Talking up Google+ Hangouts live

I took part in my first Google+ Hangout On Air yesterday, participating in a breakfast meeting of the appropriately-named Houston Social Media Breakfast, organized by Kami Huyse, as a guest speaker.

You can watch the 42-minute recording of the session right here.

(if you don’t see it embedded above, watch it on YouTube).

Part of the Google+ social network. Google+ Hangouts are a compelling element for many users, enabling you to have real-time video conversations and more with others with your webcam and a browser.

In my experience with Hangouts since Google launched them last year, I find them a highly effective tool to connect people, especially in multiple locations, to discuss matters of common interest.

Google+ Hangout on Air is the latest version of the video chat system. It lets you broadcast your session as it happens – live on air, as it were – via YouTube and via your G+ profile. And it automatically makes a recording when you’re finished which is published as a public video on your YouTube account.

In yesterday’s event, the broad discussion topic was how to use Google+ Hangouts to “punch up your business”:

With the end of spring came an onset of new features from our favorite social media tools. Google introduced Hangouts on Air, so that we could expand our hangouts to more people, The Google team will also be on hand to talk about new Google features and integration with Google Plus. We will be talking about how to use these features, especially hangouts, the plus feature and continued integration with Google tools. We will discuss how each of these features can be used by to connect with people and grow businesses.

At the breakfast venue in Houston were well over 100 participants, with three of us joining via Google+ Hangout video – Olga Garcia, the Google G-Feet Team Lead in Houston; Nimi Cheetham-West, marketing outreach specialist at Google in Houston; Yifat Cohen aka G+GoToGal, Houston-based co-host of the weekly Tech+Talks Hangout On Air and a knowledge expert on Google+; and me, Neville Hobson, in the UK.

I found it terrific listening to the insights from my fellow Hangout guests regarding use of Google+ Hangouts as well as in some of the discussion in the meeting itself. We covered quite a bit of ground even though we suffered some technical problems with audio at the venue and, in my case, a blue screen crash that kicked me out of the live session for about ten minutes (faithfully noted in the recording).

As a result, I didn’t get a chance to talk about the items I’d planned to – in addition to the more organized uses that many people think of (making presentations, for example, or doing online product demonstrations), these involve day-to-day uses in business and the workplace involving teams and collaboration.

For instance, that might include:

  • Small-group get-togethers for planning, reviews, etc: the on-screen sharing of documents can be especially appealing in this type of situation.
  • Regular team chats with up to 10 people: great for bringing together a geographically-diverse team.
  • One-to-one discussions: casual video meetings set up in an instant, and that can be private.
  • Public discussions in tweetchat style, addressing specific topics during a fixed time: the On Air aspect appeals hugely in this scenario.

I think it’s such prosaic uses of this tech tool that will be quite appealing to more people as it’s impromptu, easy to set up, with no special equipment needed beyond your webcam and browser, and a Google+ account of course.

My podcasting partner Shel Holtz and I have used Google+ Hangouts for video interviews and panel discussions as a way of experimenting and offering our content in a different format, appealing to some in our community.

You can check out the three we’ve done so far with Google+ Hangouts:

And today, at 6pm UK time, we’ll be doing our first Google+ Hangout On Air, with an FIR Live episode that is a panel discussion on influencer marketing. You can watch it live on YouTube, or see the recording that will be posted afterwards. Or listen to the audio as an FIR podcast.

So much choice!