It’s one thing to use Google Hangouts the same way people use Skype for a private video chat with friends. It’s another thing when you decide to experiment with the “On Air” feature to make your video stream public on YouTube and beyond. I’ve learned through experience there are some important things you should consider. A few hours of planning prior to your live event will go a long way. Hangouts On Air is a free feature offered to Google+ users that allows you to use the internet to broadcast with nothing more than a webcam and web browser. It could be a church service, town meeting, little league game, live performance or even a wedding. If you want to have a good laugh you can watch my first attempts at participating in a couple live video streams here. Here are 8 live streaming tips for Google Hangouts On Air. Hangouts On Air will be abbreviated as HOA.
1. Maximize CPU Power
There’s a reason why stock cars don’t have head lights or air conditioning. They’re built for speed. When you’re doing a HOA you need to use the best computer you have access to with the fastest CPU (Central Processing Unit) otherwise know as a processor. That computer needs to be dedicated to the HOA only. No web surfing or other programs going on in the background so that you can conserve your computers horsepower. Encoding live video into ones and zeros and sending time sensitive packets of data all over the world for real-time communication requires power. Make sure you’re doing all you can to keep your computer dedicated to the live stream. If you have access to two computers dedicate one to the HOA and another to monitoring the live feed and moderating comments. You’re already at the mercy of your internet service upload speed and Google’s encoding & decoding methods. Don’t sacrifice quality by stealing CPU power to play Snood or Words with Friends in the background.
2. Do A Dry Run
Test everything before the event, then test it a second time. Keep in mind Murphy’s Law will be hard at work. If something could go wrong, it will. In the world of theater and live events they have these things called dress rehearsals. It’s remarkable the number of issues that can be caught and prevented by doing a walk through the day before. Once you get your HOA team on the same page and comfortable with the technology things will go more smoothly. I just did a HOA with the Redband crew and our dry run was very helpful. That said, Murphy and his law manifested itself in various ways that no one could have predicted. One example was that my lower thirds were not functioning after we went live. They worked perfectly during the dry run but when it came time to go live all I could get were some silly mustache overlays but no lower thirds! Oh well, you get what you pay for, we still had a blast doing the live show. Speaking of Murphy’s Law – I believe George Tucker (one of my Redband blogger buddies) actually experienced a blue screen of death minutes before Redband Radio episode 2 went live! Redband Blogger Buddies will be abbreviated as RBB.
3. Define How People Should View & Participate
This may seem redundant but I’m serious. You need to understand what’s happening behind the scenes and spell it out very clearly so that your audience of eager participants knows where to interact and leave comments. Define your live stream headquarters. This is important because there are at least three ways people can stumble across your live video feed…
- Google+ (initiate the HOA here)
- YouTube watch page (copy the embed code from here)
- Custom webpage (paste the embed code here)
As the person running the show it’s important to know where the HOA lives so you can promote it properly. Whether you realize it or not YouTube has its own thriving ecosystem. You may have a number of viewers commenting on the YouTube watch page while you are focused only on Google+ or your website. You can either designate a moderator to keep an eye on all the incoming comments from Google+, YouTube, and a custom webpage or you can direct users to a central location for live interaction. Personally, I like the idea of using a specific twitter hashtag that corresponds to your live event. You can designate someone to keep an eye on the hashtag using TweetDeck and bounce back and forth from the topic of the show to live audience interaction every 5 minutes or so.
4. Social Media Should Be Social
Mention viewers and their comments on the air! Interaction is key! If you’ve ever called into a radio program and had the chance to hear your voice on the air it’s a very cool feeling. Maybe it’s just me but there’s some sort of magical thrill about hearing your name and remarks live on the air. Doing this will not only foster loyalty among regular listeners but once your show becomes a scheduled occurrence and your audience begins to grow to thousands of viewers from around the world you will have a unique interactive experience that traditional broadcast mediums simply do not have – yet – for the most part. Traditional broadcast is starting to become more social media friendly. The best part about all of this is that you don’t need $500k of video equipment to broadcast live. If you’re a true social media pioneer, you can start a podcast from your basement and be pretty successful without taking on any risk. Plus it’s fun.
Nate Schneider has worked in the AV Industry since 2005 in both Live Sound and Commercial Integration. Currently he is an AV Designer by day and a YouTube Partner by night. Visit BigNate84.com to learn more about Nate and check him out on twitter at @BigNate84Howto