social media how to Do you want to try a Hangout On Air, but aren’t sure where to start?

Are you looking for a new way to connect with your community?

Google Hangouts On Air are an effective way to showcase your expertise.

In this article you’ll discover what Google Hangouts On Air are, how to create and host them and what happens when they’re over.

The Basics of Google Hangouts On Air

Google Hangouts On Air are a simultaneous public broadcast on Google+ and your YouTube channel. During the Hangout, YouTube live-streams and records the session, then hosts it on your YouTube channel automatically. All that and it’s free too.

Since Hangouts work specifically with Google+ and YouTube, you’ll need to connect those accounts. To do that, go to YouTube’s Advanced Settings, choose Connect With a Google+ Page and choose the one you want.

If you have more than one Google+ profile (e.g., a business page or a profile tied to a different Gmail account), decide which one you’ll run your Hangouts from. It’s important to choose wisely because it’s hard to unlink these accounts once you’ve set them up.

Below you’ll find out how to create, promote, host and repurpose a Hangout On Air.

#1: Set Up Your Hangout On Air

It’s not hard to set up a Hangout On Air, but if you’ve never done it before you may need some guidance. Once you’ve set up one, creating others will be a breeze. Follow these quick steps to get going:

1. Go to the Google+ account associated with your YouTube channel.

2. Hover over the Home menu and choose Hangouts.

3. On the Hangouts page, click Hangouts On Air.

4. On the next page, click Start Hangout On Air. (Don’t worry, you’re not starting the event right now.) You’ll see the Hangout On Air pop-up box. This is where you’ll set the basics of your event.

create a hangout on air

Set up your Hangout on Air’s basic information.

5. Give your Hangout a title and description. (I have some advice about this at the end of this section.)

6. Click Later to pick a date and time in the future or click Now do an impromptu Hangout.

7. In the To field, invite Public to make sure everyone who has you in their circles sees the invitation. You can also invite individual people, relevant public communities or circles in which you’d like to promote your event.

8. Click Share.

You end up on the Hangout On Air’s event page, which I’ll get to in #3 below. If you ever need to get back to your Hangout On Air’s event page, use the Home menu and choose Events.

hangout on air event page

Your Hangout On Air event page.

But first, here’s that advice I promised about choosing your title and writing your description.

Your event title is worth some serious consideration. It needs to create buzz so people want to attend your Hangout (and, we hope, tell their friends), but it’s also important because it contributes to your SEO rank.

Google loves to promote its own platforms, so if you’re hosting a Hangout On Air about a newsworthy topic and use a few keywords in your title (don’t stuff!), your hangout may rank higher in the search results.

Your description is equally important. If people don’t know what your event is about or how it benefits them, they probably won’t attend. Give people a reason to show up and tell their friends.

#2: Brand Your Theme to Stand Out

Every Hangout On Air is given a generic header. I’m sure you’ll want to change that to reflect your brand. Not only does the extra branding ensure people recognize you, it helps your event stand out from any others happening in your circles.

To change your header, go to your Hangout’s event page and click Edit Event. The new pop-up gives you a chance to edit your title and description, but more importantly, it gives you the option to change your theme.

changing hangout on air theme

Change the default header to a branded image.

Click Change Theme and upload your new branded image, then click Save to go back to your Hangout On Air’s event page.

For the best fit, make your theme image 1200 x 300 pixels. The image will be full size on the event page, but shown as a thumbnail in the general Google+ stream.

#3: Grab Attention With a Video Trailer

To make your Hangout On Air even more enticing, you can include a trailer. When someone visits your Hangout On Air page, instead of seeing a countdown to your event, they see your trailer video.

Keep your trailer short and sweet. Shoot a 1- to 2-minute video inviting people to join you live and telling them what they can expect when they show up. Host the trailer on your YouTube channel.

To add the trailer to your Hangout on Air, go to the event page and click the Trailer button. On the next page find your video and choose it.

hangout on air trailer

You can add a YouTube trailer to help promote your Hangout On Air.

Using a trailer hosted on YouTube has a few benefits. For example, when you start your Hangout On Air, the trailer on YouTube automatically switches to a live stream of your event. You don’t have to do a thing—Google takes care of it for you.

