Teams meeting recipes

Since the start of this year, many extra controls have arrived in Teams meetings. We all remember the stories from early lockdown of students muting the teacher, or removing other students from the meeting, just because every Teams meeting was a free-for-all by default, which is of course excellent for regular business collaboration (its original purpose), but less than perfect for other situations.

By now there are a lot of extra ingredients to create a Teams meeting that is exactly suited for purpose:

Lobby, presenter/attendee roles and muting options.

As we have a lot of different meeting types, and I am often asked for advice on how to set up a particular type of meeting, please allow me to share a few “recipes” for different types of meetings, from “no boundaries” to “tightly controlled”.

1. The recurring team/update meeting

These (default) settings are perfect for a recurring meeting for a well-established team. Within my own team we have these settings for our 3-times-a-week-meeting. We mostly talk, but occasionally share screens so it is nice if we all can do that when needed. We only use special features to test them if they are new (we used Spotlight a few times this week), or for the occasional prank. Everyone knows how to mute that colleague whose dog starts barking, and everyone does that when needed.

Who can bypass the lobby? People in my organization

Who can present? Everyone

Allow attendees to unmute: Yes

2. The formal meeting

This is usually a one-off, carefully planned meeting with known and sometimes unknown business partners. As it generally does not have too many people present and should be collaborative, everyone will need to be able to speak, but not necessarily present or do anything else that a presenter can do.
If it is a recurring meeting with known externals, you may want to remove the lobby barrier, but I do not think any external contact will feel offended if they have to wait until someone admits them.
If plans need to be discussed, screen sharing will be more important than Spotlighting the speaker. (It’s one or the other; if you Spotlight someone their presentation will be just another tile in your gallery of people present.)

Who can bypass the lobby? People in my organization (occasionally: Everyone)

Who can present? Specific people

Allow attendees to unmute: Yes

3. The group therapy session

As mentioned earlier, we allow Teams to be used for group therapy sessions as long as in-person sessions are not feasible and our preferred tool can not accommodate larger groups. These sessions are led by one or more of our therapists, and attended by clients, who are externals.
The therapists need to be able to take measures when the group is too noisy or needs to focus their attention, so the occasional Mute All (with the option that a client can unmute) will be helpful, as will the Spotlight option to focus attention to a therapist. This will also reduce visual clutter and movement, as some clients are sensitive to that.

Who can bypass the lobby? People in my organization or Only Me, provided the therapist is the organizer (but that is not always the case).

Who can present? People in my organization

Allow attendees to unmute: Yes

4. The large team event

The autumn season always has a lot of large meetings, both as a get-together for teams after the summer holiday period, and as a starting point for plans for the year ahead. We have recently seen a lot of virtual get-togethers for these purposes.
As these sessions often contain many people, and generally need to discuss too many topics in too little time, control is needed. As are breakout rooms!
Spotlights can be useful to highlight a speaker, as well as Mute all.

Who can bypass the lobby? Only Me or People in my organization.

Who can present? Specific people.

Allow attendees to unmute: Yes.

5. The seminar, lecture, training, speech

Our education season has also started again, and with it the need to do this online. Now that Hard Mute is available, smaller events may be done in a Teams meeting rather than in a Live Event. For questions, you can use chat or allow unmuting after each lecture. Spotlight may be useful for a speech.
The Live Event has some advantages: the moderated Q&A, the option to see the presenter next to their slides, the fact everyone can focus on the presenter and they are not distracted by the videos or pictures of other attendees, etc. but for each event you could balance the easy setup of the Teams meeting versus the more complicated formality of the Live Event.

Who can bypass the lobby? Everyone (for education events) or People in my organization (for an internal speech).

Who can present? Specific people.

Allow attendees to unmute: No.

Conclusions

The new options are valuable additions to the existing toolkit. I especially like the option of Hard Mute, as it may allow some events to be done in a Teams meeting rather than in a Live Event.

I am looking forward to making everyone aware of these new features, and helping organizers to mix the various options to make their own event the best possible experience.

Oh yes, and we are all SO looking forward to the break-out rooms!!!

6 more lessons from Teams Live Events

After producing two Live Events for our “Convention bureau”, and sharing the lessons learned, I thought I knew it all!
So for another event, I handed over the producer role to the organization. One of our psychiatric nurses was eager to try it. I briefed him and his presenter colleagues, told them how it works, what to do and what to think of during presenting.

I told them that switching presenters was a bit of work, as you can not “line up” the next presentation properly and wait for the proper time to make it live. (Presenters overwrite each other, so changes of presenter are messier than I had expected)

But they already had a solution.

1. Switch less by making one big presentation

That was clever. They collected all research slides as well as the intro and break slides into one big PowerPoint, and shared that on one laptop. As the presenters were in one room, it meant that each presenter in turn walked up to the laptop, cleaned keyboard and mouse (COVID-19!) and gave their presentation. The producer only had to switch layouts to start and end each break.
This can certainly not be done in every situation, but it worked here and made the producer’s work much easier.

2. You can not organize a Live Event with a F3 license

After my run-through, the producer wanted to create the Live Event, but he did not have the option.
That was an unpleasant surprise, but it was later confirmed in the Microsoft information.

If you have an F3 license, you do not see the dropdown option to create a Live Event

As it turned out, you can produce and present with the F3 license, as long as you use the desktop app. Everyone in my organization has the desktop app, which makes things a lot easier.

3. Attendee’s devices may go to sleep during a long break

I have not seen this myself, but apparently, after a 30-min break, the “crew” got some messages that people had to go into the meeting again because their devices had gone to sleep.

4. The attendee report of public events does not show names

The first two events were scheduled as in-company events, where people had to log on. The attendee report then shows the log-in names of attendees.

However, our Convention Bureau really wanted public events as there are often externals who like to join, e.g. teachers or peer organizations. When they switched to a public event, they expected the same type of attendee report and they were disappointed to see only IP-addresses and no names. Which is a bit of a no-brainer as you just click the link to a public event, without having to specify your name, but they had not thought of that.

The attendee reports are needed to give our students “study points” so I suggested to use a Form to collect attendee names, with the following process:

  • employees only
  • record names
  • one question (e.g. satisfaction with the event until now, or any other question, as long as you get the name)
  • limited time to complete, using expiry date and time the same as, or earlier than, the event end time (to minimize the chance of foul play 🙂 )
  • distributed via the Q&A in a break with an explanatory message
These could be the settings to collect attendance from employees

5. Externals with a Microsoft365 account can present

If you have any external presenters (we have them frequently, e.g. university professors) who have a Microsoft365 account from their employer: they can present, as long as that account has been invited and they use the desktop app. And I think they also need to be a guest in your tenant, but I will need to check that.
This same account (a guest) can also produce the event, but needs to be admitted by an internal presenter/producer, so you will always need at least one internal presenter.

6. Externals without a Microsoft365 account can not present

So it makes sense to check with any external presenters if they have a Microsoft365 account – an Outlook.com email address is not sufficient. In case this happens, they may need to present from someone else’s laptop.

Expect more lessons!

As we will have to live with the COVID-19 measures for some time, I expect we will use Live Events more and more. I also expect more lessons as we have a number of event types that need to be moved online.