Google+ recently rolled out its Hangouts On Air tool to all of its users. In the spirit of Internet Week, which is coming up May 14 – 18 in New York City, GalleyCat and AppNewser editor Jason Boog and I decided to try it out. We invited Mashable editor-in-chief Lance Ulanoff, Buddy Media VP of communications Joe Ciarallo, and Newsweek Daily Beast senior social media editor Brian Ries to join us On Air and help us develop our game plan for the next week.
Internet Week is headquarted in SoHo, but the panels and after parties happen all over the city. All of our guests had some helpful tips on which events to attend and how to use social media to stay in the loop. We also talked about the perils of live blogging on Twitter and of running out of batteries. The Hangout is a more casual venue than we’ve used in the past, so Jason Boog showed us an old GI Joe video that he had discovered at last year’s Internet Week. We even got a surprise visit from a plastic shark. You can see a recording of the live event below.
Setting up the Hangout on my computer was easy. All you need is a webcam, a microphone, a Google + account, and a verified YouTube account to make the event public. The mediabistro team added all the participants to our Circles, or network, and clicked “Start a Hangout” to set up a group. (You have to install the plugin on the computer first, but this doesn’t take very long.) We chose to run it “with extras” so that we could give the Hangout a name.
Then, we filled in the names of the people we wanted to include. Once everyone got the invite, they could join in and wait for the moderator (me) to click the record button and start the video chat. Anyone could watch the broadcast, but only the people we invited would show up on screen.
You don’t need any video editing skills to highlight different speakers – the person who is currently doing the talking will automatically appear larger than the others. Jason and I tried to volley the questions so that multiple people wouldn’t be talking at once. When we addressed the group as a whole, the Hangout bot became a moderator on our behalf, selecting one person to pull up on the screen, and giving the others the visual cue to wait for their next turn.
Everything else we used, like the screen sharing, YouTube video, and the special effects, could be accessed with one click and without interruption.
Once it was finished, we could save the video and embed it on our blogs just like anything else on our YouTube channel. It was free, quick, and a great way to include multiple people on screen for one event.