And, since everything is on YouTube, you can embed the trailer on your website and it also changes to a live stream of your event. On your Hangout On Air’s event page, look at your Details box and you’ll find the embed code.

You’ll also find the event page URL. Use that link to share your Hangout On Air across your other social media pages and profiles, as well as in your email newsletter.

Use the YouTube page URL to send people directly to the hosted video if they want to attend your Hangout outside of Google+ (this is handy for mobile users).

hangout on air embed code

Get links to share and embed your Google Hangout On Air.

If your website audience isn’t Google+ savvy, embedding a trailer/hangout in a stand-alone page on your website is a good idea.

Viewers don’t have to join Google+ or understand how Google+ works or even go to YouTube. They can join you right from the comfort of your own website.

#4: Spread the Word on Other Platforms

Although you’ve already invited people to join your event, you still need to promote it, just like you would promote a webinar or other event.

If your existing fan base is already on Google+, they’ll see your event updates in their stream, but why limit attendance when you can share your Hangout with everyone? Create an image you can share on all of your social profiles.

In the example below, Glamour magazine created an update with a link to their Hangout On Air page and a branded invitation. They included images and titles of the hosts to show the value of the Hangout. These are all great ideas you can incorporate into your own invitations to share across platforms.

hangout on air invite graphic

Create a “flyer” graphic to invite people to a Hangout.

Go ahead and ask your circles and other fans to share your news. With a great image like that, people are very likely to share it and +1 it.

#5: Remind Invitees to RSVP

Sometimes people need a little nudge, so ask them to be sure to RSVP. This is important for a couple of reasons.

When people RSVP, the event automatically shows up in their Google+ profile as an event they’re attending, which helps their connections see your event. The Hangout is also automatically added to the attendee’s Google calendar, so they’re more likely to block off that time and actually attend.

Google handles all of this—unlike other webinar software, where adding the event to your calendar is an extra step.

As your event draws near, send a message to the people who RSVP’d to remind them about the event and to see if they have any questions.

You can do that easily by going back to your Hangout’s event page and clicking the Message button in the Viewers box.

hangout on air private message

Message people who have RSVP’d to make sure they don’t miss the event.

Type in your reminder and choose whom you want to send it to, then just click Send. Recipients see your message in a post, email and Google+ notification.

#6: Know Your Toolbar Before You Start

To have a successful, smooth Hangout, it’s important to know your tools. It helps to know which icons do what so you can move seamlessly from one thing to another.

You can see your tools on the Hangout page (click the Start button on your trailer)—not the event page. Move your cursor to the left and the menu appears.

Below I’ve created an image that tells you what each menu option does.

hangout on air options

All of the different Google Hangout options explained.

Before you start your Hangout, I encourage you to install the Hangout Toolbox app so you can take advantage of more branding opportunities during the Hangout itself.

At the bottom of the menu are three dots. Move your cursor over them and you’ll get a secondary menu. Click +Add Apps.

adding hangout on air toolbox

Add the Hangout Toolbox to improve your Hangout experience.

From the options, choose Hangout Toolbox and it automatically installs. If you don’t see the Hangout Toolbox icon in your left menu after it’s installed, you may need to refresh the page.

#7: Add Branding With a Lower Third Image

Why is the toolbox so important? Because it lets you upload what’s called a Lower Third graphic to brand your video. The Lower Third graphic gives your Google Hangout On Air a more professional look and feel.

Just as the name says, your Lower Third image covers part of the bottom of your video. It can include anything you want—your brand’s logo, a link to your website, your name or any relevant information for the hangout you’re hosting.

hangout on air lower third image

A professional Lower Third image helps your video stand out.

You can see that the video above just has a branded strip across the bottom. The image itself is actually 640 x 360 pixels, but I’ve made most of the image transparent so viewers can still see my video. The visible part (the branded strip) is only 70 pixels tall.

Lower Third images are easy to install with the Hangout Toolbox. Before you start your Hangout On Air, click the toolbox icon and a workspace opens up on the right side of the page.

Click the head icon and upload your image.

adding hangout on air lower third image

Brand your video with a custom overlay.

When everything is in place, click the Start Broadcast button at the bottom of the page. You’re live!

