How To Get Started With Google+ Hangouts

by 17 09/21/2012

Whether you want to meet, chat or broadcast, Hangouts are the killer feature of Google+.

And since they will eventually integrate all of Google’s previous messaging apps, it’s a good time to learn how to leverage this technology for your business. But before you get to the Hangouts themselves, there are a couple of areas you need to look at.

Here’s how to get started with Google Hangouts.

Google Hangouts

Hangout Prep: Your Profile

First of all, you need a Google+ account in order to use Hangouts properly and the centerpiece of that account is your Google+ profile. You need a great profile because when you announce a Hangout, potential guests will check out your profile to see how you describe yourself and what kind of content you have shared. Our Google+ guide provides some useful tips for tricking out your profile including:

  • Craft a killer introduction and discuss employment, education and places, using keywords selectively.
  • Make connections with influencers so they will follow you and show up in the circles displayed on your profile
  • Share great stuff – this will show up in your public posts and your +1s. Images and videos are particularly attractive.
  • When you write content, pay attention to the headlines, not only for SEO but to pull readers in.

Hangout Prep: The Tech

There’s nothing worse than muddy sound and dim light when you’re holding a Hangout – and it won’t do your company’s image any good. To run or take part in Hangouts, you will need:

Have a trial run ahead of time or join other people’s Hangouts to make sure that everything is working so you don’t get any nasty surprises. It’s also a good way to find out what Hangouts are really like so you can make yours even better.

Announcing Your Hangout

When is a Hangout not a Hangout? When it’s an event. The Google+ events functionality, released early this summer, allows you to create an event and invite people to it – and that works for Hangouts too.

Click on the events button in the Google+ sidebar menu to get started. If your event will be a hangout, select that event type from the drop down menu, then add an appealing title, date, time, location and details. Anyone who confirms attendance at your event will have Hangout information added automatically to their Google Calendar.

You can either hold a regular Hangout (with up to 9 people simultaneously) or a Hangout on Air, which you can stream on your Google+ profile. Hangouts on Air are recorded automatically and saved to your YouTube account so you can share them anytime you want.

Hangouts on Air

If you plan to take questions, then ask people to submit these ahead of time via the events page, a post on your Google+ profile or your other social media channels. This will help you make final decisions on what to cover and may give you ideas for future Hangouts.

Hangout Resources

Prepare for your Hangout like any other meeting or presentation. That means gathering the resources you will need to make your Hangout memorable. First of all, get a banner or poster you can set up behind you to brand your Hangout – that’s far better than having people see a bare wall. This will subtly let people know what the Hangout is about.

As you would expect, Hangouts integrate with other Google services, making it easy to share documents and presentations in your Google Drive with your Hangout audience. You can also watch YouTube videos together or use some of the Hangout apps mentioned earlier for additional collaboration.

On the day of the Hangout, show up early so you can make sure everything is working. Ask participants to introduce themselves and use the built in features to bring the person who is speaking to the front if you need to. Remember to look straight at the camera so it looks like you are looking straight at the audience, then start your presentation.

After the Hangout

Once your Hangout is over, you can:

  • share the video if you have done a Hangout on Air
  • share the transcript (available through new Google+ tools)
  • follow up with participants to find out what they thought about the event and what questions, if any, they still have
  • start planning a new event to build on your first Hangout

The Payoff

Google+ Hangouts offer big benefits for your brand. They allow you to:

  • get face to face with your target audience
  • showcase the expertise you already have
  • provide training
  • launch products or services
  • provide customer service
  • become a broadcaster

All of this means that more people know about your brand and provide more engagement. Isn’t it time you held your first Google+ Hangout?

About 

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

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17 COMMENTS

Nick Armstrong

I love Google+ Hangouts. They’re my new favorite way to do business meetings, walk someone through a new website or a concept, do interviews (they can be recorded out to YouTube!), and pretty much anything else. It just works, which is totally amazing.

The transcripting thing is just amazing.

I bet this will be how webinars are done soon enough! :-D

September 21, 2012 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Yes, that’s a great addition to the tool, Nick. It makes it so easy to give people multiple ways to access the content.

    September 21, 2012 Reply

Jenny

Been planning on starting a weekly hang out but haven’t jumped in yet. This helped! Thanks, Sharon :)

September 21, 2012 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Looking forward to seeing your first event, Jenny. I’ve done a couple of small ones – they are great fun.

    September 21, 2012 Reply

Annie Sisk (Pajama Productivity)

I totally needed this, Sharon! So timely. Can’t wait to give it a try!

September 21, 2012 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    I think you missed out on the last carnie hangout, Annie – it was great to put names to faces and we all felt more connected as a result.

    September 21, 2012 Reply

Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef

Thanks for this tutorial! It came just at the right time for me. I’ve been thinking I needed to learn how to use Hangouts as an alternative to regular screen sharing apps or programs. Would love to see a follow up with more in-depth and advanced tutorials. This topic would make an excellent class in itself!

September 21, 2012 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Hmm; now you’ve got me thinking, Tea. :) Just downloaded a screencast tool, too, which would be great for illustrating it.

    September 21, 2012 Reply

Nicole Fende

Sharon this is very timely. I was wondering about Google+ plus hadn’t wanted to invest the time to figure it out. Thanks for making so easy!

September 24, 2012 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Hangouts would be a great addition to your radio show, Nicole – looking forward to the first one!

    September 24, 2012 Reply

SandyMc

Awesome Sharon and very timely too. Am just closing my account with GoToMeeting (underutilised) and having experienced our Word Carnival event, thought hangouts were brilliant. Thank you for making it so easy to get going, really appreciate the detail and thought you have put into this.

September 24, 2012 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Glad you enjoyed it, Sandy. It is easy to get started and it never hurts to experiment with the platform.

    September 25, 2012 Reply

Marcie

This is very timely as I was going to start using this really soon, and this was the info I needed to get started. Thanks Sharon.

October 4, 2012 Reply

Larry

I am not a techie but I know how to follow instructions. every tutorial for getting started with GH leaves me stumped. After you sign into Google+ and create a profile, then what? Pls let me know the next steps to start a GH. Do all the other people in the hangout have to create Google + accts and go thru the same steps??

November 2, 2013 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    There’s a big green Hangouts button to the top right of your profile, Larry. Just click on it and you get the option to start a Hangout – it will walk you through the steps to make sure your webcam is set up, you have sound and so on. I think if you have a public Hangout anyone with access to the page can see it, but please double check that.

    November 4, 2013 Reply


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