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How To Start A Google Hangout and Look Good Doing It

by | August 15, 2013 | Google Plus Marketing

Google-Hangouts-logo

Jumping into the Google hangout world can come with a decent learning curve. There are a lot of moving parts that go into setting up and producing a watchable hangout. So many that you might feel overwhelmed and miss out one the most powerful tools for your business, period.

Don't worry, we aren't going to let that happen. Now that you know a few ways you can use hangouts to improve and grow your business, you just need to know how to actually start one and make it look good.

Let’s first start by walking you through the two different types of hangouts.

Hangout Types

1. Hangouts on Air (Broadcasted live for everyone to watch)

First, Google likes to change things so frequently that by the time I finish typing this sentence and especially by the time you finish reading it, this process could have changed. However, as of right now, to start a hangout on air go to your Google+ side menu and click on the “Hangout’s on Air” tab.

Hangouts On Air Tab

This will bring you to a page that features every hangout that is currently “live” on the air for you to watch.

NOTE: This might be a great place to spend some time before you jump in with both feet to get an idea how other people are using hangouts (good and bad) and barrow what might work for you.

Next you will want to click “Start a Hangout On Air.”

Start_Hangout

From there, a new window will open asking you to name your broadcast and invite your guests.

Name_Hangout

Make sure to only include the names of the people who will be participating in the discussion. Now click, “Start Hangout On Air.”

Don't worry, the hangout is NOT live yet, you are just entering the “green room” of sorts. Here you will be able to adjust your audio and video settings, talk with guests prior to going live and get access to the hangout unique URL and embed code.

This will allow you to share the link in an email or on social media. If you really want to get fancy, you can create a landing page on your website to embed the google hangout.

You will also be able to add a visually appealing “lower third” (name tag) and a few other fun options. Once you’re ready hit the start broadcast button you will see a countdown begin. When it reaches zero you will need to wait to hear TWO ding’s before the broadcast is live.

Start_Broadcast

That’s it, you're on.

2. Non Hangout on Air or Hangout Video Call (Private to only those in the hangout)

A non hangout on air is just like any other traditional video call, with the not so small exception of up-to ten people can participate at one time.

You can start one of these regular hangouts from the left hangouts tab on Google+ or from the right sidebar in your Gmail account. You can even start them from the “hangouts” app on your smartphone or tablet.

Simply find the person(s) you want to hangout with and click on their name. That should open up a chat dialog box. Once there you can click on the little video camera icon to invite them to a hangout

Hangout_Chat_Box

These types of hangouts are great for clients meetings, open offices hours or even a quick brainstorming session.

Production Value: Lighting and Audio Tips

Now that you have gone to all the trouble to set up these video calls/broadcasts, you are going to want them to look and sound good. That's done by learning a little about audio and lighting.

If you need a more in depth walk through of starting a hangout, check out this Ultimate Guide to Google Hangouts.

1. Looking Good (Start With What You Have)

Because I love cool and fancy gear, this is the hardest tip for me to give, however it’s definitely the most practical.

Webcam

Before you run out and buy a shiny new webcam, most laptop computers come with one built in. Sure it might not be the best, but see what you can do with it first. Good lighting will go a lot further to making your hangout look amazing than spending lavishly on an expensive camera.

Lighting

You will be surprised what you can do with a well placed window. Natural light is the easiest, most cost effective way to light your video properly.

You will want to make sure to:

  • Sit directly in front of or slightly off to one side of the window
  • Avoid having windows behind you.
  • Turn off all other lights in the room
  • Film when the room is bright, but not too bright.
  • Hang a thin (shear) blind to slightly diffuse the light

Audio

This will be the hardest one to make due with.

The first place you should spend money to improve the quality of your hangouts is on audio. Good, clear audio is VERY important and often overlooked.

Try using the built in mic on your webcam or computer, you might be able to get by with it for a while, but it’s unlikely.

Things to do:

  • Adjust the acoustics of the room (hang curtains, bring in extra furniture, etc.) the less room your voice has to bounce off empty walls the better.
  • Talk as close to the mic as possible.

2. Go Pro: Flashy Upgrades

At least you tried. If anyone of these areas isn't “cutting the mustard” then here are some options on how to spend money wisely.

Webcam

If all the natural light in the universe still isn't making your webcam look good, that mean you should do your pretty face a favor and buy an external USB webcam.

I currently use the Logitech C310 720p HD webcam and to be honest it's the best budget webcam I could recommend. Sure, it’s not the highest quality, but it get’s the job done. For around $29 on Amazon you can't go wrong.

If you want to do it right, right from the start, you might want to consider the Logitech C920. Plenty of other video heavy internet marketers like David Siteman Garland, Clay Collins and James Wedmore have all gone on record and recommended this webcam. Not to mention, it’s a steal for $75 dollars.

Lighting

This is definitely the most difficult part of the process to do inexpensively - that isn't hideous looking and a chore to set up everytime.

However, after a lot of research and plenty of trial and error. I think I have come up with one of the most affordable, compact DIY lighting solutions out there.

First you are going to want to look around for any old desk lamps you have lying around, because they will work perfectly to light your desk area for a hangout. If not, two of these guys will do the trick.

Once you have those ready you will want to pick up a few of these Sylvania Ultra LED light bulbs to use in your lamps.

Two important things to know about light bulbs:

  1. Color temperature
  2. Lumens (brightness)

The color temperature for these light bulbs is 3,000 k, you don’t need to know what that means, just that if you add any lights in the future make sure their color temperature is also 3,000 k.

Next you are going to want to go into the kitchen and grab a roll of parchment paper to diffuse your two main “spotlights.” Simply cut out a square and tape it over the entire front of the light fixture.

