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The Ultimate Guide to Using Hangouts on Air for Webinars

The Ultimate Guide to Using Hangouts on Air for Webinars

By Pat Flynn on

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with using Google Hangouts on Air (HOA) to run webinars, mainly to conduct free monthly Q&As for the SPI and Breakthrough Blogging community. It’s been a lot of fun, however setting up a HOA is not exactly a straightforward process. I’ve been working on a tutorial based on my own experience, but I’ve recently discovered a slew of software options that make running webinars much easier for online marketing purposes, and today’s guest post by Mary Jaksch, Creator of A-List Blogging, and Editor-in-Chief at, helps to make sense of it all. She’s been running webinars online for the last four years.

Mary and I met each other in Vegas at Blog World Expo in 2010, and have been in contact with each other ever since. After creating two super-successful blogs of her own, Mary has dedicated herself to teaching students to grow profitable blogs that attract attention. Take her fun quiz to see how much you know about what makes a blog successful.

Take it away Mary!

Do you have ideas and information you want to share?

If you want to educate and entertain your audience, grow your list, interact directly with your readers, add value to your brand,  and make some money while you’re at it – creating web-based seminars, or webinars,  is a great choice.

But which webinar software should you choose?

I’ve been running webinars for the last four years and have tried an array of solutions: Ustream, GVO Conference, GotoWebinar, Stealth Seminar, EasyWebinar Plugin, and WebinarJam.

In the last few years, the dominating software was GotoWebinar. It’s an expensive and maybe outdated option.

Many marketers still use GotoWebinar, because they think it’s fool-proof.

Here’s what Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend said in a recent ‘grovel’ email to his list:

Last night, more than a thousand of you showed up and waited for 30-40 minutes while absolutely nothing happened. Our webinar technology exploded and despite panicked calls with customer support, there wasn’t a thing they could do. We couldn’t even tell our attendees that there was a problem.


Scott was using GotoWebinar.

Luckily, with the advent of Google Hangouts on Air , there are other options out there. Options that are not only cheaper, but also offer some exciting new features.

Google HOAs are free to run (and you can stream to an unlimited number of users!), however there are premium software systems that integrate with HOA to help enhance the experience.

How Webinar Software Options Compare

Below is a comparison chart that compares features and  pricing levels.

Webinar software comparison 16 March

You can see that there is a wide spread of features. And an even wider spread of prices!

Each of the software solutions has a particular thrust. WebinarJam, Stealth Seminar, and GotoWebinar are mainly used for online marketing.  Casey Zeman’s EasyWebinar Plugin has a strong focus on automated webinars (although you can also run live webinars with it).

Of all the options, I find WebinarJam the most straightforward to use. It was created by Mike Filsaime and Andy Jenkins, two experienced online marketers.

Geoff Ronning’s Stealth Seminar is not set up for do-it-yourselfers like myself, who want quick and easy solutions. His system uses a helpdesk that sets up the webinars for clients. I found the process too cumbersome.

I tend to use WebinarJam for live online events and EasyWebinar Plugin for automated webinars.

What Kind of Registration Pages Can You Use?

When you run a webinar, what you need is a great registration page that inspires people to sign up, right?

Both EWP (EasyWebinar Plugin) and WJ (WebinarJam) offer a range of registration page designs. None are particularly striking.

However, it’s easy to integrate EWP with LeadPages [Full Disclosure: I am a compensated advisor and affiliate for Leadpages] and also with OptimizePress.

WebinarJam’s  landing pages are more attractive than EWP’s. However, if you want to integrate WJ with Leadpages, you’re in for a technical nightmare.   I’ve figured out how to do it – but it’s a complex, ten-step procedure.

Speaking of Leadpages, Clay Collins his team have included a couple of templates for sharing live presentations that integrate with services like Ustream and Livestream, which also work with Google Hangouts on Air as well. 

The Leadpages template works rather like the Easy Webinar Plugin, but it lacks the sophisticated selling tools that the newer webinar software programs offer. 

Like with the Easy Webinar Plugin, getting your live presentation going with Leadpages is complex and rather stressful. You have to start broadcasting the Hangout on Air, then grab the hangout code and quickly hurry back LeadPages to insert the code into the template. Only then does the hangout you’ve embedded on one of your website pages become visible to your participants. 