#8: Share Your Screen and Take Live Questions

Two of the most likely things you’ll want to do during your Hangout on Air are share your screen or an application, and allow attendees to ask questions live.

If you want to share something like slides or a specific screen, it needs to be open in a separate browser or application. So, for example, if you want to share PDFs or a website, open those in a new browser window (not just another tab) or application.

Here’s an important note about using slides: You can’t use PowerPoint or Keynote in Slideshow mode during your Hangout. Instead, size your slides at 920 x 550 pixels and export them to a PDF. Then you can open the document in a new window and page through it during your presentation.

When you’re ready to switch, click the Screenshare icon. A pop-up lets you choose the window you want to share with your attendees.

sharing a screen in hangout on air

It’s easy to switch between video and screen sharing.

If you want to switch back to video, click the Screenshare icon again and you’re back.

To get the most interaction during your Hangout, open up the Chat or Q&A option to encourage people to ask questions and interact with you.

question on hangout on air

Questions show up in the right-hand panel.

With the Q&A function on, attendees can +1 other people’s questions. The questions with the most +1s are pushed up to the top of the queue for you to answer live on the Hangout.

#9: Promote the Post-Event Video

When your live Hangout on Air is over, it’s not the end!

Since YouTube automatically saves your Hangout as a new video on your channel, be sure to tell your community (on all social platforms) they can still catch the discussion on YouTube.

The finished video also shows up in your Google+ stream, and if it was embedded on any website pages, the original live stream automatically converts to the YouTube video of the event. You can continue to point people to that page to see the Hangout.

You’ll be happy to know that your Google Hangout On Air gets indexed just like any video on YouTube, so keep an eye out for your recording to show up in the search results for your keywords.

hangout on air in google search results

A short Google Hangout on page 1 of Google.

Ultimately, you can control the video content. You can change the privacy settings and even edit your video directly in YouTube.


Creating and hosting a Google Hangout On Air is an easy way to establish your credibility, put you in front of new audiences and foster a closer sense of community. Plus, it’s an easy way to create new content that’s indexed by YouTube, Google and Google+ so you’ll show up more often in search results.

What do you think? Are you ready to try a Google Hangout On Air? Or have you already hosted one and have some advice to share? Share your ideas and questions in the comments below.

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  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Google Plus offers a variety of services to help businesses in their marketing efforts.You can use Google Hangouts in a variety of ways. Google Plus Hangouts offer a free way to video chat and screen share with up to 9 different people at once, making it a great substitute.

  • Great post! Thank you! Would you use this for a Mastermind, so long as you make it a private session?

  • Hi Perron! Yes you totally could use Google Hangouts to hold a 10-person or less mastermind. You’d just set it as a Hangout, not a Hangout On Air 🙂

  • You betcha Jitendra, thanks for the comment!

  • Awesome! Thank you and I appreciate your speedy reply. Would the Hangout allow for Q&A, like Air? We really do not want to record the session anyhow.

  • Yes – there’s a chat area where everyone can type messages to the group. 🙂

  • Thank you, Nathalie. Enjoy your day! – Michelle

  • Very timely since I’m scheduling one today! However, after scheduling and going to view it on YouTube, I do not see the “Add Trailer” button. Does this appear only after I’ve started it? is there a way to add something people will see if they visit the page before the HOA begins? Many thanks!

  • Hi Shel! You can only add a trailer before the event starts, and you do that within Google+ – not on YouTube.

  • Susie Parker

    Is there a way to collect email for all people who register or attend a Live Hangout? Could you collect a fee in advance?

  • Susie, you cannot collect email addresses directly on the Hangout Event. You’ll need to use a 3rd party app like Webinar Jam to do that.

  • Michelle, I use private Hangouts for mastermind meetings, client sessions and for meeting with prospects. The ability to meet face to face and record the meeting makes a huge, positive difference.

  • These are all great uses for Hangout. I may start to offer this for meetings since most of my prospects and clients are in another state. Thank you for sharing, Denise!

  • What I recommend is to set up a regular opt-in squeeze page, and then to send people the link to your Google Hangout event when it’s time to start the hangout. So you get the best of both worlds. 🙂

  • Mollie

    We set up a Hangout on Air for tomorrow and wanted to message guests to remind them about the event. In the viewer section, I only see “Invite More,” but no button to message guests. Any help?

