Tips to Follow Before Starting a Webcam Video Hangout

By Sidharth | Google

Fraser Chain on Google Plus shares some valuable tips and tricks to help the first-time users of Hangouts on Air. While these tips are designed specially for the Google Plus users, there are some really good suggestions and takeaways you could use next time when you are doing any live video chat.

Gear to Use For Video Chatting

  • The quality of the video camera and microphone matter a lot. Get a good webcam like a Logitech 910C and a headset microphone. Don’t settle for crappy embedded webcams.

    headphones for video chat

  • You want to run your hangout on the fastest computer you have at your disposal. That will make the video as smooth as possible.
  • Every participate should use a wired line (not wireless) to maximize your upload speed.
  • Everyone needs to wear headphones or ear buds to reduce echo. No exceptions.
  • You want to avoid back lighting, which will make a person dark in the video. Don’t have a bright window behind your back. Get some kind of light pointing at you.
  • Try to have an interesting background behind you. A plain white wall is really boring. But a big living room can look really great.

Initial Preparations

  • If you’re going to have a lot of people participating, start the Hangout early to get everyone in and settled, with the right devices, etc. Remember that the Hangout is secret until you actually hit broadcast.

    thinking simpsons

  • You can only invite people in your circles into the Hangout, so make sure you have all the people you want in a circle beforehand. It’s very difficult to invite people specifically if you don’t have them in circles.
  • You can’t invite the “Public” into a Hangout on Air. If you do need to do that, you can always copy-paste the URL to the chat, so people can join it directly.
  • Minimize the amount of programs running on your computer. You might want to screenshare various parts of your computer during the Hangout, so make sure you’re not going to be broadcasting anything private. Strip down your browser toolbars, turn off chat programs, etc. Auto hide your dock/start menu so people don’t see it if you need to screenshare.
  • Think about copyright/intellectual property before you start streaming. Make sure you own the rights to anything you broadcast, or there will be hell to pay, with angry lawyers.
  • You can join a Hangout twice from two different devices. This will let you put up screenshots, videos, etc in another pane.
  • Queue up all your other methods of promoting the Hangout, like Twitter, Facebook, etc. When you go live, you’ll be able to copy-paste the URL and multiply the number of viewers.
  • To maximize the viewership, try to stick to a regular schedule. We record Mondays at 2000 GMT and Thursdays at 1800 GMT.
  • Create an intro screen graphic beforehand that introduces the Hangout. You’ll run this in your hangout for the first 5 minutes before you actually get started.

Running the Google+ Hangout

  • The Hangout doesn’t go public until you actually click “Start Broadcast”. Your YouTube recording starts after that point too.
  • When you do hit broadcast, the Hangout will appear in your stream, so you’ll want people to link directly to the post that contains the Hangout. That way you can get people to post comments, give feedback, etc. You want to corral people into this single location.
  • You can get the permalink to the Hangout by right-clicking on the timestamp of the post that contains the Hangout.
  • For the first 5 minutes of your Hangout, run a graphic that explains that the Hangout is about to start. Get all of the participants to mute their audio/video so it’s all black screens. You can’t talk to each other, but you can coordinate through chat. This will give your audience a few minutes to join in, and settle down. It also gives you time to Tweet, FB share and embed your Hangout in all your websites.
  • You can get the embed code for the video in the upper right-hand corner of the window. You can put that into websites.
  • Your live video will also be broadcast over on YouTube. People will be making comments over there, so make sure you watch for comments on both Google+ and YouTube.
  • People find typing and background noises really frustrating, so encourage people to mute their microphones when they’re not talking.
  • You’re the director. This means that you can override the camera switching that Google normally does. If you click on a person’s pane and make them the focus, the viewers will see that too. But you can also just let the Hangout handle the switching on its own. Just don’t forget to click the focus off again.
  • It’s okay to be casual and make mistakes. Viewers appreciate that it’s real and they’re not seeing some overly slick production. But try to create the highest production quality you can.
  • During the course of the Hangout, you’ll see the total number of viewers listed in the upper right-hand corner of the Hangout. Yay!
  • If you want to let the public into your Hangout and join the broadcast, you can post a link to the Hangout into the comments. Anyone who clicks that link will appear in the Hangout. Once publicized, though, it can never be un-publicized. You’re stuck with anyone who jumps into your public show.


  • The output video dropped into your YouTube account is pretty low quality, so you’ll want another way of recording it if the quality is an issue (something like Screenflow).
  • That output video is set to public by default. It’s also embedded into the original post on Google+ where you hosted the live show. And there’s no way to remove it, without deleting the whole post.
  • The trimming tools on YouTube take 6+ hours to render, so it’s better to just post the whole hangout if you’re happy with the quality and didn’t say anything embarrassing in the beginning. You’ll want to practice minimizing the initial preparations, so you don’t need to even trim it.
  • Make sure you embed the output video somewhere accessible after the fact. We find we get about 20x the viewership afterwords than what happened live. People will expect to be able to see what happened in the hangout.

P.S. Make sure you have verified your YouTube account. You want to make sure your account can handle videos longer than 15 minutes, otherwise, your Hangout won’t get saved.

About the Author

Hi, I am Sidharth. Full-time blogger. Editor of Blogote. And a self-proclaimed geek!

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