Liven up your Live Event

Last week I “produced” my first Live Event in Teams: a symposium with the theses of three of our students, with two MC’s in charge of welcome, introductions, Q&A’s and a closing message.

Until now these events have always been organized as a face-to-face event in one of our larger convention rooms, with about 100 colleagues and family and friends of the students. This generally involves a 10-minute refreshment break after each speaker while the next speaker makes preparations.

However, in the Corona universe, even our largest convention room can hold only 18 people, so our organizers had to move to an online solution. The convention room was used for the MC’s, students and 4 members of family each, while other people would watch the Live Event.

Having a physical room AND a digital place provided some challenges with the programme.
In a physical room, you know where you are, you see the people involved so you know you are in the right place. You can talk to others, get a coffee or tea, or watch the preparations.
In a Live Event, you enter a sort of void, hoping you are on the right screen in the right meeting, and you have no option to ask anyone if this is the symposium.

So, we decided on starting the Live Event 5 minutes early with a slide showing the programme. That way people would know they were in the right event and could see which speaker would be on when.

We used the same slide before and during the meeting but I think you can do more. This can also be a nice way to brand your event.

Welcome slide

You use this to welcome people in the meeting well before it starts. Make sure you post the name of the meeting, the programme, perhaps how to handle the Q&A and anything else that is relevant. You may even rotate two slides or use an animation to inform people their screen is not frozen 😄

Example of a welcome slide
You could alternate the programme with this speakers’ slide

Break slide

A 10-minute break can be quite a long time for an online audience, so you may want to share a slide with some of the conclusions of the earlier presentation, and a preview of what is coming.

Example of a slide for the break, showing the upcoming presentations

Repeat for each break, so in this case the 2nd break slide would look like this:

The 2nd break slide

End slide

You can use this to inform the audience of contact details, of the next symposium, and how they can access the presentations, as “sharing a file” is not available in Live Event. (Of course you can share a link via the Q&A if the presentations are online for everyone)

You could use this slide during the closing remarks and/or while attendees are leaving

Presenter background

This week I also saw the option to upload your own background image to Teams easily and that can help with a consistent look-and-feel of your event. You can upload it when you select a background. It will be added to the bottom of the pane. I have already seen some “company backgrounds” when talking to other people.

Here’s where you add a new background

Please take note of the specifications:

  • Max 2048 * 2048 px
  • Min 360 * 360 px
  • .jpg, .bmp or .png
  • Aspect ratio > 4
  • Please note that your image will appear reversed for you (mirrored) but for others it will look OK.
  • Use a patterned background (a photo or another image) for the best results – a plain colour block does strange things to your hair 🙂
The text will appear in mirror image for yourself, but OK for others.

Conclusion

Making use of programme slides during a Live Event is nice for your online audience. It also gives you an opportunity to brand your event. Providing branded background slides for the speakers can also help make your event look streamlined, and it saves a fuss checking out your physical background.

It is fairly easy – I have used the standard Atlas theme in PowerPoint as a quick option, but you can also have things professionally designed of course. (That will look much better! 😁 )

Just curious – are you “branding” your Live Events currently? I would be interested to learn what you do and how it works out. Please let me know in the comments!

How to organize a webinar with Teams

TeamswebinarNow that the initial shock of working from home, and learning to work with Microsoft365, has been absorbed, I notice that my colleagues are quickly trying to get their work done “with the new tools”.

My organization is also a research and education institute for nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists and other therapists, so we have a lot of research, knowledge sharing and training going on in our core business.
Suddenly I am being called frequently by colleagues who are used to organize face-to-face events, but want to set up a webinar now.

For the larger and more formal events we advise Live Events (which I am currently trying to get proficient in), but for smaller and less formal events a regular Teams Meeting can be used as well.

My own experience

My colleague and I are still giving webinars on the various aspects of Teams almost every week, using a Teams Meeting.