  • Nicolas Novoa

    Hi Nathalie, how can I include participants (not audience) on Hangout on Air? It is easy to invite people to join the regular hangouts, but I don’t know how to do it with HOA.

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Hi Natalie,

    This is an awesome guide for getting started. Under #8 – what is Slideshow mode in Hangouts? I use screensharing and present my PowerPoint presentations just fine…

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Mollie – there is no message function, but what you can do is create a Circle of your RSVPs or invite list and then update them on Google+ with the send message to gmail option checked.
    Better idea is to set up a proper funnel for your Hangouts on Air so that you’re both maximizing the viewership AND building your list of email prospects by giving everyone an incentive to optin (like the opportunity to Hangout with you & your featured guests LIVE) – make sense?

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Hi Nicolas – it’s tricky! Google+ gives you the invite opportunity in the HOA window with the + sign at the top, but most people, even those who are looking for it will NOT be able to find the Hangout invitation when you send it to them, making everyone stressed out and often delaying the start time of your HOA. The best way is to find the “hidden third link” (I called it that before there were 3 visible links, so now it would be the hidden 4th link) – at the top of your HOA production window there is a long ugly URL. I copy this URL when I start my Hangout about 30 minutes before going live, then email this link directly to the handful of individuals who expressed interest or applied to Hangout with me and out guests live. BE CAREFUL WITH THIS LINK! There is zero security around this link so if it’s accidentally shared publicly on a platform like Twitter, you could get penis-bombed like Michelle Stinson Ross and I did last year… We thought we’d like to get some live participants on Hangout joining us, so Twitter (professionals) would be a decent place to share the link and see who joins us, but it was a guy with his pants down and his penis in his hands! Michelle was hosting that day, so she kicked him off, but because there’s no security measures to the link, he was able to come BACK onto the Hangout times in total! The “block” function won’t work because he wasn’t joining through a Google+ account, just an open link! We eventually had to quit that Hangout and just restart a new one.

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Susie, I recommend a dual path – If you want to be impressed by Hangouts, make RSVPs and optins available to your superfans, but don’t require optins for viewers of the videos individually.

    This helps you get a measured idea of who wants to be more involved (on the panel for the live recording, or another more involved participant role), and those who might be immediate buyers – simultaneously building your list of identified superfans, and maximizing your video audience by REMOVING BARRIERS to watch.

    Give your viewers a reason to optin to your list from a link on your Google+ RSVP page, like the chance to Hangout live in person (and in the “Hangouts green room”) with your celebrity guests or to participate in a segment of your upcoming live recording.

    I do this by advertising my upcoming special event Hangouts to Facebook target groups, and requiring those people to opt in (the people I paid to get in front of), but anyone who discovers my event by searching on Google, YouTube, Facebook, or other blogs, is NOT required to optin in order to watch and participate.

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Shel this wasn’t your 1st Hangout was it?? You found the add trailer I presume? If you didn’t reach out me and we’ll have a chat! I’d love to help you get started!

  • Debbie Horovitch

    A regular Hangout cannot be recorded, so you won’t be able to leverage your content after as added value to the people who buy. A better way to promote it & take advantage of all the YouTube/Goolge SERP optimization for free is to make it a private Hangout on Air. On your YouTube channel you can schedule a future Hangout on Air and set it to YouTube privacy settings so that only the people of the emails you put in to watch the Hangout (this list of people who bought the “ticket” to watch or participate) – it can be more than 10 people, it can be unlimited people privately watching.

    Also, while you’re limited to 10 people live on the Hangout at one time that doesn’t mean you can’t schedule more than 10 people to be guests (presenting) in your one Hangout event. If you wanted to do a book launch media junket, you could invite 40 contributing authors to 1 LONG Hangout (up to 8 hours in a single recording) and schedule them to be on the Hangout with you for an interview at a certain time. You can also have a volunteer assistant producer log in to Google+ from another computer as the SAME username / password as the hosting account, and their seat on the Hangout can be hidden while they organize your guests in and out.