This whole light setup should be able to be achieved for under $200, give or take, depending on how many desk lamps you were able to find.

Audio

There are plenty of options to blow the budget in this area, however there is really only one microphone I would buy that doesn't make you sacrifice quality for price.

That microphone is the Audio Technica AT2020 and for around $100 on Amazon you will not find a better value.

If you want a sleeker, more budget friendly option, I would recommend the Audio Technica ATR-3350 lavalier microphone. For $20 there’s really nothing more to think about.

No need to do your best Call of Duty impression and wear a gigantic headset (more on that in the third and final hangout post), this microphone remains quietly tucked away delivering great sound. The only downside is the mic does take a battery that will have to eventually be replaced.

If you're looking to go high-end, I currently use the Audio Technica AT4033a which can be yours for $399.

The only reason I have/use this mic is because Audio Technica’s world headquarters is 15 minutes from my house and I was lucky enough to know someone who worked there at one time and could buy the microphones at cost. You will have a hard time telling the difference between the AT2020 and At4033a, trust me.

NOTE: I personally own all three of these microphones and have used them in various videos and situations. You can listen to all three in action below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFsJ2ZSDdxk

3. Optional Equipment

External Sound Card

I bought one of these for a DJ business I was running back in college and it has consistently received the MVP award through several different career changes.

I use the M-Audio’s USB Mobile Pre soundcard/mixer which will dramatically improve the recording and sound quality of anything your computer touches. You can control the volume of your two mic channels and even the volume of your headphones. It’s absolutely the best $130 I have ever spent. You can get one used for $50.

Overhead Boom Mic Stand

This is the newest edition to my bag of tricks, but once you have one, you won’t know how you lived without it. I just bought the Heil PL2T overhead broadcast boom and have been loving every second of it.

If you are going to get serious about any type of multimedia content creation, your microphone will always need to be at the ready and setting up and tearing down this equipment gets old fast and quickly leads to no content getting created.

Also, it allows me the ability to keep the mic out of frame and position it for maximum audio quality.

Pop Filter

Or sometimes called windscreens. Depending on how closely you talk into the mic, it's probably a good idea to have a pop filter on hand. This will soften the blow when say that starts with "p" or "b".

Finishing Up

Now you should have a Google+ hangout up, running, looking and sounding pretty good. The only thing that’s left is actually hosting a hangout someone wants to watch. That’s what our third and final post will address, teaching you how to host an exciting hangout and put on a few finishing touches that will give it the added polish it needs to standout from the crowd.

You Tell Me

After all that, I bet you have at least one question. How do I know that? Because there’s tons of stuff I didn't tell you and I know you want to host the best hangout you can.

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13 Comments

  1. Jason Cass

    Joey…this is such great stuff..

    Anyone looking for ways to do Hangout’s this is a must. From here on out this will be the guide that I use to help others understand.

    Another great thing about GROW is having contributors like Joey.

    • Joey Giangola

      Jason, thanks for the kind words.

      Just trying to hold my own here with all these insurance marketing heavy weights. I thought this might be helpful for some people.

  2. Ben

    I couldn’t agree more about looking your best on camera, getting the lighting right and getting a microphone so you sound clear, if you’re going to broadcast to people you really need to get this stuff sorted.

    • Joey Giangola

      Ben, well said. It’s important, but should not prevent you from getting started.

      The easiest rule of thumb to follow, the video and audio quality should not distract people from the message you are trying to deliver. If it is then you have work to do, if not then you can improve the quality at your own pace.

  3. Nick Gann

    This is a great article. Thanks Joey! My Amazon cart is now full.

  4. Carl

    Thanks for this Joey.
    I am attempting to use Audio Technica overhead mics to prevent participants from having to wear headphones around a boardroom-type table. However the echo is killing the experience!

    It would be nice if Google invested a bit in advanced echo cancellation, like the Polycom units are able to do, for a more natural video conference. Not sure if you know if that’s in the pipeline?

    • Joey Giangola

      Hey Carl,

      Sorry for the delayed response, must have missed this comment.

      Sounds like you have a pretty involved setup. I honestly can’t say what’s in Google’s pipeline (definitely don’t have that kind of access) but if you have multiple people on the same hangout in the same room it’s going to be hard not to use headphones unless everyone’s participating from one computer.

      Here’s a hangout example that might be what your talking about. https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cqjueid2mj56pe6nbkh876hcn2g

      Doesn’t sound like they’re doing anything to fancy besides using the built in mic on the webcam. Which is a little rough at times, but these are some big wig Google plusers doing it.

  5. Derek Murphy

    Thanks Joey! I’m making Google on Air videos, but the quality is so bad and pixelly. I’ve tried a couple different cameras, the lighting is good… I’m not sure what’s going wrong? I have the quality settings but it only shows “automatic” or low/poor quality.

    • Joey Giangola

      Hey Derek,

      Sorry for the delayed response. I must not be getting comment notification on these old articles anymore, my apologies.

      If you haven’t given up entirely on hangouts, I would check your internet connections upload speed, it should be between 1-5 MB. http://www.speedtest.net/

      Let me know if you’re still having trouble or how I might be able to help.

        • Joey Giangola

          Honestly Derek, it was just a guess. What I see in this video looks about par for the course on Hangouts.

          Of course Camtasia will pull a much clearer picture because you’re not broadcasting live. If there is no real-time interaction in your video’s Camtasia is the way to go. You will have added time rendering the video and uploading to YouTube, but the the overall quality should be worth it?

          What’s your overall goal for using HOA’s?

  6. Julia

    I want to use HOA as essentially a gotowebinar-type platform. Which means people need to be able to call in by phone, not just by video call. Is there any way to make this happen? I went to a lot of trouble setting it all up, trailer and all, before running into this wall.

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