I’ve been watching quite a few Hangouts on Air (HOA) lately and although they are getting better than the early days of hangouts there still seems to be room for simple etiquette improvements which will make hangouts a better experience for everybody.
You Are Always On Camera
The most important thing to remember is that if you are a panelist in an HOA you are always visible whether you are talking and command the large screen or if you are observing and only visible in the small film strip at the bottom of the hangout screen. Although most people are very good and attentive while not on the large screen there are also a few who are not.
One of the more annoying infractions are the people who think being on a panel is a great time to wolf down a sandwich and chug a Big Gulp while they are on a panel. We can see you and not everybody eats that gracefully. A wide angle close-up of somebody munching a hoagie even in the small thumbnail in the film strip lacks a certain professional decor.
Almost as annoying is the person rifling through paperwork or feverishly surfing the Internet. The thing is, you’ve been invited to a panel and just how professional you are is acutely visible. I’m not saying that you can’t use the Internet or your local hard drive to find information pertinent to hangout, but it’s only polite to pay attention to the speaker. Especially, if you are the host. If you ask a panelist a question and then completely ignore the answer it looks like you don’t care.
I’m sure most people don’t do this on purpose. It’s just important to keep in mind that whether you are on the main screen or in a thumbnail in the filmstrip people can see you and minor distractions can take away from the overall professionalism of a hangout.
Sound is the next important element. This used to be a bigger problem. People would come crashing into a hangout disrupting everybody while they finished conversations, banged drawers, and pounded away at the keyboard. Fortunately, Google mitigated this problem by automatically turning the microphone off by default as people enter a hangout. But there is still problems in this area.
Whether you have a fan, tv, or barking dog in the background everybody can hear it. They can even hear objects being slid across your desktop. This, by itself, really isn’t that bad but the way most hangouts work the person who is talking (or making noise) is featured in the larger camera feed dominating the hangout. And there is nothing more distracting than when an expert is dispensing valuable information and their image is interrupted by an image of somebody sniffling, clearing their throat, or making any small noise.
Fortunately the fix is simple. All you have to do is turn off your microphone in situations when you know you won’t be speaking for awhile.
Although for some these suggestions may sound over the top, following them will create a more pleasant and professional hangout experience for both the people on the panel and those watching the HOA.