These take an hour, have up to 10 people, can also be taken in the evenings, and we make sure everyone can ask their questions. They fill up rather quickly!
We generally do a personal introduction round for all, then present a few explanatory slides, give a demo, recap what we have shown, and ask for final questions.
We have found that people like to sign up, because not only does it give them an opportunity to learn new things, brush up their skills, or allows them to ask their questions, but also because they like to connect with their colleagues, who they have not seen for more than two months by now. So it is fulfilling a social need, too!

For those situations a regular Teams Meeting does the work, so here’s how to organize that.

1. Create a Form to collect submissions

We have a professional tool available for the larger and more complicated events, but for smaller and impromptu webinars you can use a Form.
Just create one and share it with a colleague (as a back-up).
If you have internal attendees only, collect names and emails automatically.

Teamswebinar-internal
For internal purposes, this is the quickest option

If you have externals joining too, please make sure you use the setting “Anyone with the link can respond” and ask for (at least) their email address.

Teamswebinar-external
This is the option if you also have externals joining. Remember to add a field to collect the email address!

2. Communicate your event in the regular way

If you are sending emails, publishing on internet or intranet, you can add the link to the Form (or to the formal system) to collect responses.
If you are using printed materials (wall posters, flyers) you can add the QR code to the Form.

The Form will give you a spreadsheet with email addresses.

3. Schedule the Teams meeting

You can do this from Outlook or from Teams.

If you want to send the standard invitation to everyone, you’d better use Outlook as I have found this works better with contact persons, email distribution lists or Excel files with email addresses. Also, if you want to hide people’s email addresses, use Outlook.
You can add an attachment with meeting instructions – I liked this one for external users. How to join a Teams Meeting – as a guest

If you want to use another way of communication (e.g. an email with instructions and some more information), you can best use Teams, invite your presenters only and then add the link to the meeting to the rest of the information.

Teamswebinar-meetinglink
Just hover over the Join-text, rightclick and Copy Link to get the link to the meeting.

This post will tell you more on the pros and cons of Teams or Outlook when scheduling.

If your webinar involves breakout sessions, where attendees can discuss or work on an assignment together, you may want to check out this post for the creation of breakout rooms.

4. Set correct controls to your Teams meeting

For a presentation for a large audience including external attendees I would suggest to add a lobby for externals, and make sure everyone except the presenter(s) enters the meeting as an attendee.
Arrange the lobby and presenter settings as explained in my earlier post.

5. Send links and instructions

If you have used Outlook, you will have done this already, but in case you want to send a different email than the standard invitation, you can add the link as grabbed under 3 and add instructions. For internals it may not be necessary (although it may not hurt) and for externals you can use something like these:  a link or as a PDF: How to join a Teams Meeting – as a guest 

6. Prepare and rehearse

  • In most cases presenters will share a PowerPoint presentation, and it is a good idea to make a PDF version as a handout. We usually share these via the chat during the webinar. Be aware that external attendees can not access the chat when they have logged off, so tell them when you are sharing it.
  • If presenters are giving a web demo, it helps to have a script, so they know what they are going to show. They should keep the script visible.
    Making screenshots of the screens they plan to show (in case the internet or wifi drops, or the website is suddenly unavailable) is always a good idea.
  • And if they want to demo something on your phone, here’s how to do that.

7. Do a technical test run

It is always a good idea to practice a presentation a few times, but if the presenter is new to Teams it is essential that (s)he also does a “technical” test run to find out how to

  • share a screen or a presentation and switch between them
  • blur or change backgrounds
  • manage attendees
  • use the chat and the “raise hand” option
  • include system sounds like the sound from video’s, etc.

Teamswebinar-systemaudio
Make sure you check the “include system audio” box when you want to play a video or other sound.

If you have externals joining, invite one or two along for the test to see if it all works for them.

You may want to think about a custom Help background, as described by Phil Whitehead in this video, to help attendees use Teams.

8. Check audio and video just before the event

On the day of the event, the presenter clicks the link to the meeting well before time.

The Teams app has a Test call option, to check if audio has been set up correctly. Type /testcall in the Command bar and you will be taken to that old test call we know and ❤ from Skype. You will even receive a report!

Teamswebinar-testcall
So happy to have that Test call option back! You can do this from anywhere in Teams.

