live on air

Hosting a Hangout: Live on Air

So you’re setup, prepared, and ready to broadcast your Google+ Hangout Live on Air. Following on from last week’s Hosting a Hangout: Setup and Preparation guide, I’ll make sure your chat doesn’t fall flat when you’re live on air. A Google Hangout on Air is publicly broadcast live on YouTube and your Google+ profile, and is recorded so you can make it accessible later from your YouTube channel.

Recently, social media professionals have been asking me, ‘how do I get a group on a Google+ Hangout together’, or ‘what do I need to know to make sure my Hangout goes well’. This has inspired me to write this 3 part series on hosting a hangout. If you’ve got more questions that I don’t answer, or you’ve had a different experience, please add to the discussion in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

There are other tutorials about using advanced features, like lower third titles, sharing your screen and adding hats and sounds, and dynamic backgrounds. But in this post I’ll be focusing on the delivery of your content.

advaced hangout features

Going live

All of your people are online, microphones and cameras are working, and everyone’s ready go live. Hit that big green ‘start broadcast’ button! You’re live! Take a deep breath, and begin.

Now, it’s easy to start talking and dive right into your topic. You’ve been preparing this for weeks and the big moment is here. Your guests are primed and ready to deliver the goods on your discussion. Don’t forget these key points before you dive headlong into your chat:

  • Welcome your audience, and thank them for tuning in. They’ve taken the time to remember your hangout and log on, so give them the applause they deserve, it is for them after all!
  • Introduce yourself. While you are the one hosting the hangout and have probably been bugging all of your contacts for weeks, some of your audience may not know who you are. So tell them!
  • Introduce your guests and fellow hangout panelists! They’ve also taken then time out of their day to be part of this, so make sure you deliver the intro that best describes them.
  • Lastly, introduce your topic. Why are you all gathered here today? What are you going to discuss, and what will your audience take away from the discussion. Also invite your audience to add comments or questions to YouTube that you can address. This will make it more engaging if they feel they are right there with you.


Changing cameras and keeping your speaker centred

Hangouts does a reasonable job of keeping the speaker focused, but sometimes it does get a bit stuck. It will automatically bring up the full screen video of the speaker based on audio input, however if it doesn’t, you can manually click on the person’s thumbnail screen to make it full screen. This can sometimes be useful when a person coughs, or if there is some background noise in a non speakers microphone. Don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to manage cameras; it can detract your attention from the discussion and potentially make it difficult for your audience if it doesn’t work right.


Keep the conversation flowing

This is the most important component of your hangout. Content delivery and interesting dialogue will keep your audience engaged, watching and contributing to the discussion. Much of what it takes to keep your conversation flowing hinges on your preparation. If you and your guests are well prepared with talking points or questions, then it will make the entire experience much more enjoyable and interesting.

As the host of the hangout, you are responsible for getting the best out of your guests and panelists, so some well scripted questions will ensure you keep moving forward. Taking the time to address each participant is also useful, especially those that are possibly a bit shy to be speaking live on a publicly broadcast hangout. A way to engage these people is to pass them an open ended question that plays to their strengths or specialties. Try doing this early to as many people as you can, this will help them loosen up and your discussion will flow much more organically.

A critical thing to remember is to not interrupt a speaker or cut someone off too early. Always leave ample silence at the end of each topic of discussion. You don’t want to disrupt their flow or another person’s thought process in the discussion. In saying this, always be mindful of the length of your hangout, and the questions coming up. It may be important as the host to keep the conversation moving and not let it get bogged down. This is your call however on how you handle this.

Depending on your topic of discussion and target audience, you may want to limit your hangout to a maximum length of 1 hour. This is something you will need to work out ahead of time to make sure you don’t get carried away.

Some more tips to keep your conversation flowing:

  • Ask open ended questions that are directed at a single individual, or open it up to the entire group.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence; it may allow the next speaker to interject with a new thought or idea.
  • If a topic dies out, move on to the next point, keep moving forward.
  • Engage with your audience who are watching you; ask them questions, get their feedback or input, and you can come back to it later in the discussion. See more below about the Q&A.
  • Add your own thoughts or ideas. Just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice!
  • Think about how many people you want in your hangout. More may make it harder to have a more engaging discussion. Google+ Hangouts allows for a maximum of 10, but 4-6 may be a better number.



A cool feature of Google+ Hangouts Live on Air is the live question and answer tool that allows your live audience on YouTube to directly engage with your hangout. This makes the entire hangout more interactive and I can highly recommend checking the box to allow for questions, as it isn’t the default setting. When a new question appears you will receive a notification. Clicking on the question highlights they you will be answering it. Once you’ve finished attending to the question or comment, you will click done, which will appear for your audience in the YouTube comments.

Have you also hosted a Hangout Live on Air? Let me know in the comments below, do you also agree with these points? Or do you have a different experience?

Next time I’ll finish this series with what to do after your hangout, how to make the video available, and how to extend the life of your hangout beyond the event.

Photo credit: ON AIR by Daniel Petzold