On Selection Sunday (here’s a Wikipedia link for non-sports types), I had the privilege of moderating a live Google Plus Hangout hosted by Notre Dame Athletics. During our 50-minute chat, we discussed Notre Dame’s Men’s Basketball program, the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, and had the privilege of chatting with head coach Mike Brey, Jack Nolan (the radio voice of ND Basketball), senior captain Scott Martin, and assistant coach Martin Inglesby.
What is a Hangout?
A Hangout is a feature of Google Plus (G+) that provides live audio & video conferencing for up to 10 people, similar to a Skype format or WebEx video conferencing. One key advantage of Hangouts is that they can be broadcasted publicly in real-time (on either G+ or via YouTube) so that many more can view — and these live chats can be recorded for future playback.
Since G+ launched in June 2011, one of the most prominent public G+ Hangouts featured Barack Obama fielding questions from individual citizens. When Google & Notre Dame Athletics (one of the top-ranked universities using social media) partnered to trial a public Hangout and asked me to moderate, I gladly accepted the opportunity to see how this technology performed.
My Impressions of Google Hangouts
- First, this product is still in Beta (or Alpha). Google committed a couple folks Notre Dame’s campus to work through any glitches, and the G+ integration with YouTube is far from intuitive at this point. I believe Google will commit resources to streamlining this process, but organizations looking to stream live Hangouts on YouTube will probably run into some snags.
- Headphones & microphones are a must for participants. Any time there are more than 2 people in a Hangout, background noise (typing, papers rustling, etc) is magnified with open-air microphones and speakers and creates a cacophony of feedback. Headphones & microphones eliminates background noise and enables the Hangout platform to isolate the audio/video on the featured speaker.
- You should commit resources in the same way you would arrange a live press conference or TV event. While I was moderating the discussion among the 5-7 active online participants scattered around the country, we had 2 people on-location prepping featured speakers and communicating with me via backchannels (in this case, Google Chat) as to who was coming up next so we could streamline conversation and eliminate dead air.
- Analytics are still a work in progress. Right now, it’s my understanding that the only way we can measure viewers is to see who’s actively commented or viewed the playback, which doesn’t help us capture how many people view the Hangout live. Again, I presume that Google is working on creating analytics to track visitors to G+ Pages, live Hangouts, etc.
To get a sense of our Hangout, here’s a 4-minute clip of our interview with Coach Mike Brey:
Have more questions? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond!