What You Can Learn from My Google Hangouts On-Air Disaster!

Gina McCauley, Founder of the Blogging While Brown Conference

Gina McCauley, Founder of the Blogging While Brown Conference

I will not declare that Google Hangouts Sucks. What happened to me is not Google’s fault. I take full responsibility. I’ve gotten to watch some great Hangouts. What I will say is that attempting to broadcast my own live Google Hangout has left me emotionally scarred from my technological humiliation in front of the world.

I finally decided to explore Google Plus after being told that I HAD to use Google Plus in order to enjoy the benefits of SEO on the Google search engine. Hangouts seemed “neat” and I read raves about Hangouts in most of the articles about Google Plus. So I decided to host a Google Hangout as a prelude to my annual conference, Blogging While Brown. I had an amazing guest, Zondra Hughes of Six Brown Chicks and she had an amazing presentation. Too bad no one got to see or hear it the first two times we tried it. So imagine my embarrassment when the lady who runs a social media conference doesn’t know how to use social media. Behold the train wreck. Apparently it posted to Youtube so I get to relive it all over again. 

As I sit here attempting to recover from the psychological trauma of my first attempt at a Google Hangout On-Air. I have decided to chronicle everything I did wrong so that this public embarrassment might be a learning lesson and provide a beacon of light to all who may follow in my path. 

It Isn’t for Everybody

Just because you CAN use Google Hangouts , doesn’t mean you should. I’m sure many will disagree with me, but there are just far more user-friendly, reliable alternatives to Hangouts On-Air. If you are doing a high profile live event, choose one of those.

Google Plus is not like anything else on the internet.

Forget all of the other podcasting and live-streaming services you’ve every used. It’s not SKYPE, it isn’t USTREAM, it isn't Facetime, it isn’t Blog Talk Radio.  If you attempt to use the logic, reasoning and experience you developed on other platforms and apply those to Google Plus, you will be sadly mistaken. I made a terrible assumption that Google Hangouts would be user-friendly. It wasn’t for me. Which makes me wonder who Google intended to be a user. 

Practice. Practice. Practice.

No, you will not “figure it out” on the day of the event. In this case we did a dry run through. A practice session was the responsible thing to do.  It appeared to work well. And then on the day of our scheduled event, it didn’t. 

Because we did not have lengthy history of hiccups to draw wisdom, we stumbled in front of the world. We could not troubleshoot because we’d never experienced “trouble.”  Google kept logging us in and out of Hangouts, our invitations weren’t going through, it was madness!

Had we practiced for a month or more. We would have known what to do when something didn’t work as planned. We would have known what possibly may have gone wrong.

Google Hangouts and anything related to Google Plus is NOT Intuitive.

You know how your two-year-old cousin can figure out how to SKYPE on your iPad? Give the tiny tot access to your Google Plus account and I promise, the baby will be just as stumped as you are. Google Hangouts is not intuitive to me. It is the kind of thing some of us need a class to understand. It’s not a consumer product. I suspect consumers were not the intended end users.  

Why Google Plus is designed the way it is a mystery to me. The parts don’t work together. You have to log in multiple times. Features that should take one step, takes five, and that’s only after reading a step-by-step tutorial written by someone else other than Google. Because you see, the videos located on Google Plus don’t actually show you how to use it, they just demonstrate what you could do, if you ever figured it out. 

I’m relatively tech savvy- from an end user’s perspective. I can code a little and I’ve live streamed events and even hosted my own podcast on multiple platforms. I know how to follow directions. My first clue was when I searched for simple directions on how to execute a live broadcast, I didn’t find any. So I relied on the kindness of other internet strangers to show me the way.

Get Over Your Embarrassment

Sure only 20 or so people saw my train wreck of a hangout. I wish it had been flawless, but I shouldn’t view it’s trainwrecky goodness as a failure, it was more like a very valuable learning experience. 

Don’t Give Up.

I’m more committed than ever to figuring out Google Hangouts On-Air .  I must conquer Google Hangouts before I can declare that it sucks and stop using it. Otherwise, I’d be quitting and I am not a quitter!

So here are some  nuggets of wisdom that I gleaned from my epic failure. 

  • Make sure the mic of the person you want people to hear is not muted.
  • Make sure the screen that you want to display to the world is actually displaying.
  • Do about a dozen low profile test hangouts before publicizing your first hangout.
  • Have a backup service such as USTREAM on standby in case some terrible technical nightmare ensures.
  • Text your host if there is a problem.
  • Take a class... taught by someone other than Google! Google appears completely unconcerned with the ability to actually use the technology.

That is why I will be on the front row of the panel Beyond Facebook & Twitter: Using Google Plus, Pinterest and Instagram at this year's Blogging While Brown.  It is a breakout session scheduled for 10:30AM on Saturday, June 22nd.  Perhaps our speakers Jeneba Ghatt, and Nicole A. Taylor can help me figure all of this out!

Here is the final produce from Zondra once we finally got things right.