Tips for running a Google Hangout

We recently ran our first Simply Business surgery, using Google Hangout to host a live Q&A session with web expert Kate Russell. If you fancy running your own Hangout, try following our top tips to a successful live broadcast. 

Google Hangouts are video chats with up to nine people, integrated into the increasingly popular Google+ platform. Free to install and use, Google Hangout is similar to other available video chat software such as Skype, but Google has focused on group interaction rather than one-to-one video communication, something that has clear benefits for businesses. You can use Hangouts for meetings with people offsite, with the added benefits of Google Doc integration (allowing you to share and edit documents during the meeting), and a screensharing function. You can also use it to engage with customers and create great video content, by broadcasting interviews and Q&A sessions, for example, with the video automatically feeding through to your connected Youtube page. On the 12th March we hosted a live Hangout with Kate Russell and we’ve rounded up some tips for how to prepare for and run your own hangout.

Plenty of time before the Hangout

  • Promote. If you’re going to be broadcasting your Hangout and hoping that people tune in, make sure that you come up with a plan for promoting it with plenty of time to spare. If you usually send out an email newsletter to your customer base, include a link to the Hangout. Also drum up as much interest on your social media platforms as possible, and don’t forget to tell business partners or anyone else you interact with.

  • Prepare. Make sure that you have a rough structure or script, and that you know who is going to speak and what you want to discuss, to avoid any awkward moments of silence or the Hangout descending into chaos.

  • Rehearse. You can do a Hangout without broadcasting it, so do a dry run several times before you go live. It might be a good idea to have a separate Gmail/YouTube account for these rehearsals (one that isn’t followed by customers) just in case you do post or broadcast anything accidentally. Make sure that all your equipment is working properly, including your microphone and your webcam, and that you can clearly see and hear other participants. 

Just before the Hangout

  • Think about what people can see. Hopefully you will be the most eye-catching thing on the screen, but take a moment to sit in the space where you’ll be filming, and look around and behind you. Make sure that there isn’t a big pile of mess on camera, but also check for sensitive business documents or confidential customer information that’s on view. If you’re planning on doing Hangouts regularly, it may be worth getting a screen to put behind you, printed with your logo.

  • Let people around you know. Tell everyone sharing your office or the space where you’re filming about what you’re doing. You don’t want lots of background noise, people coming up and tapping you on the shoulder while you’re live on air, or everyone in your office being so keen to watch the Hangout that they slow down your internet connection. If you’re in a conference or meeting room, put a sign on the door and send an email round before you begin.

  • Stay in control. Google Hangouts cleverly switch the main view to the person who is speaking. When you’re broadcasting a Hangout, you might prefer to change the settings so that you can control when the view changes.

During the Hangout

  • Use a wired internet connection. On Wi-Fi, your internet connection will be more unreliable, and it may drop out while you’re midway through speaking. The quality may also be affected. Use a wired connection if possible, to ensure that your internet connection is as strong and stable as possible.

  • Don’t get distracted. While you’re on air, whether you’re speaking or not, make sure that your attention is focused and that you’re looking at the screen or the camera. A rehearsal is a good chance to make sure that you’re not in a place where there are going to be lots of distractions, or lots of things going on in your eyeline. Try not to leave the room and come back again during the Hangout, as this looks unprofessional; the Hangout should be of a reasonable length (no more than 60 minutes) so that participants can remain on-air and engaged throughout.

  • Don’t go it alone. Hangouts are best when used for a conversation with multiple participants. It’s great if you can get a panel of people to speak, and also brilliant if you can get customers to appear on the Hangout to ask questions. If this isn’t possible, consider using different members of your team to come in with questions and comments, so that viewers don’t get bored of watching a single person on screen.

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