  • Thank you very much, Debbie, for taking the time to explain all of this. I sincerely appreciate and value all of your thoughts. Be well. 🙂

  • Hi Nathalie – can you start a Hangout from a Google+ Page? I keep having issues as it only wants to use my personal profile (which doesn’t have a Youtube account verified) rather than my proper business page & youtube account.

    Thanks for your help

  • Debbie, thanks for sharing that tip. When I first read “penis-bombed”, I thought it was some figure of speech from wherever you are… but then I kept reading — you actually meant “penis-bombed” LOL. It is tricky and despite this system being crafted by geniuses, I still feel like it takes some practice to understand it. From what I know, it seems when you make the HOA, invites are for listen-in audience only. And for them to be participants, they need to be given that link or invited in after you load the hangout window. I think that’s how it goes…

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Melissa – my mental checklist for you to test & identify the bottleneck is:

    1. Using Google+ AS it G+ business page
    2. Scheduling the future G+ HOA event, as “public” and from/hosted by the business or connected brand community
    3. Confirm the YouTube channel for your business page on G+ is connected

    You can broadcast G+ HOAs on business pages and brand YouTube channels but when you get it figured out, be advised they do function differently – not all the apps you like to use in personal-hosted G+ HOAs are available on brand page G+ HOAs and vice-versa. You may also find, that based on the account YOU are on G+ when circling people impacts your ability to invite people, brands, and communities to watch or participate in your event.

    Also, there’s a cultural impact that presenting your HOA from your personal G+ account versus a brand or organizational account can have – the segment of G+ users who you want to receive and embrace your event, and the video on YouTube later may or may not be as willing to receive it from a brand, versus YOU.

    Hope this helps! ~ Debbie

  • Thanks! I’ll try it again 🙂

  • Is there any way to hear questions from attendees? As opposed to just seeing them typed…

  • Harika

    This is an amazing post! A great help for all the budding marketeers
    Kudos to you!

  • Sarah

    I want to use it to share myself playing games without talking to anyone and also how do i record my screen?

  • Ines

    I am not sure I understand if the people that will attend the Google hangout need to have a google account in order to be able to ask questions? Some of the people we want to attend do not have google accounts and would not go to the effort of opening one. Does that pose a difficulty? Thanks

  • Hey Nathalie – I’ve been doing HOA tests for upcoming webinars and I can’t get the chat function working for viewers (Q&A works). Do you know if there restrictions around this (i.e. only works if viewers have a G+ account, etc?). I have been Googling but can’t find an answer 🙁

  • Kim Kirkley

    Thank you so much! This is so helpful!

  • Thanks Debbie! This is very helpful, do you have a link you can refer me to that explains the steps involved in accomplishing this. I seem to get stuck with intended guests getting the link that a viewer should have.

  • Debbie Horovitch

    So far, Google’s process for bringing in a guest is to “invite” them from inside the HOA, which should set of an “alarm” and notify them of the invitation into a live HOA. But most people never see it or get the right link, so my workaround has been this:

    My guests are instructed to be logged into their Google+ account 30 minutes before we go live, and be looking at their regular email for my email with a direct-click link to join the HOA.

    The link is long & ugly URL at the top of the HOA production window and everyone who is ON your HOA can see/copy/share this link. This is the only place I’ve ever found this link. You can’t get it until you go into your HOA production window, so I find telling them to wait for my email to join – if they look at G+ or anywhere else they’ll often get confused and won’t be able to find the HOA in time to go live….

    Be careful with this link if you want a lot of random people joining your live HOA, you don’t want to share this “join” link on any public forum (like a Tweet) – there is NO security or TOS anyone who has this link can share it or click to join your HOA without being logged in to Google, AND without you having the ability to block them. I discovered this when my cohost Tweeted out the “join” link and some self-pleasuring a-hole clicked on the link 5 TIMES and came in to penis-bomb us on our live conversation.

  • Thanks for the prompt reply Debbie! That sounds like an awesome plan that I need to incorporate into my workflow. I hear you loud and clear about the unwanted interruptions. OMG, how mortifying!

