Teams meetings for non-business users – invitations

Teamsclient-headerTeams may have originally been intended as a business-to-business meeting and collaboration tool, it is now, in COVID-19 times, used heavily for all kinds of gatherings. The education sector is using it big time, my own organization is using it temporarily as a group therapy session tool, and I use it to meet with my fellow “citizen activists” who want to keep our lovely home town a great place to live in for real people.

So, right now Teams is being used by many non-business people, and I have had a lot of questions about “how it works” for non-business external users, as in: “what do they get and what do they have to do in order to participate?”

The fun part when you use Teams for “consumers’ is the variety of systems that people use – devices, browsers, email clients. So, I tried a few things, starting from my own Office365/Microsoft365 tenant.

I created a meeting from Outlook Online, as described earlier.

  • It does not show attendees
  • You can not forward the invitation
  • Externals need to wait in the lobby
  • Externals are an attendee, not a presenter

I sent this to various online emailclients: Outlook.com, Gmail.com, Yahoo.com

I opened the mailboxes with various browsers on laptop and the Outlook one on Iphone and Ipad.

I looked at the invitation and accepted the meeting (where possible).

What does the invitation look like?

Teamsclient-OutlookChrome
Laptop/Outlook.com mail. This invitation looks the same in Edge, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. The yellow bar mentions that the invitation can not be forwarded. (in Dutch)
Teamsclient-YahooFirefox
Laptop/Yahoo mail. Invitation looks the same in Edge, Chrome and Firefox. Internet Explorer shows a basic version. There is no Accept/Tentative/Decline option and no mention of the non-forwarding. And what is that silly logo next to my name?
Teamsclientgmailchrome
Laptop/Gmail. Invitation looks the same in Edge, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. There is an option to respond, but no mention about the non-forwarding. Although the time is technically correct, it is not the “natural” Dutch time and I could not find a way to correct it.
Teamsclient-outlookapple
iOS: Outlook.com mail via Apple Mail app. Yikes, this is all you get. The top says: this message is plain text, download the full message. If you do that, you get this:

Teamsclient-outlookappleexplanded1

Teamsclient-outlookappleexpanded2
Well, double Yikes. While iOS is usually so cool and user-friendly, this is awful. You have to download the message to make sense of it, and then you get a ton of ugly links and then at the bottom your instructions and the .ics file. No mention of the non-forwarding.
Teamsclient-outlookandroid
Android. Microsoft365 account, Outlook app. Response options but no mention of the non-forwarding.

What have I found so far?

  • Do not expect a response message if you are inviting external non-business users. I did not receive any responses except from the Microsoft365 user, even though I did accept the meeting on Gmail and Outlook.com.
  • Invitations to Gmail often go into the Spam box, especially when I used the “hide meeting attendees” option. You may want to check with your externals that they have seen the invitation.
  • Check if the meeting is on the right date and time on the receiver’s end. If people have their mailbox on a different timezone, they may want to adjust it.
    Or in case of Gmail, do they realize that the time is in UTC and what UTC means? 
  • Tell people that the invitation may move out of their inbox after accepting or declining it and that they can find it in their Deleted Items if they want to keep it. 
  • Sending an invitation does not mean that the date and time are added to the Calendar option of the email client automatically. In some case you need to download the .ics file (which not everybody may understand) or specify to the email client that invitations should always be added to your calendar.
  • “Do not forward” appears to work only within Microsoft email – the option to forward is greyed out in Outlook, but the emails sent to Yahoo and Gmail could be forwarded and the recipient could enter the meeting. ☹
  • Please note that I have an up-to-date Windows 10 laptop with current versions of browsers – be aware that non-business users may have different setups and different versions!

Do not assume!

In other words, do not assume that everything will work in the same way as with your external business contacts. Your “consumer” audience has a much larger variety in devices, mail clients, updates and browsers than your business contacts (who in many cases use Outlook, if not the full Microsoft 365suite). Your “consumer” audience may also be less exposed to formal meetings and be not as tech savvy – or be more savvy with other systems than Microsoft365.

Next time, I will discuss what happens when you click on the meeting link

2 thoughts on “Teams meetings for non-business users – invitations

  1. Fritz April 21, 2020 / 8:11 am

    Thanks for sharing your findings! Good to know, how this reacts. Especially, because the users are mainly not power users…

    • Ellen van Aken April 21, 2020 / 6:27 pm

      Hi Fritz, thank you for your comment. You are so right, and that comes on top of all the technical hurdles! 😁

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