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Behind the scenes of the Content Strategy Hangout

In which we share all our secrets of hosting a Hangout on Air…

In December, we decided to do a Google+ Hangout on Air about content marketing. Why?
The technology’s there, and it seemed like a good idea.

For those who don’t know about them: Google+ includes a native app that allows you to host multi-person video chats (Hangouts), and then stream them live to an audience (Hangouts on Air).

Our Hangout on Air took place on Valentine’s Eve and – if you haven’t seen it – here it is:

In this little post, I’ll slake your curiosity on a few fronts:

  • Was it hard to arrange and run?
  • Was it a success?
  • What would you do differently?

Was it hard to arrange and run?

In a word, no. But it took some time. Best guess: 20 – 30 hours of planning and execution time all-in, from 3 – 4 people.

Inspiration
Like any newbie, we stole shamelessly. Sure, we googled relevant phrases like “How to hold a Google+ Hangout on Air”, but we plundered most ruthlessly the Branded3 brunch concept. They set up an EventBrite page to manage sign-ups, branded a Google+ event page smartly and even included a “free muffin” tie-in. Yes, muffins. Seriously clever. (And good muffins. Thanks Branded3!)

Topic & panelists
The topic chose itself, as Doug was working on a deck that would soon rock the entire content marketing world. Then we looked around for great and glorious panelists who would have smart things to say. We went 5 for 5 on panelists (high five!), even though one actually works for Velocity and two are clients. Still.

Promotion
Once our own event registration pages were up on EventBrite and Google+, we let the world know about them via twitter, our own blog, LinkedIn and just about every other channel we knew. And we asked the panelists to blog about it.

This was pretty effective. Over the month or so of pre-event promotion, we tallied about 60 registrations on Google+ and 90 on EventBrite. And we could even track traffic to our EventBrite page:

Hangout stats

One little bit of special sauce: We asked people who registered to check a box if they wanted us to let them know of future Hangouts. About 90% checked the box, so our next Hangout starts with a mailing list (our first one didn’t).

To give the whole affair some extra schwung, we gave it all some serious design juice. Everything from the EventBrite page to our Google+ page to the Google+ event page to our blog post was strongly branded. And we even made little tweetable posters:

Also we worked pretty hard to prep our panelists – both technically (download the plugin BEFORE the Hangout) and topically. Even while trying to keep email exchanges lean, we probably had to send 3-4 circulars. “This is the agenda.” “Here’s how to take part.” “Here’s something to share.” “Don’t forget…” Etc.

Preparation
There were dress rehearsals – three in all (though none involved the panelists). This taught us how to get the Hangout going, how to invite in panelists, how to run the “screen” and how to chat within the Hangout.

The curtain rises
Finally, go-time. I think everyone took part at home (or at least someone’s home) for the sake of quiet. The hangout started 15 minutes prior to go-live, and we were all onboard a few minutes before start, and went live (wait for it) on time!

Moderating the whole endeavor proved to be very easy. With this recipe:

Good topic. Great panelists. A little bit of structure. Heat and serve.

We could hardly go wrong. Though my “drinking problems” inspired some viewers of Marco Rubio:

Live curation
At the beginning of the Hangout, we made it clear that #cshangout would be the hashtag to use for commentary and discussion around the talk. Doug did a great job of picking up the salient points and keeping the back-channel chatter ticking in. Both he and Martha kept an eye out for comments on the Google+ page and YouTube page.

Was it a success?

Survey says…pretty much a success.

First off, some people struggled to find the live feed. We’d promoted the Google+ event page, but the video did not appear there. Instead, it was streamed on our Google+ profile page or on a YouTube link that we provided.

By our crude research, we had between 20 and 30 live viewers on Google+ and around 50 on YouTube. In the week following, two or three times that number checked it out.

I read three reviews:

  • Ross E. Chapman wrote “I enjoyed the hangout on Wednesday. What did I like about it? Moments where the speakers introduced specific examples or specific marketing tips/tricks.” – quoted from an email with Ross’s permission.

So, we’re talking largely positive, but with some clear room for improvement as we get to know the format better.

What would you do differently?

A few things:

  1. A narrower topic: When you’ve only got an hour to try to cover off an issue, you’d better keep it tight. Despite our best efforts, our topic ended up being a proxy for all of content marketing (and, if you work in the field, that’s pretty broad).
  1. A smaller panel: Our panel was excellent, and I feel like we could have gotten more out of them. With so many experts, we struggled to give each his or her due. The core panel should max out at, say, four (with moderator). You can add the occasional guest, though.
  1. One home for the show: To avoid confusion next time, we’ll embed the streaming video on a page on our own site. That way, we have one home for the show, and we own it.
  1. Tighter direction: As Jim Burns pointed out, sometimes the pace of discussion lagged. There should be room for thought and exploration, but the viewer should never feel like time is dragging.
  1. Use the live format better: This is, after all, a live event, not taped. There’s value there worth tapping, such as taking live questions or interacting with outside events. We’ll explore this in the future.
  1. Ted Koppel-ize the production: Consummate professionalism shows, and we lacked it at moments. “Pings” from skype (sorry, folks), people stepping away from camera and me drinking water regularly all pulled attention away from what we were saying.
  1. A takeaway: At least one viewer wished we’d summed up the points made during the Hangout more formally. Good point. I made a Storify, but we’ll try to do more next time.

We’re always learning here at V, so anyone else with reactions to the Hangout or to Hangouts in general is encouraged to leave them here.

And we’re proud to announce the next Hangout – it’ll be happening 21 March, cover “How to convince internal stakeholders to invest in content marketing” and feature Joe Chernov, Michael Brenner and Ardath Albee. Register today.

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One Response to “Behind the scenes of the Content Strategy Hangout”

  1. jinan alrawi

    hi guys,

    thanks for the event. note I created a public list of those tweeting your #cshangout during the event. looking forward to the next one later this month.

    @jinanalrawi

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