24 Jan 2014

Knowing When To Be Unprofessional (or less sophisticated) in Your Tool Usage

Know Your Objectives
I am a big believer in being professional. And, if you have reached that level of professionalism, to strive even more. This is especially true of video work and hangouts. That doesn’t mean that you have to have the “Midas Touch” and that everything you touch turns to gold, but a continual process improvement to strive for a more professional product or service. This is why I added the slogan, “Taking it to the next level” to my hangout curriculum, because no matter where you start, I believe in striving to take it further.

So, why do I mention being unprofessional? Well, as a part of this article, I’m going to mention a hangout app, but also tell a story of how we took a less sophisticate approach to a hangout challenge. The goal of this article is to help you visualize, from a bird’s eye view, the professionalism of the project with or without the tool.

Let’s start at the beginning… something you learned in Business or Marketing 101.

Define Your Objective

In this case, we are talking about a hangout app, so the question would be, “What is your objective with this hangout?” Let’s use an example. If your objective is to literally “hang out” and watch a football game together, with 9 other football buddies, and share the hangout as a hangout on air for comments about the football game, then sound production may not be high on your list of importance because the key objective is sharing the experience of watching the football game and commenting on it on the social networks. The hangout, in this case, is somewhat incidental.

However, if the purpose of the hangout is to have a web show or interview someone for the purpose of performing post-production tasks and packaging the content and re-purposing it, including it in an info-product, etc., then sound production has a higher value in the overall list of elements relating to the hangout.

The objective is what drives how you use (or don’t use) the tool. Understanding your objective is the first step towards understanding the use of the tool.

So, for the example today, and how to use the featured tool, let’s assume that our objective is to create a show or an interview. In this case, sound engineering is important. We want it to sound good, right?

Sound Engineering

Assuming that sound engineering (or “quality sound”) is something that floats to the top of your list, based on the objective of your hangout, we start looking for ways to accommodate that goal of having quality sound. This is a goal that feeds into our overall objective of producing a quality show, interview, etc., with our Google hangout.


A cool site to visit, when looking for more Hangout apps (more than what appears within your hangout dashboard), is hangoutapps.com.

Beware, some of these apps do not work and some are beta, but if you love tools and playing around with Google hangouts, you may want to check out the site (or wait for me to review the apps for you :) )

Pro Studio Hangout App

One of my favorite tools, and the featured tool for this article, is Pro Studio by Chad LaFarge. This tool, and the intent for which it was developed, is brilliant. The purpose of the tool is to allow someone else to function as, in this case, the sound engineer for your hangouts. Now, if any of you have ever hosted a professional hangout, you probably can see the need (or want) to have someone handle the technical stuff. Even me, a trained sound engineer, appreciates the help. I actually had a hangout where I was so focused on the content that I did not hear… ready for this… a washing machine in the background! When I went to edit the video I was trying to figure out what that sound was and it was a washing machine in the interviewee’s other room and her mic picked it up and it was forever part of the hangout sound. So, cases like that are why the Pro Studio Hangout App exists, so that you can concentrate on hosting your hangout, while someone else handles things like the sound.

I hesitate to give you a step-by-step on how to use this tool because the last time I used it, it tended to, uh, not work. I would classify this tool as still in beta, but well worth bookmarking. It worked flawlessly for us in the previous version of the Google+ hangout, so I am expecting that Mr. LaFarge will probably make enhancements to this app. So, don’t discard it completely, but give it some time and you may find that it is an essential tool in your toolbox for your hangouts.

So, why are you wasting my time?

Why did I make you read all this to say, “Hey, check out this cool tool,” and then, “But, wait, don’t use it!?” Because there is a deeper purpose to this, that I want you to grasp. Before I start sharing all of my tool tips with you and what to try and how to use it, we need to make sure our foundation is solid. For example, do you go out and build the second floor bathroom in a brand new house before you have laid the foundation, framed the house, and even built access to a second floor? It is the same way with tools. I am a tool and plugin addict just like the next person, but you need to know these four things:

  1. What is your objective? (This helps dictate the tool, or the use of the tool.)
  2. What tool is helpful in meeting my goals and overall objective?
  3. How do I use the tool and work it into my process?
  4. What do I do when the tool fails to support the objective?

Changing Directions At A Moment’s Notice

Success in hangouts is dependent on being able to think quickly, or hiring people to think quickly for you. So, the real point of this article is #4, above, on what to do when the tool fails you. The reason I used the phrase “unprofessional” is because sometimes thinking on your feet and taking steps to reach your objective appears to be taking the unprofessional route. A better word, is really, “unsophisticated.” If you take the steps in order, and you know your objective, and you know where you are going, you can self-direct and make the decisions that you need to make, at that moment’s notice.

Let me illustrate by talking about a recent hangout. We implemented the Studio Pro tool. We practiced with the host, using the Studio Pro tool. We went through the entire training portion on how the host could assign the Studio Pro app to one of us so we could manage the techie stuff for her. So, we had our 1) objective (quality show); 2) the tool (Pro Studio); 3) how to use it, complete with training the host; and guess what happened? Moments before going live, the tool ceased to work and started flickering.

Many people panic or get mad at their computer, but let’s remember our objective… A quality show. Is panicking or getting mad at the computer going to help us stay on track? No. Is troubleshooting the tool for 60 minutes past the scheduled public start time going to meet our objective of a quality show? No, we have already lost our audience by that point. So, we ask ourselves, “How do we put on a quality show, starting at the designated time?” (meeting our objectives). Rather than forcing the tool to do what we expect it to do (which would be ideal, granted), we look at the overall objective, allowing ourselves to get creative, even if, in this situation, the final solution seems “less professional.”

The Seemingly Less Professional Solution that Met The Objective

You know what we did? Really quickly, we told the host to 1) ignore the tool we had just trained her on; and 2) to have the hangout chat window open and to watch for signals from her sound engineer (from our team). Our sound engineer did the same thing that he would have done, but without the direct controls. Instead, he used the chat window to give directions to the host (and the panelists). Directions, like “please move you mic slightly to the left,” etc. In this way, the objective was met (quality show, on time), but it was done in a less sophisticated manner and one which, may, at first glance, appear to be less professional than using a fancy tool.


So, all this to illustrate a point: Before you grab tools, especially with the expectation that they are going to do big things for you, understand your mindset. Know where you are going (i.e. business objective) and that will guide you in how you should get there, and, with that, you can have that much more fun adding tools to your tool set (without the need or desire to throw them out the window).

P.S. Let’s keep an eye out on the Pro Studio app and see what Mr. LaFarge does with it. It may turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread…after it stops flickering ;)