Of course the presenters have also turned off all kinds of sounds and on-screen notifications. You don’t want to know the email previews I have seen arriving while people were presenting. 😜

Please also ask presenters to check their hair, clothes and background before people enter the meeting. Of course they can blur or select a background, but it helps if they know they are not sitting in front of that flipover with the upcoming reorganisation or divestiture written out.

Ask them to close all tabs and programmes that they do not need today, so they do not run the risk of accidentally sharing something confidential or embarrassing.

Sonia Cuff recently published a good blog on being a remote presenter.

9. Good luck!

  • When the webinar starts, organizer or presenter gives everyone access from the lobby.
  • Once everyone is in, you or the presenter may want to instruct attendees on using the mute buttons and the chat and the “raise hand” function, if you are not using that Help background.
  • Tell people when you share the handout.
  • The organizer may want to download the attendance report during the webinar.

What have I missed?

Is there anything you would like to add?

 

What to think about when organizing a Teams meeting?

TeamsinviteOf course we all know how to schedule a Teams meeting in Teams and how to do it in Outlook. 

Over the past few weeks I have found out that there is a preference for one or the other. And, there’s more!

Teams or Outlook?

If you are scheduling a meeting with people from your organization, Teams is the fastest option. You do not have to think to make it a Teams meeting (although I saw on the Roadmap that soon, meetings scheduled in Outlook will be Teams meetings by default) and you can also select a channel to meet in.

Teamsinvite-quickanddirty
The invitation from Teams – quick and dirty

However, if you want to invite people from outside your organization, you’d better use Outlook.

  1. 👎 You will need to toggle that Teams Meeting switch (for now)
  2. 👍 You can prohibit forwarding (although that appears only to work for Microsoft email users)
  3. 👍 You can hide the email addresses from others, which may be a privacy requirement
  4. 👍 You can add an attachment, such as instructions on how to join. (Found this on LinkedIn the other day – does anyone know where it lives? How to join a Teams Meeting – as a guest)
  5. 👍 Outlook can auto-complete external email addresses if you have used them before

Teamsthinkabout-outlook
Outlook simply has more options when you use it for invitations to a Teams meeting.

Of course those benefits go for internal meetings as well, but they are extra useful for externals.

Do I schedule it myself or can I ask someone else?

In my organization many departments have a group mailbox. It is quite common for the department secretary to organize the meetings on demand, from the group mailbox, in Outlook. My colleague and I also use our group mailbox to schedule our webinars in Outlook, as group mailboxes do not have a license and hence no Teams to schedule it from.

The first time we forgot to invite ourselves, which meant we did not have the meeting in our agenda and we could not get into the meeting from Teams. 🙂  Of course we quickly sorted that out, but you may want to tell people to always invite everyone with their personal account.

The organizer does not have to attend the meeting per se. As long as there is at least one presenter (from the host organization) to let people from the lobby into the meeting, the meeting can proceed.

However, only the organizer can

Teamsorg-endmeeting
“End meeting” is only visible for the organizer.

So: yes, someone else can schedule the meeting for you, but if you need any form of special control, it is best if you schedule the meeting yourself!

You may be able to change some of this behaviour by changing the meeting policies in the Teams admin center but to be honest, I have not dived into that yet.

Any other suggestions?

What are your top tips for scheduling Teams meetings?

 

[Have you made it to the end? Thank you! Hope you did not miss the advertising 😏]

 

 

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

Using OneNote during a conference

OneNotevisual

It all started out with a tweet by Simon Bisson:

I really liked that idea but I could not very well imagine how it worked exactly. And as this is another way I can make work easier for my colleagues, who generally do not have the time or the interest to find out these things, I decided to try it and write it all down. The Office 365 and SharePoint Connect conference in Haarlem was a good moment to test it all, using a tablet, but it works the same on a PC.

The day before the conference

  • Make sure you have the OneNote app installed on your tablet/PC and smartphone, and that you are logged in on both devices with the same account.
  • If you have never used the camera option of OneNote on your phone, make sure you know where to find it, and practice by photographing something, e.g. your PC screen, with the automatic edge detection and cropping.
  • Create a notebook for conferences.
  • Create a section for the next conference. From there you can create a page for each session.

