How we set up Google Hangouts for Museumhive

One of the behind the scenes challenges for Museumhive was to make sure our Google Hangouts connected without a hitch at the Museumhive meetup. (The image of fumbling around at the keyboard trying to connect the presenter while and audience is expectantly watching over your shoulder motivated a lot of pre-event testing). And I’m pleased to say that with the exception of a few minor glitches, our Hangouts happened without incident, and are wonderfully archived on Youtube for all to see forever and ever.

Here’s the process I used to set the Hangout up.  (This is as of late summer 2017 — we found that the specific process seems to change a couple times a year as Google evolves the interface. For example, partway through the project, Google Hangouts seemed to evolve into YouTube Live. But with that caveat, this may be helpful to others in any case):

Two weeks or more prior to the event:

  1. Set up a gmail account associated with the organization (if not done already). It may be better in some cases to dedicate the account to the Hangouts rather than general email since the password login information may need to be shared between event organizers
  2. Go to Youtube and log into that account.
  3. Go to “Creator Studio” which is accessed by clicking the user icon in the upper right of the screen
  4. From the Creator Studio menu on the left, select “Live Streaming” and then “Events”
  5. Click “Schedule a New Event”
  6. Set the basic info, such as date and time, title, description and keywords. We also set the event to “Public” and a Type of “Quick” (not “Custom”)
  7. Then, click “Create Event”

At this point, you’ll have an event with a URL on YouTube that you can email out to audiences so they can watch it stream live if they can’t make it to the physical meetup. This will also be the URL where the video will be archived on YouTube for playback after the event.

A day or so prior to the event:

  1. Do a test hangout with your presenter, ideally from the location where they’ll be presenting and where you’ll be projecting the hangout. If not feasible, at least do a test using the two machines that will be used (most likely laptops).
  2. For the test, go into Creator Studio/Live Streaming/Events and select your event and click “Start Hangout on Air”. This will open a live video window, but won’t actually be broadcasting or recording — it just provides a space where you can meet/chat with your presenter and test the conditions.
  3. Invite the presenter via the “invite” icon at the top of the screen (I’m a little foggy on the details, but basically this will send a link to the presenter). Some presenters reported that their personal gmail accounts were more reliable than a corporate email account for receiving the invitation and joining the hangout.
  4. Test the presenters’ microphone (sound good? any interfering sounds?) and general lighting if they’re going to be presenting from the same place. (Is there a window with backlighting behind them, etc).

At the event:

  1. Show up at least an hour ahead of time, verify the wireless connection, connect your laptop (which you’re using for the Hangout) to the projector and speakers, and make sure it’s all working. (Note: because the Hangout requires login to the gmail account, I suggest using a laptop that you’ve already tested for the Hangout above, and not a new laptop requiring gmail login, two-factor authentication, etc.) Remember to turn notifications or other popups off in your operating system!
  2. Arrange with the presenter to connect on the Hangout about 20 minutes before the presentation. (It can be helpful to have their cell phone number to call or text them if there are problems)
  3. Follow the steps listed above to initiate the Hangout: Creator Studio/Live Streaming/Events then “Start Hangout on Air”. At this point, we’re not yet broadcasting or recording, so you can do a check again of microphone and go over any details.
  4. Finally, when the hour arrives and you’re ready to begin, click the “Start Broadcast” button. There will be 5-10 seconds of buffering, and then you’re on! You will be broadcasting and recording to video on YouTube.

The above process worked very well when tested ahead of time to iron out any sticking points.  We did have a few minor issues come up during the hangouts: 1) One of our laptops wasn’t plugged into power, and the Hangout died about halfway through. Fortunately, once the power was attached, we were able to rejoin, and it even continued the video recording. 2) On another occasion, we had some reverb on the speaker system, and had to mute our mic during the presentation, then toggle it back on to take questions from the audience.

No doubt these instructions will change, but the overall process will be similar: set it up a couple weeks ahead of time, test with the presenter before the event, and test again immediately prior to the presentation.

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This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant MG-45-16-0029-16. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Museumhive also is grateful for support from District Hall, a dedicated civic space where Boston’s innovation community can gather and exchange ideas.