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Google Hangouts On Air: Save Time, Plan Ahead


Last week, Nik Eley-Carr from the PBS Black Culture Connection told us why "less is more" when hosting Google Hangouts On Air. This week, she wraps up her series with tips on partnerships and planning ahead. 


Promotion, Partnerships and Practice!

At the end of the day, Google Hangouts On Air is a tool. It takes good content, partnerships, promotion, and lots of practice to make your event a success.

To that end, let your users know when and where the broadcast is taking place by promoting it before it happens. This may seem like an obvious point to make, but it’s a critical one because the HOA cannot be set up in advance (See tip: “simple is best”). Alternatively, you can create a Google+ Events page and direct viewers to this page to promote your Hangout On Air.

Once your HOA is spun up and ready for broadcast, embed your YouTube link on the event page for a seamless experience for your viewers.

If possible, unite your partners and their promotional efforts through a single event page so your audience is not fragmented. This also helps minimize logistical set-up time. In hindsight, this is a strategy I would have changed for the March on Washington, which had multiple touch points (vs. one). For example:

     The March@50 Ep1 Jobs on PBS Black Culture (Google+)

     The March@50 Ep1 Jobs on PBS (Google+)

     The March@50 Ep1 Jobs on pbs.org (PBS.org)

In the days leading up to your HOA, set up time for a “dry run” with your panelists to meet each other, review the discussion rundown, and get comfortable with the platform. Now’s your opportunity to test lower thirds or audio/lighting, or to demonstrate how panelists will receive their invitations to your event on the day of. Your trial run is key, since you do not have the ability to set up your event in advance. I always recommend at least 15 to 30 minutes for prep before starting your broadcast (coupled with at least one practice HOA with panelists prior to your actual broadcast). This planning time is key to a successful event.

After your event, spread the word by introducing your chat to different communities around Google+, FB, Twitter, etc. If your content is evergreen, a majority of your traffic may come from “catch-up” viewing, e.g. on the PBS BCC page.


Strategies for Google+ Posts
  • Introduce your station when sharing a link to your chat and thank the moderators for creating the space.  
  • The moderators and owners have a star next to their name so you can also + mention the owner.
  • Always use categories when applicable.

Last Minute Tips

Here are a few parting tips that saved me time along the way:
  • Aim for 3-4 panelists per HOA. You can host up to 10, but I recommend half that amount for a candid discussion. 

  • Add all of your guest panelists to one of your Google+ circles (and vice versa). This will make the invitation process smoother on the day of your HOA. 

  • Host your guest panelists in separate rooms or locations (to minimize audio feedback). 

  • Connect to a landline when hosting an HOA (for a dependable connection). 

  • Consider using “evergreen” language within your HOA so that the discussion continues well after the LIVE event (e.g., directing viewers to Twitter or a Facebook for continued discussion). 

  • A great resource for Q&A as you get ready to plan your first (or next) Hangout On Air is Google Support

Good luck planning your next Hangout!






Nik Eley-Carr is Manager of Digital Content and Strategy at PBS in Washington, DC. Nik manages the PBS Black Culture Connection site and hosted 8 Google Hangouts On Air as part of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington last fall.