Ever want to hold a press conference or online meeting with broadcast capabilities from the comfort of your own conference room? It’s never been easier – or cheaper – thanks to Google+ Hangouts on Air. Let’s look at a few basics you’ll need to get up and running.
First, if you want members of the press (including new media press like bloggers and social media influencers) to participate, be sure to contact them in advance and add them to a circle on your Google+ account so that they can participate in the Hangout.
Next, you’ll want to set a date and time for the event, then create an event invitation for it:
To broadcast to the world, be sure to create an appropriate landing page on your website that contains a YouTube placeholder for the event’s video feed. If you want to make it registered-guest only, consider using a registration form or password protection on the page:
On the day of the event, you’ll want to switch out the video placeholder with the embed code from the Hangout on Air.
Finally, you’ll want to host the press conference someplace appropriate. If you plan to do a series of them, or you plan to do webinars and other events with Google+ Hangouts as more than just a one-time event, consider purchasing an inexpensive Chromebox and hooking it up to your conference room TV. (the SHIFT one is Velcro-taped to the back of the TV)
This gives you full Google+ Hangouts capabilities in a dedicated machine at reasonably low cost.
No matter what, you’ll want to follow some basic guidelines for Google+ Hangouts.
1. Good sound. As David Tames from Kino-Eye.com says, great video begins with great audio. People will watch a fuzzy TV that they can hear, but they lose interest quickly in a TV with no sound.
Get a decent headset or microphone setup to do Hangouts with. It doesn’t have to be high-end professional gear – just something that puts a microphone relatively close to the mouths of the people speaking. Bad choices would be the microphones built into laptops, webcams, and mobile devices. Good choices would be lavalier microphones, USB desktop microphones, and USB headset microphones.
2. Good lighting. Being well lit is an essential part of Google+ Hangouts (and all video). You don’t need to spend a fortune to be well-lit! At a minimum, you need two lights in front of you. One should be a close light source in front of you, like a nice desk lamp. The second should be a filler light source, like a floor torch lamp, to your side. Ideally, you’d have a three-point lighting system, with a close light to the front, a medium light to the side, and a distant light behind.
Google+ video isn’t super high definition, so you don’t need to go overboard – visit the home furnishings section of the local big box retail store and pick up a couple of inexpensive lamps to get the job done.
3. Ethernet/wired Internet connection. The one thing Google+ Hangouts are hungry for is Internet bandwidth. You need a high-bandwidth, low-latency Internet connection, which automatically rules out any kind of wireless Internet access. Plug an Ethernet cable straight into your router or modem for the best results, or if you’re working in an office space, get to the router with as few connections in between as possible (ask your IT folks).
What’s the difference? Without getting too technical, imagine a highway. It has a number of lanes and a speed limit. Your Internet connection’s bandwidth is equal to the number of lanes on your information highway. All other things being equal, more lanes are better. Your Internet connection also has latency, or how fast the data flows. A 10 lane highway clogged at rush hour can be slower than a local road that has no traffic. Likewise, a big bandwidth Internet connection can still be slow – and that’s the biggest problem with wireless Internet connections. Lots of lanes, but very slow!
4. A script, show notes, or outline. Unlike conventional videos, Google+ Hangouts are much more like webinars and real world press conferences. They’re fully live videos, so having a script, show notes, or at least an outline of what you want to have happen is super important to avoid confusion and appearing unprofessional. If you’ve got co-hosts, work out some signals and methods for communicating whose turn it is to speak so that there’s a minimum of dead air time. Consider a Google+ Hangout to be identical to a live TV talk show and you’ll get an idea of the level of preparation you should have to make it a success.
Let us know if you try out a Google+ Hangout for your next press event!
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology