Information and Resources for Solopreneurs

How To Start And Use A Hangout On Air Event

Written By: Mike Allton in Social Media | January 9, 2015

How To Start And Use A Hangout On Air Event

Previously, we covered the highlights of what a Hangout On Air is. We talked about how hangouts, and specifically Hangouts On Air (HOAs), are fantastic for business. And we reviewed how to start a basic hangout.

A Hangout On Air though, technically, is a Hangout that is broadcasted. Like a television show, it can be watched live or recorded. Google automatically records the broadcast to YouTube for you so that people can watch live on Google+ or YouTube, or catch the replay later on.

It also means that the YouTube video can be embedded on blog posts, shared to other social networks, and even exported for use as a podcast, clips and more.

For the remainder of this series, we will be focusing on the use of Hangouts as broadcasts. We’ll be talking about how businesses can set up, promote and utilize these broadcasts, in a variety of ways.

The Hangout On Air Event

What makes an HOA special is the integration with the Google+ Event Page. As an Event, the HOA has a specific date and time for when it is supposed to begin. Audience members can indicate that they plan to attend the event, placing it into their Google Calendar immediately, complete with reminders. They can share the event to their Google+ stream, and even invite other people that they’ve circled.

On the event page, before, during and after the broadcast, attendees can leave and respond to comments, and even share images. During the broadcast, the show host and any panelists can view and respond to comments, and even display a comment within the show for all to see.

We will be talking at length about promoting Hangout events, managing guests and the audience, and other aspects of HOAs for business in additional posts within this series. Today, we want to concentrate on some more of the technical aspects so that you’re familiar with how to start an HOA Event and what you can do with it.

Scheduling An HOA

When you want to schedule a broadcast, what you want to do is “Schedule A Hangout.” While accessed through the same interface as normal Hangouts, be sure to select Starts Later rather than Starts Now.

Also note, do not go through the Events interface. If you choose to Plan A Hangout through the Events, at the time of your hangout, you will not be able to start your broadcast and will have to create an entirely new Hangout Event.

Within Google+, go to the left side menu and click on Hangouts.

Google+ Hangouts Menu

Click on “Start A Hangout On Air” in the upper left corner.

Start The Hangout

This will bring up the Hangout On Air Details box.

Hangout On Air Details

Now, if you’re setting up an event for fun, or for a private audience, you can certainly put whatever you want in these fields. If it’s a public broadcast though, designed to further your business goals, additional considerations need to be made.


The HOA Title is the first field, and is really one of the most important fields. The HOA Title is what your audience will see in their invitation, in their calendar entry, and in Google+ notifications when anyone comments on the event (assuming they’ve accepted the invitation or commented themselves).

You can test and experiment with different formats, but it’s recommended that you use the following style:

[Name Of Show] – [Show Topic and/or Guests]

For instance, Martin Shervington runs one of the largest Google+ Communities, the Plus Your Business! Community, and they have a weekly show on Thursdays. A recent show title was, “The PYB Show! – Chef Dennis Littley on Google Plus “The Main Ingredient In A Recipe For Success”” – note how it begins with the recognizable name of the how, followed by a description that tells you who the guest is and what the topic is.

Get into the habit of using a solid HOA Title with a repeatable style and format.


This is where you have an opportunity to really explain, in depth, what your show is about. Suggestions include:

  • Brief Bio of your Guest(s)
  • Description of your show overall
  • Description of you and/or your business
  • Links to your website
  • Suggestions for audience members

Keep in mind that HOAs are edutainment. They’re supposed to be informative, yet fun, so don’t be too dry in your description or you’ll lose interest. Always try to write with your audience in mind. What will they be interested in? What will they need to know in order to make a decision whether or not to set aside time for your show?

If you need inspiration, look to radio programming for help. They’ve been scheduling and promoting shows and guests for decades, and have gotten really good at it.


I cannot stress enough how important it is that you diligently plan and input this information correctly the very first time. Once you’ve invited people to your Hangout Event, and then you change the time (for whatever reason), each attendee will receive a notification that the time and date have changed. And while the notification is annoying, what’s worse is if you lose attendees who decide they can’t make the new, corrected time.

Note that the time zone is indicated, so you can schedule the event in whatever time zone you wish. Every other Google+ user will see the event in their time zone.


The final field that you need to consider is the Audience field. This is where you have an opportunity to send invitations to specific people and circles. If this is your first event, we advise skipping this field entirely. Anyone you specifically invite to your events should have already expressed some interest in them (and we’ll be sharing how to do that even before your first event in our upcoming Promotion article).

Otherwise, you should have one or more circles set up where you’ve been placing people who are interested in your show. These might be people you know and have talked to, or perhaps past attendees. The best show hosts maintain active circles where each week, attendees and show participants are added and invited to the next show. And each week, people who decline invitations are noted and periodically removed from the circle after it’s clear they don’t intend to come again.

Now, in order to create an HOA, technically, you will have to invite someone. If you don’t already have a guest list handy, just put yourself in that field and click Invite to save the Event. (Please note though that you will need to click on Share Event and select Public as soon as you’re ready, so that the event will be unlocked and open to be shared by others.)

Customize an HOA

Once you’ve saved your HOA, you’ll have an HOA Event Page that you can edit or share. You can invite more people from that page, post comments as updates, and so on.

Before you invite too many people, there are a couple of additional tasks we need to complete.


The Theme is basically the cover photo that will appear at the top of your HOA event page. And while Google+ does offer you a selection of theme images, you are advised to upload your own custom banner.

Google+ HOAs currently accept a custom image size of 1200 x 300. Such images should be specific to your business and the event. They need to be well-branded and communicate both the topic and the tone of the HOA. Regularly scheduled HOAs, like The Mia Connect Show, will often employ an event banner that has slots for guest headshots, along with each week’s topic, or time and information so that it’s easy to find.

Make sure that careful time is spent crafting your Event Banner, and then upload it by clicking on Edit Event, Change Theme, then scroll down to Upload.


Next, I’m sure you’ve noticed the large space where the video of your broadcast will go. But up until the time of your broadcast, it’s an opportunity for you to further brand your HOA and communicate with your audience. You can upload a static image or a trailer, a teaser video, for your broadcast.

Google+ Hangout Trailer

Click on Trailer and you’ll get a search field you can use to search YouTube. While you can use any video you wish, it’s obviously best if you use a video that’s either about your topic and extremely relevant, or, better yet, a short video you’ve made specific for this HOA.

Once selected, that video will appear in the broadcast space until you begin the live broadcast.

Start Your HOA

When it comes to actually starting and broadcasting your HOA, definitely think of it as a television broadcast. You should be ready to broadcast before your actual broadcast time. Most HOA hosts will get into their HOA event and click the Start HOA button 25 – 30 minutes prior to start time. This doesn’t start the actual broadcast, it just gets you into the hangout and gives you an opportunity to:

  1. Check your audio and visual settings
  2. Invite your guests
  3. Obtain links to the HOA and/or YouTube broadcast for social sharing
  4. Turn on “Comment Tracker” within the HOA (more on that later)
  5. Grab a water and make sure all other distractions are eliminated

It takes a minute or so once you start the HOA to prepare to broadcast. Once the Hangout is ready, you’ll see a “Start broadcast” button you can click to begin the show. At that time, your trailer will be replaced with your live video feed, and you will be “On Air.”

Now, within the Hangouts app, there are a number of tools and options. We’ll be diving into all of them in future posts. For instance, within the Hangouts Toolbox, you can set and customize something called a “lower third” – a way to have your name and company, and even some custom imagery, displayed on top of your video feed.

So until next time, you’re encouraged to play around with Hangouts and try starting a few on your own. And I would also encourage you to begin regularly attending hangouts from people like Mia and Martin. Not only are they extremely informative and entertaining, but they’re fantastic role models when it comes to hosting your own show.

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Articles in this series:

Mike Allton
Mike is an award-winning blogger, speaker, and author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse where he strengthens relationships with social media educators, influencers and agencies.

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