Like the Easy Webinar Plugin, the Leadpages template doesn’t have an inbuilt chat function, so you need to use chat software like Chatroll or LiveFyre which then sits underneath the presentation. 

Google Hangouts on Air: How They Work

The way HOA (Hangouts on Air) work is that they are connected to your YouTube account. As soon as you start broadcasting, a YouTube video is created that streams out live.

This means that there is an automatic recording of your online event.

You can use slide presentations, as well as live webcam presentations. And you can switch between the two.

However, using HOA on its own doesn’t work for professional webinars because you can’t schedule Hangouts on Air for a date in the future.

Software programs –  like EasyWebinar Plugin, WebinarJam, or Stealth Seminar  – offer ways to schedule webinars, register participants, and hold them in a virtual ‘waiting room’ before the Hangout begins.

Starting a Hangout on Air 

You’ll need a Google account to be able to use Hangouts on Air. If you haven’t got a Google account, you can create one within minutes.

Tip: Create a new Gmail account for your HOA tests so that your YouTube subscribers can’t watch your tests before you can delete them or make them private!

Once you’ve set up a Gmail account, you need to enable Google+. If you click on the little plus sign before your name in the Google bar, you’ll see a drop-down list and can click on G+.

Starting a Hangout On Air from YouTube

In order to start the hangout in YouTube, click directly on the ‘Upload’ button. Upload from Youtube 1



start Google Hangouts from Youtube2You’ll then see the a range of options.

Click on ‘Broadcast’.


If this is the first time you are linking Google+ to Google Hangouts on Air, you’ll be asked to connect your YouTube account to your Google+ profile.

Starting a HOA in Google+

On your Google+ account, click on ‘Home’ and open the drop-down list of options to find Hangouts on Air.

Google plus start HOA new image2




When you start a Hangout on Air, it isn’t live yet. You can try out all the settings and test your presentation. It’s only when you click on ‘Broadcast’ that the Hangout goes out live!

What You Need to Know About Hangout Settings

When you open a Hangout on Air,  move your mouse to the top of the screen to see the settings panel.

You can mute your microphone or stop video, or you can adjust your bandwidth.

Hangouts on air settings panel



Click on the cog icon to reveal the video and audio settings. This is where you need to activate your external webcam or external microphone, if you are using one.

Useful Hangout apps 

When you use HOA, there are a number of apps you can use to enhance your presentation. In particular, there are three useful apps, the Hangout Toolbox, the Camera Man app and the Lower Third app.  With the Hangout Toolbox, you can configure the Lower Third app which is a great branding tool. The overlay you create shows whenever you present live via the webcam. This is what the default option looks like. (You can also create a customized Lower Third overlay.)

Lower thirds

How to Create Slide Presentations That Work with Hangouts on Air

In order to work on a Hangout on Air, a slideshow has to show up in a window, and not take up the whole desktop.

In general, working with all-Google products produces the sharpest resolution. For example, you can use SlideShare on Google Drive to get good results. However, with SlideShare, you will lose any animations and at times, Google Drive isn’t available.

Using PowerPoint presentations

Option 1

The first option is to load your PowerPoint presentation into Google Drive.

Tip: Make sure you click on ‘Present in new window’ in the Google Drive presentation options.

Drive presentation - window


Option 2

You can present PowerPoint slides directly.  Click on Slide Show in the PowerPoint navigation bar, and then on Set Up Show. Then click on Browsed by an individual (window).

Powerpoint separate window

Using Keynote for Mac

The fundamental problem with Keynote is that presentations take up the whole desktop and don’t play in a window. This means you can’t select it as a screen to share when you run a Hangout On Air.

There are two workarounds.

Option 1: Export your Keynote presentation to PowerPoint, upload to Google Drive, and then present from there.  The problem is that your animations won’t show up.

Each slide is rendered in its entirety. This means that if you have set up multiple bullet points on one page in Keynote so that each one appears upon clicking, you will need to change your presentation so that you have a separate slide for each point, otherwise they will all appear at once.

Option 2: 

Convert your Keynote presentation to QuickTime and present from there. This preserves the animations and transitions.

But there is a problem…

If you are using the newest Mac operating system with QuickTime 10 or higher, this option won’t work. This is because QuickTime 10 doesn’t support manual advance. With QuickTime 10, the presentation runs like a video, and you can’t advance it screen by screen (which you need for a presentation).

