Air Hangout, YouTube will automatically record and archive the video in your channel so people can go back and check it out if they miss the live broadcast. But, there are a couple things you need to do first in order to get that to work. Rather than reposting it, here is a Google+ thread with all of the setup that needs to happen in order to get Hangouts On Air to work properly. It isn’t as much as it sounds like, but it’s a good idea to check to make sure you’re not stung at the end.
Okay, back to how YouTube makes this easy. Once your account is verified and your channel linked to your Google+ profile, you can grab a super-awesome new URL that will always be the live stream in the future. I learned this from ReelSEO’s channel, and you can take a look at the video if you want to see the whole process. In short, share the following URL with your audience for any On Air broadcast:
Obviously, replace the
USERNAME with your username. So, mine would be
http://www.youtube.com/bennettscience/live for any On Air broadcast. When you’re not live, viewers will be redirected to your YouTube channel.
Why should you do this rather than embedding a link on your blog? One word: Backchannel. YouTube’s interface includes a comment box to one side where your audience can discuss the broadcast. Engagement is always a good thing.
The third, and most circuitous (but most robust) way to plan a Hangout in advance is to use a Google Event. This is the method I’m least familiar with, and honestly the workflow is a pain right now (even Google admits it), but it is powerful if you can get a system worked out. I think this would work well in conjunction with either the YouTube URL or the blog post embed.
So, if its confusing, why use Events? A couple reasons. Events link to your Calendar, so management becomes very easy. They’re also listed on your Google+ page. So, if you have subscribers connected there, they’ll see it in their stream. They can also RSVP right through the Google+ stream, so you can begin engaging before the show. It will also send a calendar reminder to people who have RSVP’d, so you’ll have a higher attendance rate (in theory.) All of that is great, but it’s the actual implementation of the show that could use some improvement.
I pulled the tips from this Google community thread, and I suggest taking a look at it. In short, here’s what you would do:
- Make a new regular event. You have to make it regular in order for it to work properly. If you create an “On Air” event, it just means it shows up in your public stream. You can still make the regular event public, you just need to share it with that group in the creation page. This is how you’ll get RSVP’s for the broadcast. In the description, you can also add a reminder to check back for the URL once you’re live.
- Before the scheduled event, create a new Hangout On Air like you normally would, and share it with those participating. This is where using the YouTube link would really be helpful, as you only need to invite those people in the hangout with you, not those watching.
- Copy and paste the Hangout URL into the Event details (see screenshots). This can be either the Hangout itself if you want people to join, or it can be the YouTube live user link from above to direct people to the broadcast.
Click on Advanced, and then Show More Options. You can then add a URL to your in the **website URL** field. If you try to add the link in the YouTube URL field, it’ll return an error. Thanks to Elayne Whitfield for pointing this problem out in the comments. So, I like Events, but the workflow to actually begin the Hangout from the Event isn’t there. Again, the Events workflow is documented well in the [community thread](http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/google-plus-discuss/N_W2X7Jaj44), so take a look there for more discussion.