How To Structure Your Hangout On Air Series
So far in this series, we’ve covered what hangouts and hangouts on air are, a little bit about how businesses can use Google+ Hangouts, and we’ve dug into the technical details of scheduling and firing up your own HOA. Now it’s time to take your HOA to a new level by creating a series.
Like this blog series, an HOA series consists of multiple HOAs, organized and planned in advance. And, like a blog series, an HOA series brings additional benefits to the table, beyond what a single HOA can do.
An HOA series can be more effective at covering topics and establishing authority.
An HOA series can be more effective at reaching and retaining viewers.
An HOA series can be more effective at offering high production value.
Before we get into how you might set up and structure your HOA series, let’s take a moment to understand these benefits.
Topics & Authority
While your average blog post ranges from 500 – 750 words, your typical Hangout show will last from 30 – 60 minutes. If your show lasts much longer than that, you stand a high chance of losing viewers mid-show. Even the most interesting and entertaining HOA cannot compete with work, spouses, and other real-life obligations.
But what if 30 minutes isn’t enough time to really talk about your topic?
Just like a single blog post isn’t sufficient to cover everything there is to know about Hangouts (even this series is still just scratching the surface), a series of HOAs will allow you the time it takes to do a deep dive.
And, if you’re bringing in external experts, a series affords you the opportunity to bring in numerous experts on different aspects of your topic, without trying to cram ten panelists into your slide and only having 4 minutes to speak to each. (And trust me, while having a lot of experts on at once may seem like a good idea, it’s actually quite chaotic and difficult to pull off. I recommend sticking to three or fewer guests per show most of the time.)
So depending on the nature of your topic and series, break it up into different segments or aspects, and consider finding the best experts you can for each show individually.
Reaching & Retaining Viewers
One of the reasons blogging has become such a popular technique for businesses to connect with people is because of the fact that blog posts are constantly created. You can’t write one blog post and expect to have any impact at all. Instead, you routinely write new blog posts, publishing once or twice a week, and over time, you develop a regular readership who look forward to your next scheduled post.
The same is true with HOAs.
While you can schedule just one, special event HOA and promote it as much as possible, if you commit to a series of HOAs, it becomes a lot easier to get more and more people to view each next HOA. Your marketing builds, your word of mouth builds, and you get to add new viewers on top of returning viewers.
And by committing to a set schedule, you allow viewers the opportunity to understand your schedule and commit themselves. If I know you’re going to start your show every Friday morning at 11am, I can make a point to be free at that time so I don’t miss it.
A more subtle benefit has to do with search. Blog posts target the Google search engine, while HOAs actually target the YouTube search engine, which is a big deal. People searching on the topics you’re discussing can potentially discover the recorded HOAs on your YouTube channel. And the more you record on a particular topic, the more Google will understand your authority and relevance, and rank your content higher.
We’ll discuss some of the specific techniques to reach more viewers in our next post, all about promoting Hangouts.
High Production Value
Finally, there’s an important element to Hangouts On Air that Jeff Sieh refers to as High Production Value. Jeff is the man behind Manly Pinterest Tips (http://manlypinteresttips.com/) and a weekly HOA series and podcast, and you’d be hard pressed to find an HOA series that’s more professionally produced. Jeff uses a set, bumpers, branding, and even creates trailer videos – videos that seem more like movie trailers than show announcements.
And while that’s impressive, understand that it’s easier when you’re re-using much of the same graphics and materials and assets for each show. You can create one basic banner that’s simply updated with each new show’s topic and guests. Your YouTube Channel branding would be consistent.
But production value is more than just nice graphics and clever video – it also has to do with proper planning and organization…
- Making sure your own tech is working perfectly
- Spending time with your guests before the show to get to know them
- Helping your guests test their tech before the show
- Having a preset structure and flow for your show, and communicating that to guests
- Being prepared with questions, topics, and audience participation
- Being prepared to deal with technical issues
In short, making sure that the focus of the show is on providing great information in an entertaining way, and eliminating as many distractions as possible.
For instance, no business should ever host an HOA from a coffee shop or some other public place. While you don’t have to have a full-blown studio, you should have a quiet office where you’ve planned to broadcast. You need to consider lighting, sound, your background, and be able to prevent most interruptions. You have to have a strong Internet connection (preferably wired), and good camera and mic options.
Your investment in the production value of your HOA will be noticed, so give it your undivided attention.
Structuring an HOA Series
Now that you’ve got a great understanding of the benefits of doing an HOA series, let’s talk about how you might structure it.
First, you have two basic options:
- Limited Series on a Specific Topic
- Ongoing Series
A limited series is a lot like this blog series, in fact. You would select a topic that you want to talk about, and bring in experts to talk about, and decide in advance that you need X shows to talk about the topic, with a specific focus for each show.
