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Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Simpler Events Page for Your Hangouts on Air

One of the major challenges about using Google tools (hangouts, Event pages, etc) is that to participate you must have a Google+ account. Even something as simple as trying to ask a question often requires your visitors to login - and if you don't have an account already setup, that's another roadblock for your visitor.

However, there are chat services available that makes it easy to participate - without requiring a login account. Zoho Chat (http://zoho.chat.com) is one of those services where your visitor selects a name for themselves and then can start chatting. By embedding the code for chatting with the code for your HOA you can create a simplified version of a Google Event:


Setup

If you're html handy, you can embed the two pieces of code anywhere, but if you're not, an easy solution is Google's Blogger. You create a specific blog to host your events and then create a new entry for each event/HOA. However you do it, be sure to test it ahead of time as there are many solutions that either don't accept the code (eg. Wordpress.com) or rewrites the code and it won't function properly (eg. Google Sites). For purpose of this example, I'll be embedding a live version further down.

Creating your chat

Visit chat.zoho.com and login using either one of the provided services or with Zoho itself.  You need to do this to create and administer your rooms. Once you're logged in, select the Shoutbox style from the right (there are other chat styles available, but this is the one that lets all users chat with each other).

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Next, you need to give the name for this chat box (for administration purposes), a title and customize the look of your chat box, changing the colors to match your web site. As I may create a chat for each HOA I create, I'll want to identify it by topic and date.



When everything's looking the way you want, generate the code for the embed. Now you just need to go to a page where you can paste in the HOA code along side the chat code. Here's a live sample below (the current video would be substituted for the HOA code):

 

If you'd prefer, you could even have the chat open in a separate window:

Pros/Cons

There's a lot to be said for using Google's comments tools located within Events and YouTube. You can have a conversation that takes place before and after your event, with notifications sent to you with each new posting. However, you still have to have a Google+ or YouTube account setup. Other sites like 
+Business Hangouts have created solutions to make the process easier by allowing viewers to login with Facebook, Linkedin in addition to Google+, but if you have a visitor who hasn't signed up for any of those is still forced to do so.

Although this method is sign-up free, it's not without it's own challenges: you can't moderate the chat or block users. Once the HOA is over, you do not receive any updates of further comments made to the chat. And of course, there's no way to followup with users because they can use false names.  However, you could create a form to collect contact information before providing them with the link to the actual hangout. Still with all it's challenges, if you want a simple way for anyone to join into a conversation without having to login, this is an effective tool.

Want to learn more about using this method? Just leave a comment below and I'll contact you with information about an upcoming training video/Hangout on Air.