  • Debbie Horovitch

    No Problem Meredith – I’d also recommend taking each of your guests through a tech walkthrough or pre-interview Hangout with each guest individually for about 30 minutes – the tech walkthrough should be very uncomfortable for guests, but promise them it will be a PRIVATE HANGOUTm and take them through the HOA production window so that on the day of the live recording all the n00b HOA tech issues will already have been flushed out. Also, you’re putting your guests in an uncomfortable & potentially embarrassing situation NOT LIVE. Finally, while many G+ HOA hosts don’t want to take the time to talk to each of their guests at every step (I’ve been asked by numerous hosts to do their guest booking for them – for $10-$25/hour, all expecting I can BOOK a great celebrity guest in 10 minutes or less.). Don’t delegate out ANY contact points with your guests, EVER – it takes away time when YOU can be working with them to make your show amazing, and it brings you way closer than if you pass them off to a “handler” or “assistant”. The guests who I spend more prep/post time with have become much closer friends, and the ones I don’t, I never talk to anymore. :/ Cautionary tale: just be sure you’re in the moment and honouring your guest for their time & effort on your show. Connect with me! 🙂

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Questions from “attendees”
    – If on the panel, you can use a conference calling plugin (it there IN the HOA production window apps)
    – If in your viewing audience, and you have pre-planned then you can bring them in at the time when they want to ask their question, but just turn OFF their camera so they only have voice

    Does this help?

  • Debbie Horovitch

    “Attend” do you mean watch the video live/archive? Or participate in the live video recording chat?

    Watching the live/archive video is simply a YouTube viewer page at a YouTube link you can share publicly and directly with viewers.

    Participate in the live video recording chat; then you’ll want to share with them the long & ugly private link to the G+ HOA recording window (you and your on-screen guests have it at the top of the window when you begin the HOA). Anyone with this link ANYWHERE can join your HOA and you will not be able to BAN/RESTRICT the person who wants to click through that link, so be careful who you share it with. 🙂

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Just click the screenshare app when in the HOA window, and be sure to select the window where you’re playing the game. Adjust the settings per your preferences.

  • Debbie Horovitch

    Chat function is ONLY for IN-HOA participants, there’s no way to integrate audience chat unless you screenshare the G+ HOA event page during the live broadcast and scroll through the comments on the page that the audience are having…

  • Thanks Debbie, I had figured out the chat, but your idea of sharing the event page is great – thanks!

  • KnightlyRide

    You say “open up the chat or Q&A” how do you just open up the chat? If you dont want Q&A?

  • Wow I would have felt like a total rookie if I didn’t read this before my hangout next week!

  • I just want to make sure I got this right as I tried this a few times and had some issues. You can have up to 10 people as presenters, but unlimited “viewers” correct? If this is the case, which link do you share with each to make sure they go to the right link? I was unaware of the 4th link Debbie explained and had just been sending presenters the EVENT link and viewers the YOUTUBE link. Thanks!

  • Tara

    I had the same question, only in reverse order. I have been having trouble figuring out how to have someone join instead of just watch!

  • Hi Tara. If I understand your question correctly, I believe Debbie answers it above. You can only invite someone once your are inside the hangout. You send them the link at the top of the hangouts window. I hope this helps.

  • Tara

    Thank you, Meredith! 🙂
    Yes, you did understand my question…which I really meant as more of a statement. I had been looking off and on for weeks for this information, and so I was really happy to find the answer here. Thanks for your help, Debbie! Keep up the good work!

  • I’m having difficulty getting the Q and A box showing up for my viewers. Is it because I also have the showcase app on? Can you not have both going at once?

  • Love all the tips! I’m so ready for my first Google Hangouts on Air now. Going to change people’s lives with life-changing Personal Development 🙂

  • John Hamilton

    If I have two other people I am interviewing how does that work

  • Matthew Larkin

    Thank you!!

  • Great post!!

  • Carson Tavenner

    Please help. Step 8. “Click Share.” isn’t working for me. You write “You end up on the Hangout On Air’s event page,…” but all that happens is the green button fades for a bit, but still hangs there. I don’t see any sign of other cookie or script error problems. The show is not listing in my Events, either. What do you think I might be able to do?

  • Wendy Lynne

    what if you wanted to teach a class, can you charge a fee?

  • Ashwen Gibson Blake

    And then after all that I THINK I DID NOT BROADCAST- cannot find my recorded EVENT? Anyone can help?