21 Pro Tips For Hosting a Watchable Google Hangout
Well, a lot actually. If you want to make your hangout standout from the crowd and look as good as you do, here’s a list of tips to follow.
1. Take a look at what’s behind you
Treat the entire area in your office or home that will be “in frame” like a highly controlled studio set. Spend sometime making it look pretty, at least throw away the empty bottles of water and the paper your sub for lunch was wrapped in.
You don’t want your viewers distracted by what's going on in the background, you want them focused on what you, your guests and the information you’re providing.
2. Prepare Introductions
This is one of my favorite things I like to do before all my hangouts.
First, it forces you to familiarize yourself with your guest more than if you just let them introduce themselves. It also provides you an opportunity to mildly "roast" them with an embarrassingly embellished depiction of their skills and talents.
If you get good enough you can get them laughing, loose and in a good mood within the first 30 seconds.
Don’t be afraid to entertain a little.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
It’s okay to talk to yourself.
Run through your awesome introductions several times to hear where your writing style clashes with the way you talk. Get comfortable making eye contact with the camera and talking directly to your audience.
4. Impromptu Teleprompter
If you are like me, and have your webcam placed off to the side of your computer monitor, you might want something in front of you to reference your awesome introductions or a list of talking points or questions for the hangout.
This is where a Google Nexus 7 or iPad mini come in handy. Create a Google Doc for your intros, that way you can easily pull them up on your tablet while still being able to edit them in real time on your desktop.
There are even teleprompter apps you can download, however I haven’t been brave enough to try one.
5. Make Custom Lower Thirds
Following along the lines of tip one, you want your audience to know who you are, what you do and where to go at all times of the hangout. You also want to know without question that they are watching one or YOUR hangouts.
Custom lower thirds will allow you to “brand” the hangout to have a consistent look and feel for every guest.
You can download Gimp, a free image editing software to start playing around and learning how to make your own. If not, you can always pay a designer to make a templet for you and just edit the name and website info for each guest.
6. Be On Time
This one is pretty self explanatory, showing up on time, every time is vital to train people to know when and where to be for your hangouts.
However, if your “big” guest is late you might want to have a little grace period, because all hangouts on air are recorded and if you plan on promoting the recording afterwards you might want to do what you can to preserve its value.
Just make sure to do damage control in the comments section and let everyone know what’s going on.
7. Know When the Broadcast is Starting
If I could create one hangout law, it would be to arrest everyone who starts a hangout without knowing it started.
Right now, after you hit “Start Broadcast” you will hear two ding’s, the second ding is your cue to start talking.
Let’s show a little respect to the hangout, shall we.
8. Stop Bribing People to Come Live
This tip is most likely not true, however I had to take this opportunity to voice my personal opinion on the power of live hangouts.
When I decide to spend my time, it’s not based on the hope I might “win” something. Instead it’s based on what I KNOW I will get out of that time spent.
And what you and your audience will get for attending a live event is more than those slackers who watch the recording.
The Go-getter's who go the extra mile and show up live will have the opportunity to interact directly with the experts talking and have THEIR questions answered. Directly shaping the conversation specifically for their needs.
So please stop making me feel like I’m buying a ticket for a reverse raffle and spend more time answering questions.
9. Play With Your Camera Angle
There is no hangout rule that says you need to place the camera directly in front of you and fill the screen with your face. Be creative, move it around a little to bring in more of a background and give your viewers a more complete view.
10. Give It Some Respect (Hide the Headphones)
I’m going to get a little nit-picky here, but again these are some of the little things that you can do to make your hangout feel more professional.
Almost everyone has a pair of small earbud headphones. Take one earbud and run it up your shirt to hide the wire, there’s no reason a hangout can’t have a little extra polish applied to it.
11. Quality Audio
We obviously went over this in great detail last time, but this is the most important thing you can do to producing a “watchable” hangout.
If you buy only one piece of equipment for your hangouts, it should be a decent microphone.
12. Good Lighting
Again, this was covered in great length in the second installment of this three part Google hangout series. However, there’s no excuse for having bad lighting.
Just knowing a few lighting basics will improve the look of your video greatly.
Don't be lazy, find a window.
13. Manually Control the Camera
This is a tip I haven’t heard many people talk about and see very few people actually doing.
Hangouts can be unpredictable and your guests might not always be broadcasting from the quietest environment (as much as you would like them to be). By manually switching the camera you allow the person talking to have center stage and protect them from any unexpected distractions.
You can do this by clicking on the persons video thumbnail in the filmstrip of the hangout, as Ronnie Bincer - the master hangout helper - calls it. If you want to revert back to automatic voice activated camera changes, just click on that persons video again.
14. Do a Test Hangout with Every Guest (That Lets You)
I would love to say this should be a hard fast rule with no exceptions, however if you’re lucky, you will eventually book a “big time” guest that simply doesn't have the time.
Make it a priority to offer a test hangout to everyone and strongly recommend or require it if the guest has never done a hangout before. Depending on your industry, this could be a majority of your guests.
15. Be Consistent
Set a schedule and stick to it, it’s that simple.
If you are going to take a break or deviate from it, let your audience know ahead of time.
16. Mix It Up
Placing these two tips next to each other could leave the “skimmers” confused.
Create interesting panels of guests. Don’t just get a bunch of people from the same industry, truly fascinating conversations happen when you cross the street and talk to someone different about the same topic. Put people together that would be unlikely to meet otherwise, see what happens. It will be fun.
17. Don’t Be Afraid to Fly Solo
Just because it’s called a “hangout” doesn't me you always have to “hangout” with someone.
If there’s a week where something important happened that you would like to address, or if a guest fell through at the last minute, click the start broadcast button for a little one-on-one time with your audience.
Podcasters can do it, why not us hangout folk?
18. Use Landing Pages
If you’re spending ALL this time putting these hangouts together, you better make sure your audience is watching them on your site.
No one will ever accuse a hangout of being able to easily capture emails (however there are a few potential options emerging) you are going to need to do the heavy lifting yourself and get people watching your hangouts on a conversion optimized landing page.
Note: I’m not suggesting you have to require people to register for your hangout, rather provide them with a compelling reason to give you their email related to your hangouts or information.
19. Pay Attention to Your Softer Side (Wardrobe)
Gentleman, unless you are a lifelong subscribe to GQ magazine, this might be a great opportunity to involve your significant other or fashion forward female co-worker in the process.
Take them shopping with you and have them help you create your hangout, or on camera image.
Just remember, solid colors usually work best and look for something with a high contrast from your background color. You will find there are two or three colors that really make your videos “pop” and create a very inviting image for people.
20. Check Your Upload Speed
This is one of the MOST overlooked requirements for hosting and joining a hangout successfully. Go to speedtest.net and test your internet connection speed, you are looking for an upload speed of at least 1 MB.
I currently have a 5 MB upload speed with my internet connection and hardly ever run into problems.
21. Prepare Your Guests
Make sure your guests know exactly what direction you would like the conversation to go. You don’t have to script every question (you can if you want) but a general list of 3-5 talking points will go a long way to making sure everyone is prepared.
Of course, none of these tips guarantees hangout success, your content has to be good and worth your audience's time.
Make sure your idea is good/interesting enough to fill the time with as much information as possible. This list will just be icing on the cake and make you stand out from the disrespectful hangout crowd.
You can have a casual, free flowing conversation and still follow all these tips. There’s nothing wrong with looking good.
You Tell Me
What do you like out of a good hangout? Does too much “polish” remove some of the hangout charm?