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Don’t just hang out when you can be the star!

The Google Hangout, it sounds so casual, so relaxed, we’re just hangin’ out, right? Going into it, you’re thinking about whether the technology will cooperate and getting your points across but otherwise maybe you just throw on a polo shirt with the company logo and grab a seat in front of the laptop…with the camera lens staring up into your nostrils and some proprietary company information on the white board behind you.

No lie, these things have been seen or heard in Google Hangouts intended for professional viewing: an unmade hotel bed, booze bottles, cleavage, kids, kids’ drawings, t-shirts with slogans (“No, I will not fix your computer”), barking dogs…and then there are the more run-of-the-mill distractions – office background chatter and laughter, ringing cell phones, dinging e-mail, meeting and appointment alerts, co-workers sticking their heads in or worse, staring through the glass in the office door like stalkers.

The Next Podium You Step Up To May Be Your Computer Screen
If your Hangout is for public consumption, and it is increasingly more likely that is the case, your seat at your laptop is, essentially, a podium or a seat on a dais. What’s more, chances are the Hangout is being recorded for all posterity.

Taking all of the above into consideration, there are several ways in which you can not only keep from being “that guy” or gal but you can kick it up a notch so your showing tells viewers that you’ve got it all going on. Yes, all of it.

  • Think of yourself and your surrounds as being a TV station from which you will be broadcast and make your showing engaging and professional.
  • You don’t have to get out your “weddings and funerals” suit and be completely buttoned up for a Google Hangout, but wearing something that buttons up (and buttoning it up) is a good start.

The camera you look into should be arranged so you are appearing to look at and engage the viewer. You can achieve this in two ways:

  • The simplest and most difficult thing to do is look into that little camera dot when you are speaking. This might feel awkward but doing so will make you appear to be speaking to the viewers. If you look at your screen or down at notes, it can come across as impersonal, disinterested, or heaven forbid, like you’re asleep.
  • Raise your laptop so you look straight into the camera. Most of us look down into our laptops but being shot by the camera from below is an unflattering angle for most. Go low-tech and use books – there is still a use for them!

The Sound and the Fury

  • Turn off all audible alarms or notifications for mobile phones, computers, pads and tablets, and other devices so they’re not heard during the broadcast.
  • Do go so far as hanging a “do not disturb” sign outside the closed door in case the closed door by itself is not enough of a message that you are busy and shouldn’t be disturbed about the latest hilarious YouTube video.
  • If your office is a hub with people walking in and out frequently, reserve a small conference room and refer back to the last point.

Look out Behind You!

  • Be aware of your background wherever you are.
  • If you’re in a hotel, working at the desk, there is a good chance the bed is in the background. Situate yourself as best as you can to be framed by a neutral (or at least tidy) background.
  • Back at the office, the background could be used to promote your company or your company’s message. Perhaps signage from a trade show or other company display could be behind you.
  • If you work from home or your office is a constant display of proprietary information, consider investing in a plain folding screen you can pop open whenever a Hangout, Skype call, or other video opportunity presents itself.

Show & Tell

  • Think about the Hangout topic and what your company does. Without making it a commercial, is there any thing, physical item or component or model that you could hold up and show the audience to help illustrate your points? It’s a great way to be more than another talking head and stand out from the other people that may just be hangin’ out, you rock star.

Any Google Hangout tips of your own that you’d like to share? Please share them in the comment section below.