An ongoing series is more like a TV or Radio show. Think The Tonight Show. Each show, Jimmy Fallon is the host, and he follows a set format. He has guests and topics he covers, and different segments. NBC promotes the show on social and via ads, but it also follows the same schedule every single day, so you always know when the next show is airing and can plan to watch if you want to.
With a Limited Series, you should decide before your first show exactly how many shows you’re going to have, what you’re going to cover, and who your guests are going to be. It should all be scheduled and promoted so that everyone knows what’s coming.
With an Ongoing Series, on the other hand, you might schedule 3 or 4 shows out, and your promotional activities would focus on only the next show.
While the Limited Series has the challenge of a new series, without any momentum, an Ongoing Series has never-ending weekly management requirements.
So before deciding which approach you want to take, give careful consideration to your long-term goals and bandwidth. Will a Limited Series deliver the impact you’re looking for? Can you commit to a weekly or at least regularly scheduled show format?
It’s an important decision. In December of 2013, I’d been a guest on several HOAs and had made a positive impression on the host of one in particular. His weekly, one-hour format show was going through some changes, including the loss of his co-host, and he invited me to take her place. I was honored, but at the same time I was overwhelmed. It was a huge commitment! More than the hour of the show itself, there’s Green Room time before the show, wrap-up time after the show, promotion of the show during the week, planning of the show with other staff, and the selection of guests for each week’s show. At the time, I felt that it was a better use of my time to play the role of Guest on other people’s shows. After taking a hard look at my business and workload, I didn’t feel I would be able to give a weekly show the level of effort it required to be successful.
So if you aren’t sure you’re in a position to be able to spend at least a couple of hours a week working your show, give it some more thought. As a marketing medium, HOAs are one of the most effective techniques available to businesses, but like anything else worthwhile, you’ll have to put in the time to make it work.
As an aside, be sure to sign up for our newsletter so that you won’t miss the next and last two posts in this series. As I already mentioned, the next post will help you understand all the ways you can promote your HOA and get more viewers. After that, we’re going to talk about repurposing HOAs, and this is what makes HOAs so effective. So don’t miss it!
Once you’ve decided on Limited or Ongoing for your HOAs, it’s time to structure the shows themselves.
Yes, even the shows need structure.
It doesn’t have to be obvious to the viewers, but you should give thought and careful preparation to how you want each show to flow. The longer your show format, the more necessary this becomes.
At a minimum, you’re going to want some combination / version of:
- Introduction by you (the host)
- Introduction of Guests
- Discussion / Presentation
- Bumper (re-state the name of the show halfway through, guest names, etc.)
- Additional Discussion
- Comments and Questions from the Audience
- Shout Outs to Regular Audience Members
- Final Thoughts / Calls To Action from Guests
- Final Thoughts / Announcements / Call To Action from you (the host)
This is somewhat formulaic, and used by a great many of the regular HOAs going on now, so feel free to be creative and come up with something unique if you want your show to look and feel different from everyone else. What’s more important than the format is that you have a format. As long as it works for you and your audience, and you stick with it, you’ll be fine.
For instance, instead of welcoming the audience and jumping right into guest introductions, like most HOAs, you could have a prepared monologue and talk about a recent news item or topic related to the show, and then bring the guests in when you’re finished (similar to the late night TV shows).
One nice option, if available, is to have one or two co-hosts who appear on every show. That gives you the opportunity to have some recurring segments each week, as well as develop some “on air” personality that isn’t as easy to establish with guests of a single show.
Final Note On Structure
My final note on structure is from a big-picture view. Give careful thought to what you’re trying to accomplish. With most shows and series, it should be first and foremost to educate your audience. Second, to entertain them. And third, to establish your own authority on the topic.
With that in mind, structure your series and your individual shows as a progression of information. Just as we have with this blog series, we present the initial information you need to understand the topic, and then move on the more advanced topics. Each HOA that you do is automatically recorded, and you can link to the previous shows in each new show’s Event description, so viewers who are just now finding out about you can go back and watch the shows they may have missed and get caught up.
And within your show, make sure you talk to your guests about what you’re going to discuss, and have that material presented in a logical, progressive fashion. Be a polite and encouraging host to your guests, but always be thinking of your audience. If you feel like one of your experts has gone off on a tangent, or isn’t explaining well enough what they’re talking about, don’t be afraid to stop them. Politely, but firmly, reign them in or ask them questions. (Or if your show format is going to be a little more robust, you can skip the polite part… but that’s up to you.)
Your audience members will deeply appreciate and respond well to an organized series that does a great job of covering a topic of interest. Don’t forget to mention what the next show is going to be about, who will be there and when, and what else you want your audience members to do. I hope this has helped, and we’ll see you next time when we talk about promoting your show!
~ Mike Allton, CMO
Articles in this series:
- What Is A Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA), And Why Is It Good For Business?
- How To Start And Use A Hangout On Air Event
- How To Structure Your Hangout On Air Series (You are here)
- How To Promote Your Hangouts
- How To Repurpose Your HOA