Lessons Learned from Our First Google Plus Hangout on Air
A few weeks ago we brought process server association leaders together to conduct our first Google Plus Hangout on Air. The goal was to discuss assault on process servers (a hot topic in that industry) and to generate some content to help promote our public awareness campaign: PAAPRS (Promoting Assault Awareness and Protective Regulations for Servers) that we’ve launched through ServeNow.com.
Here’s our first hangout: What Association Leaders Say About Process Server Assault
Special thanks to Ruth Reynolds of NCAPPS, Steve Glenn of PSACO, and Davy Keith with MAPPS for helping us pull this off.
There were a number of issues ranging from audio and technical issues to lack of preparation to simple unforeseen circumstances popping up. Here are some major lessons learned from our first Google Plus Hangout on Air:
1. If it’s your first broadcast, then accept that it’s probably going to bomb
I’ll let you in on a little backend secret: we did the same broadcast twice. In our first attempt we really had no idea what we were getting into. Research the process, prepare yourself and your participants, and accept that there are roadblocks that won’t even cross your mind until they happen on air. Accept that your first broadcast might not even be usable. Our first broadcast can definitely be branded as a failure and to nobody’s fault but our own inexperience. Luckily it preceded a second broadcast that went better than we could have possibly imagined.
2. Be thorough and specific about equipment
The cardinal rule of pulling off something like this is: be thorough. In a blind error, I originally did not mention that participants needed a working webcam, microphone, and solid internet connection. That’s something I should have noted from the beginning.
3. Send checklists, guides, and questions in advance
The more information participants have up front the more smoothly the hangout will likely run. We sent out two separate checklists and a list of questions that we would ask. The first checklist was sent out a week before the hangout and touched on setting up equipment, running a test with a friend, and getting connected. The second one reminded participants to clean up their surroundings, how they should be framed in the video, to turn off phone ringers and other important things like to not pick their noses on camera.
We emailed questions with the first checklist in order to give participants time to think over their answers.
4. Test, test, troubleshoot, and test again
We conducted three separate tests before the broadcast hangout:
- An in-house test
Conducting a test with another person in the company allowed us to learn the features of a broadcast hangout, test different settings, and see how the video processes and uploads directly to YouTube.
- Tests with each individual participant
Each participant did a separate test run to evaluate equipment, internet connections and webcams and to troubleshoot any issues. This also allowed us to answer any questions and run tests without boring other participants as they waited their turn.
- The group test
The group test was a quick, fifteen minute hangout the day before the broadcast in which we walked through a test question to provide an example of how the live broadcast would run.
5. Let the participants know what will happen during and after the hangout BEFORE you broadcast live
This is a really minor component, but can make a huge difference. If you want short answers, tell ’em. Let them know if they need to stay on the line, what to do if the get kicked out, etc.
6. Take the reigns, my friend. It’s your job to guide the conversation
I cannot stress this point enough. Taking a leading position and directing the broadcast is part of why our content flowed so smoothly. After explaining to viewers what we would be discussing and introducing the participants, we asked questions one at a time and to a specific person. Each person had the opportunity to answer, but we dictated the order. The participants played off of each other very well. We closed the hangout by thanking participants, noting the importance of associations, and by directing viewers to the PAAPRS page.
7. Power through: live broadcasts show no mercy
Once the broadcast goes live there’s very little room for error even though it’s inevitable. Someone is probably going to stutter. Some technical component is probably going to crash. Something will happen that will throw things off. It’s important that you and your participants understand that no matter what you have to keep pushing through.
8. No matter what, be prepared to cut the footage
As you can see in our hangout, we’ve added an intro, some graphics, and an extro. What you don’t see is that we’ve also edited out some stuttering, pauses caused by a timezone delay, and a whole question that one participant was kicked out for. During the live broadcast you are at the mercy of whatever happens, but there’s no reason to not fix those flub-ups, especially if you plan to embed the video or share it through social media (which you should). Post production editing cut about 15 minutes of unnecessary footage from the video, a considerable difference when the total runtime is over 30 minutes.
9. Ask for feedback from participants and viewers
From a production standpoint, the most valuable information we gained from the hangout was through feedback from our participants. Their ideas, thoughts, and struggles helped us form our process and as they pointed out what did and did not work and tossed out ideas a refined process developed that will make future hangouts run more smoothly.
Getting feedback from viewers is equally valuable, just like with any piece of content be it video, article, or infographic. So far we’ve had some great feedback from viewers, which is important when you’re intricately involved in the creative process. When I watch the video I still see every sequence I had to cut, every transition that didn’t quite work out, and every stutter I made on camera. Feedback from viewers reminds us that the information is the most important component of content production, and so long as the majority of viewers can digest it the goal has been met.
10. This is some of the most powerful content we’ve produced, and it took the least amount of effort.
We threw the party and invited a few guests; that’s really it. We didn’t bring much to the table. Trial and error aside, running a broadcast hangout was a fast way to generate some extremely valuable content. In less than an hour we pulled together content that would have taken days of interviews and research time, and the end result wouldn’t have been near as compelling. We simply put together a list of questions that we wanted answered, asked a few friends to participate and let them go for it. The result is three industry leaders playing off of each other’s expertise, and that’s content that simply doesn’t exist for process serving anywhere on the web.
I would encourage anybody who has considered hosting a Google Plus Hangout on Air to give it a try. Go for it! The first one is really just about working at the kinks, and once you’ve refined your process you can start churning out high level content at a phenomenal pace. I see many on air hangouts in the future for Lawgical. In fact, we’re already planning our second one, so stay tuned!
As Director of Marketing and Multimedia, Kimberly sets strategy for outreach, distribution, social media, and network growth, and manages multimedia production for the network. She has a Bachelor of Science with a background in design, marketing, production, editorial, and operations and strategy. Kimberly consults with the production, operations, and tech teams on a variety of projects and initiatives. You can follow Kimberly on Twitter at @kimberlyfaber.