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A simple explanation of Google Hangouts

Google Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Google Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Are you still trying to get to grips with Google+ Hangouts? If the answer is yes then you’d probably appreciate a simple explanation of Google + Hangouts.

Whilst Google provides a large amount of information on how to use Hangouts in their help files, it can be very overwhelming. Personally, I find a lot of their explanations unclear – it is as if they deliberately try to confuse (I wonder why that might be – let’s not speculate. ) I was recently asked to do a short presentation on Google Hangouts to a breakfast meeting of social media phials and I put together this handy guide. It is a summary of the Google help pages, stripping out all the confusing information.

Making help files really helpful!

There are two types of Hangouts:

Hangouts – like a Skype video call. Only you and invited guests can participate.  These Hangouts are private and are not recorded.

With Hangouts, you can send messages, emoji and photos, or start video calls with your friends and family. You can start a Hangout from Gmail, Google+ Page or profile, your Android or iOS device, or with the Chrome extension.

You can start a Hangout with anyone you like, as long as the person has a Google Account. If you start a Hangout with someone who doesn’t have a Google account, an invitation will be sent to their email address, asking them to join Google Hangouts.

Hangout out on air (HOA) – these are broadcast publicly on your Youtube Channel and Google+ Home page. You can also embed the code on your website or Facebook page so people can watch it there.

Getting started with HOA

To start broadcasting using Hangouts On Air, you need the following:

•YouTube channel – If you don’t already have one, create a YouTube channel.  Make sure that you verify your YouTube channel using the two step verification that is sent as a text message.

•Google+ profile or page – Make sure that your Google+ profile or page is connected to your YouTube channel. Channels created recently on are automatically connected to Google+. If you have an older channel that isn’t connected to Google+, you can connect it to a Google+ profile or a Google+ page.


If any of the following issues apply to your YouTube channel you won’t be able to broadcast a Hangouts On Air:

•There are active copyright sanctions imposed on your Your channel.

•There are global blocks on videos.

•You’re trying to broadcast from a restricted country.

Systems requirements

Before you start broadcasting you should make sure that you have the required software and your system meets the basic requirements, and :

•You download and install the latest version of the Hangouts plug-in.

•Your webcam drivers are up to date (and that your webcam is working.)

•You use headphones where possible. Headphones with a built-in microphone will dramatically improve your video-call experience.

After your broadcast

As soon as you finish broadcasting your video will be automatically posted to your YouTube channel, as well as your Google+ homepage. Don’t worry you can either take it down (delete it) make it private so only people you send a link to can see it or you can edit it.

Step-by-step instructions for starting or schedule a Hangout On Air with an events page:

1.Go to Hangouts On Air. You can navigate to this by clicking the menu on the left of your profile page.

2.Click Start a Hangout On Air.

3.Create a name and a description in the first two boxes. Tip –  prepare a draft of your description and  name in advance and have this to hand.

4.Choose a start time:

-Choose Now to start the HOA immediately after you create the events page.

-Choose Later and fill in the date and time for when you want your Hangout On Air to start.

5.Choose your audience: This is the audience that can see the Google+ events page. For maximum reach, “Public” is recommended. Adding specific people and circles ensures that they receive a notification. If you don’t want your Hangout On Air to be widely publicised, you can also make your event unlisted.

Tip – Whilst you can make your hangout out public there is a limit on the number of people you can send invitations too. So if you have very large circles (100+) you wont be able to invite people by just adding your circles.

6.Click Share to schedule your Hangout On Air.

People can RSVP to your Hangout On Air  invitation through the events page and view it on multiple devices.

Uploading a video or an image

Once your events page has been created, you can add a video or image as a customised trailer for your Hangout On Air. If you don’t add one, your users will see a timer counting down to the event.

To add a customised video, click Add a trailer , and add a YouTube video either by searching, entering a YouTube URL or selecting a video already uploaded to your YouTube account.

To add a customised image, click Add a trailer, and add an image.