The solution is to use Keynote series 4 or 5 (iWorks ’08 or ’09), together with Quicktime 7. (You can download Quicktime 7 here).

When you export your Keynote ’08 or ’09 presentation to QuickTime 7, choose ‘Manual Advance’.

Keynote '09 manual advance

This is the solution to run Keynote presentations – with animations – in Hangouts On Air.

The Problem of the Chat Function

GotoWebinar has a chat function which can be viewed only by presenters or administrators.

With some software using Hangouts On Air, you can have a chat option where participants can not only ask questions of the presenters, but also read each others comments and interact with each other.

EasyWebinar Plugin’s default option is chat by email. In this arrangement, participants can’t see each other’s comments, so there is no interaction. You can also integrate with other chat software like Livefyre, in order to have a chat that is interactive.

Potential problems with Livefyre or other chat software are that they sit below the presentation panel, so participants have to scroll down to see the chat. Participants also need to sign up for Livefyre before they can use the chat.

WebinarJam has created an elegant chat feature that sits to the right-hand side of the presentation screen. You can change the setting to either send a chat to a co-presenter, or make it public.

Webinar Jam chat 700 look

You can also turn the chat on and off. It’s a good practice to open the chat only when you commence the Q&A section of your webinar.

Tip: Detach the WebinarJam sidebar so that you can scroll down when you want to read questions.

There is a 20-second delay between presentation and the participants’ view. You can bridge this gap at the start of the Q&A session with one or two pre-recorded questions.

Nifty Selling Tools For You

Both WebinarJam and EasyWebinar Plugin have some great selling tools.

In EWP you can set up Timed Events. This means that you can preset links, buy buttons, or banners to appear at certain times during your presentation. This works especially well with automated webinars because you know exactly how long your presentation is going to be.

WebinarJam allows you to set up pre-configured offers with text and banners, and then turn them on to show in the right-hand sidebar whenever you want to.

Tip: When you configure the link from your banner or offer in WJ or EWP, make sure the URL you want to send participants to opens in a new browser tab, otherwise you’ll kick them out of your webinar by mistake!

Analysis That Helps You Sell

Most webinar software comes with inbuilt analytics. Theoretically, you can get an analysis of how many people signed up, the percentage of people who showed up on the call, and, with some programs, what kind of conversion you got from your call.

However, the analysis of a webinar I recently ran with WebinarJam was out by a huge margin. 749 people actually registered, but the analysis only showed 266 registrants!

A workaround is to use Google Analytics for accurate conversion stats.

The Lure of Hybrid Events

A hybrid event means that you can start and end with a live webcam presentation and in between play a pre-recorded video with a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation.

With software systems that use Hangouts on Air, running hybrid events isn’t fully functional yet. Casey Zeman at EasyVideoWebinar is apparently about to release a way to run hybrid presentations. WebinarJam has already introduced a hybrid system but there are still some serious bugs.

Stealth Seminar‘s so-called hybrid presentation option doesn’t let you start a presentation live. You can only preset to show a video at the start, and then finish up live, using your webcam. You can’t switch between the two modes at will.

And the Key Question …

Is webinar software utilizing Hangouts on Air a good option for running webinars?

My answer is: yes, but …

I think the various software options using Hangouts on Air offer some amazing new possibilities that can make webinars much more attractive for viewers.

I use WebinarJam for live events and EasyWebinar Plugin for automated webinars. The problems I’ve encountered so far have been mostly my own ‘driver errors,’ not software errors.

However, like all tools, it takes time, effort, and practice to use them correctly. I’ve put together a report on how to trouble-shoot webinars which use Hangouts on Air. You can grab it here.

I’ve called this article the ‘Ultimate Guide’ because I want it to be a resource that can be used not only now, but also in the future. I’ll be updating it as new developments come about.

Bookmark this post for further reference and share it through social media.

Please add your questions, thoughts, and experiences in the comments.

Thanks again Mary for sharing your experience with HOAs and the various related software! For those of you who may be interested, I just found out that John Lee Dumas from, who uses HOAs for webinars as well, is conducting a “webinar on webinars” that is happening on April 2nd at 2pm EST. I will be attending this myself, and I hope to see you there! 

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