    OneNote-booksetup
    I have created a Section for the Connect conference, and have one page per session.
  • Charge your devices and a power bank if you have one. It may be my iPad but it devoured battery. A charger may be useful as well, to use during breaks.
  • Clean the camera lens on your phone 🙂

Before each session

  • Make sure your devices are connected to the conference wifi
  • Create a page for the next session
  • Open tablet/PC and phone on the session’s page

During the session

  • Make notes on your tablet/PC
  • Whenever you want to capture a slide, take a picture with your phone while both phone and tablet/PC are on the session page with the cursor below the current notes. Take the picture when the purple lines are around the slide. The “Document” picture option appears to give the best results.
  • The picture captured in the purple lines will be added to the page at the place where your cursor is, on both devices.

    OneNoteinpage
    I took the picture, focusing on the slide, and this was added to the page. See below for the original photo.

After the conference

  • Process your notes like you are used to.
  • Remove the original pictures from your phone’s photo gallery to free up space. Your slide pictures will still stay in OneNote.

    OneNote-original image
    This is the original picture which stays on your phone and takes up space.

Conclusion

I really like this option. I love the fact that the cropped image automagically appears in your notes 🙂 . I also like the fact that you have the slides immediately; of course you can also wait until the organization makes the decks available, but by that time I generally no longer have the time and patience to cut and paste all this.

Meeting Actions in a Team Site

Actions-FeaturedSome time ago I was contacted by an employee from one of our locations.

What was the problem:

The department she worked for had a lot of meetings, and everyone was a bit confused about the actions and decisions that resulted from those meetings. All meetings had different attendees, and meeting information was properly documented and accessible for all, but in various files and in various locations.

This resulted in the following issues:

  • People had no central overview of all tasks assigned to them at the meetings
  • People forgot where the documents were, because they could be in different places
  • Meeting owners had no way to check progress between meetings
  • The workload was not evenly distributed – some people had too many action points and could never finish them all on time, while others had almost none.
  • People were sometimes given conflicting tasks in different meetings (such as:  “we need to keep more stock so we can work around inconsistent raw material deliveries”/ “we need to reduce stock because it costs money”) and because there was no central overview, it was difficult to recognize those.
  • It was not always clear which decisions had been made, by whom and when.

What was the solution?

Well, their team site, of course! 🙂
They wanted to have all the action points in one central place. They thought of an Excel file, but reckoned that that could create issues with concurrent editing, and in fact their first question was if they could do something to avoid that.

Of course I showed them that it might be much easier to use a list.

I started with a Task list, because they liked the idea of an email notification.
I added a few columns, such as “Meeting Name” and “Topic” for  classification.
I created some extra  views: “Open Action Points” grouped by meeting, and a view grouped “By Topic”.

Entering a new action
This is the form to capture Actions from the meeting.

All open actions
All Open Actions – this is the View used during meetings.

This setup was easy to understand and work with for everyone and was implemented in no time. The only reason that they had not done this earlier was because they did not know it could be done this way!

The Decisions List was a separate custom list with similar “Meeting Name” and “Topic”fields.

What were the results?

  • Time savings because all actions and decisions are in one easy-to-find place
  • Consistent progress management of action items and decisions
  • Faster turnaround of action items because everyone knows the list and the process
  • Better distribution of tasks over all meeting attendees
  • Insight in and avoidance of conflicting assignments
  • Insight in decisions taken
  • 3 other departments that want a similar setup (I have already created the list as a template)
  • The project was featured in the local employee newsletter (mentioning me as well :-))

Yes, this is simple standard SharePoint and technically not very challenging. However, this very simple solution has made a real difference to that department and to the company. So I think it is worth mentioning!

While I was recreating this list in my own Office365 environment I noticed the Timeline bar. I do not remember seeing this before so I am curious what it does. Another thing to investigate!

Timeline
The Timeline in the Task List. This is available on every view.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net