Collecting audience questions before your Hangout On Air starts

You can gather questions from your audience before your HOA starts by turning on the Q&A app.  You can answer them during the broadcast by opening the Q&A app to see the list of questions asked.

To start broadcasting your scheduled Hangout On Air

1.Go to your Hangout On Air event on your Google+ events page.

2.Click Start in your event.

3.Invite your participants. These are the people you want to talk to live during the HOA.

4.Click Start Broadcast to go live. Tip – you will not be live until you click start broadcast and there is no limit on how long you take before you start broadcasting. Therefore, start your HOA 15-20 minutes  before your scheduled start time so you can sort out any issues and prepare the people who will be broadcasting with you.

Once you start your Hangout On Air, you can also add more features and apps to your Hangout On Air.

Starting an unlisted Hangout On Air

All Hangouts On Air are public by default when you start the broadcast. But if you don’t want your Hangout On Air to be widely publicised, you can make the event unlisted. This means that only the people you share the link with can find and watch the video.

For an unlisted Hangout On Air, the event won’t be publicly promoted on Google+. People also won’t be able to search for the video on Google+ or YouTube. After the Hangout On Air, the recording will be marked as unlisted on YouTube.

1.Go to Hangouts On Air

2.Click Start a Hangout On Air.

3.Fill in the name and description of your broadcast.

4.Choose to start Now or Later.

5.In the “Audience” box, delete Public.

6.Then type the names of the people or circles you want to invite to the Hangout On Air or click Add more people to browse from the list of names.

7.Click Share. This will automatically share the link with only the people you chose to invite to the event.

You can’t change the event’s sharing setting to public, or vice verse once you create an unlisted Hangout On Air. However, you can share the Hangout On Air with more people by clicking Invite More from the event page or sharing the event’s or video’s URL directly.

Other people can still share your unlisted Hangout On Air

Everyone you invite to your Hangout On Air can also share the broadcast by sharing the Google+ event or the YouTube link.

If someone else shares your unlisted Hangout On Air, your video could appear publicly on the Internet. For example, if you share your Hangout On Air video with your friends and they post it on their blogs, then everyone who sees the link can also watch the video. Hence, unlisted HOA aren’t suitable for events were information needs to be kept confidential.

Other FAQs not covered above

How many people can join?

A Hangout On Air can have up to 10 people at once. You can’t reserve a place for other users.

For how long can I broadcast a Hangout On Air?

You can host a Hangout On Air for up to 8 hours, and the recording will be the same length as your broadcast.

 Can I kick someone out of my Hangout On Air?

Yes, you can force someone to leave your Hangout On Air. To make someone leave the Hangout On Air, place your mouse over their profile photo and click Eject.

When do participants appear in the Hangout On Air at the bottom of the window (as part of the film strip)?

The bar at the bottom of the Hangout On Air window that shows the participants is called the film strip. It shows up on both the live and recorded stream.

The only time that the film strip doesn’t appear during the Hangout On Air is when either of the following is true:

•Someone is doing a screen share on the main screen.

•Only one or two participants are visible.

What does the Hangout On Air look like during a broadcast?

The Hangout On Air will always show whoever is talking. That could be the host of the Hangout On Air or any participant. To show a particular participant on the main screen, the host can click the participant’s photo at the bottom of the window. Then the participant will become the focus of the main screen.

The Hangout On Air’s broadcast and recording will be the same as the host’s view. For instance, if you’re hosting a Hangout On Air, the broadcast and the recording will show what you see.

By Ola Agbaimoni

Ola Agbaimoni

Ola Agbaimoni is also known as "The Business Detective" due to herabilities to detect problems and solve problems like the famous sleuth. Eélan Media is a social media marketing agency that creates HUG-able businesses that Get Seen, Give Back and Gain More, more leads, customers and more cash flow. (HUG stands for Hear Understand and Give back incredible value ). As well as being a rising star in social media, Ola is also an ordained Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counsellor, certified coach, NLP practitioner; an accomplished author, speaker, presenter and a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do Twitter Linkedin Facebook