Send a Teams meeting invitation from a group mailbox

Teams is very much a personal tool. You see only your own calendar and if you organize a Teams meeting, the invitation is coming from you, and you can only attend as yourself.
But…sometimes you want to send the invitation from a mailbox that does not disclose your name.

There are (as far as I know) two ways to make that happen:

1. Schedule in Teams and forward meeting link

  • Schedule the meeting from your own Teams Calendar
  • Adjust meeting options if needed
  • Copy the meeting link
  • Create an invitation from the group mailbox
  • Paste the link into the invitation
  • Send to all participants
It is easy to find the meeting link: When you have created the meeting, rightclick “Click here to join the meeting” and copy.
  • πŸ‘ Keeps your name out of the invitation
  • πŸ‘ Teams meetings are accessible to all who have the link, so no need to worry about lack of access
  • πŸ‘ You will be able to access the meeting as an organizer and be able to make adjustments during the meeting if needed, e.g. if you need a report of attendees or if it is important to make a “hard stop” to the meeting.
  • πŸ‘Ž Some extra steps of copying and pasting the link

2. Schedule in Outlook from group mailbox

  • Schedule a meeting from Outlook
  • Add a Teams meeting
  • Send to all participants
  • IMPORTANT: Adjust meeting options NOW if needed
  • πŸ‘ Keeps your name out of the invitation
  • πŸ‘ Easy
  • πŸ‘Ž The group mailbox is the organizer now, and that mailbox has no Teams account. This means that the meeting will have to be done without an organizer, so nobody will be able to adjust the meeting options during the meeting, end the meeting or download the attendee report.

What is best?

There are plenty of meetings where the organizer is not missed. We schedule our training webinars with the second option and that works perfectly well.

For larger or very important meetings you may want to read my post about the importance of the organizer first to see if you think there may be a need to do “organizer things” during the meeting. Perhaps you only need to adjust the meeting options beforehand.

Meeting options – they may need adjusting before the meeting.

I am often asked if you can delegate the organizer role and the answer is NO. In fact, Teams does not do delegation well, as Tony Redmond confirms in his recent useful post.

Have you come across this requirement and how are you dealing with this? Happy to learn new tricks!

Smooth operating

This week I attended an online symposium. As the organizer knew that most of the attending organizations do not like, or have even blocked Zoom, he used regular Teams meetings.
It is always a good event, with interesting speakers and cases, and this year’s edition was no exception. What struck me however was the smoothness of the experience. All presenters had organized their own session (so I entered in all kinds of meeting recipes, from one session where all 80 of us were presenters, to a session where I was a muted attendee) and I just hopped smoothly from one session to the other and apart from the occasional lobby, there was no barrier at all.
All session links were in the chat of the main meeting, and that chat was listed in my Team chats, so I could always easily check what the next session was or chat to the organizer.

Why did this work so well?

  • I have at least two Teams meetings a day at the moment, so I know the tool inside and out.
  • Using my Microsoft365 subscription meant I could do whatever I do at work – the experience was completely the same. In the Participants I could see two descriptors – “Outside your organization” (which means logged-in M365 users) and “Guest” (which means not logged in to M365).

What is a Guest?

A Guest in a Teams meeting is someone without a Microsoft365 account, or who has entered the meeting without logging in. They can attend via the web, mobile or use the app, but they always have limited options.

Meeting organized by my private account, invited myself and Test15 from my work, and two others without an account.

What are the limitations of the Guest role?

1. No notification of people waiting in the lobby

Guests do not get a notification that someone is waiting in the lobby, and they can not allow someone into the meeting, even if they are a presenter. External presenters with a M365 account can do that, even when they are attending the meeting on their phone.

2. Chat only available during the meeting

Guests have the Teams meeting screen, but not the Teams rails (if you are attending via the web app) or other Team windows (if you use the desktop app). Therefore they can only use the chat when they are in the meeting.
External participants with M365 see the meeting Chat in their Teams rails on the left and can keep on chatting.

3. No background effects in the app

Guests have the option in their menu to adjust background, but it shows just an empty frame.
External participants with M365 can adjust their backgrounds as usual.

Mystery Guest (Guest) is a presenter (as the Sharing block is not greyed out and she can ask control over the shared presentation) and she uses the app (as there is an option to change background effect) but the panel shows no pictures or other options.

4. No Focus or Large Gallery/Together Mode

You can see from above screenshot that there are also no options for Focus or the Large Gallery or Together Mode. And yes, the Modern Experience has been applied in the app.
External participants with M365 can use those options, as shown in this screenshot where Test15 is using the same app.

Test15 (with M365) uses the same desktop app as above and has all the modern options. An external presenter with M365 can even create a Poll!

5. No option to manage attendees

Guests can only pin people, but not spotlight or mute them, or change their roles.
External presenters with M365 can do that.

This is Mystery Guest’s screen, and she is a presenter but can only Pin Test15.

6. Limited participant’s info

Guests only see the names of the participants, and who is the organizer.
Presenters with a M365 account can see organizational contact information.

A Guest sees only this when they hover over any participant’s picture or initials
An external with M365 sees this when he hovers over the picture/initials of the organizer
And this is what you see when you hover over picture or initials of a colleague – even more info! (This is my work account – this was an external participant for this experiment)

Roles list updated!

Some time ago I wrote about the differences in roles, and I have updated the list of who can do what from that post. I added extra columns for the Presenter (Guest) and Attendee (Guest) as these have different options from the M365-attendee. Feel free to download and/or use for your own organization!

This is only the top of the list, but you already see some differences

Conclusions:

Do you have a Microsoft365 subscription and you are invited to a Teams meeting? Make sure you log in before joining the meeting!

An external participant who, like you, has a Microsoft365 subscription can do as much as a participant from your own organization, except recording and viewing a recording. This allows for a smooth meeting experience.
A Guest can only do the basics.

When you are organizing or presiding Teams meetings with externals regularly, you will have to take the following variables into account to have an idea about each participant’s meeting experience.

  • Role: Organizer, Presenter or Attendee
  • Means of attending: Desktop app, web or phone
  • M365 account: Yes or Guest?

Be a Smooth Operator 😁

Are you a regular presenter in Teams meetings outside your organization? (E.g. a therapist or a trainer) You may want to consider taking a subscription to Microsoft365 as it will allow you to do SO much more. I have a Business Basic subscription which is only $5.00 per month (ex tax) and you get a lot of other goodies, too!

Title inspired by “Smooth Operator” by Sade.

Some quirks of the F3 license

When people talk or write about Microsoft 365 Outlook, Word or Excel, they generally mean the desktop versions.

However, there are Microsoft365 subscriptions that provide only the web and mobile versions of things. With the ongoing improvements of the web apps these subscriptions are getting better and better.

Most of my therapist colleagues have the Microsoft365 F3 license, which is a good fit for people who mostly work with patients and use dedicated medical software as their main application. F3 has web and mobile apps only.

While the comparison with the Microsoft E3 license (which most secretaries and staff have) clearly display most of the limitations of the F3, (albeit in the small print) there’s a few unmentioned “surprises” so let me list all that we have found so far, while providing support to our F3 collagues.

1. No desktop apps

This is the most obvious limitation. I think Word and Outlook for the web are both pretty good and getting better all the time, but some advanced functions are only available in the desktop apps, e.g. creation of scientific literature citations, or creation of a book index in Word.
An overview of the differences:

2. Storage for Outlook and OneDrive: 2 GB

Yes, it is mentioned quite clearly (also in our own support materials) but we regularly get questions from people who have almost reached the limit. All we can do is provide them with help to clean up their Outlook and OneDrive.

This is also the reason why I was not happy with the recent change to store Teams meeting recordings to OneDrive.

3. You can not upload a video to Stream

Just to be clear: F3 people can consume videos from Stream but not create them. It is mentioned in the comparison. I do not really get this. Are F3 users not expected to share any videos? Not even of training materials or a team get-together? We have a few colleagues who like to do vlogs for their colleagues – no Stream for them. 😒

Fortunately, OneDrive and SharePoint now have good video players so I guess it will not be a big problem, apart from the storage space allocation.
It does make me wonder what Stream is good for, then.

With the E3 and other licenses, there’s an upload option top right. No such thing for the F3.

4. Recorded Teams meetings go nowhere

We made the change from storage in Stream to OneDrive and SharePoint early, because we knew that F3-users can not upload anything to Stream. If an F3 recorded a meeting, they got an error message.
So we thought: “Well, OneDrive may not be optimal, but at least they will be able to store their recording in a good place. So let’s make the change, make them aware and suggest to move any recordings to SharePoint at their earliest convenience.”

The other day I recorded something with my F3 test account, and I was totally surprised to see that the recording did not go anywhere. It is in the meeting chat, with a message that it can be downloaded for 20 days.
The good news is that the recording can be saved. The bad news is that this is not as expected, and that people will need to take action to store it.

You need to download a recorded meeting.

5. You can not create a Live Event

This is not a major issue, as organizing a large online event will generally be done by a few selected roles. An executive secretary, our Convention Bureau, communications etc.
An F3 colleague can produce and present, however, as described in this post.

This has nothing to do with the difference between web or desktop app – everyone in our organization has the Teams desktop app.

6. You do not have the Delve app

This is not mentioned anywhere in the comparison, so this was also a surprise when we found this. It is not too much of a limitation, as you can get there via your Office profile.

7. Agenda sharing issues with E3-colleagues

If an F3 colleague shares his or her agenda with an E3-licensed colleague, e.g. a group secretary, the secretary can only edit the agenda when using the Outlook web app.
This may have to do with the fact that there is no “desktop equivalent” in the F3-agenda. It is annoying though, as our secretaries generally prefer to work with Outlook desktop. We are trying to convince them that the Outlook web app is a joy to use, but so far most of them stick to desktop. 😒

Do you know any more quirks?

I have deliberately not mentioned a number in the title. Please let me know in the comments if you know something else, so we can create a shared resource!

This is a great opportunity to use one of the more than gorgeous letters of Simon Koay’s Superbet. F = Flash!

The importance of being Organizer

The person who organizes a Teams meeting has become more and more important over the last few months. Many recent improvements are available for the organizer only.

Yes, so what?

Indeed, many meetings can be done without the organizer being present. Our team’s daily call, for instance.

But it can be an issue for situations where you need special things and the organizer does not plan to attend the meeting, e.g. a secretary who plans meetings for the manager or other people in the team, or our Convention Bureau who organizes webinars as a service for our education institute.
In case you want to see who has attended a meeting, for instance, the organizer needs to be there to download the report. Also, the much awaited break-out room functionality can only be used by the organizer!

Unfortunately, the organizer role is not transferable, which also means that when the organizer of a recurring meeting changes roles, the meeting has to be cancelled and set up anew, especially if the audience of the meeting changes. While this has long since been the case for all meetings, with everyone meeting remotely with Teams it has become more visible. There’s a User Voice item to have the ability to transfer this role to someone else.

Awareness is key!

There’s not much we can do about it right now, except making everyone aware, that you need to think who will setup the meeting, especially the larger and more important events.

Microsoft has published a list of roles and responsibilities, but that is currently not complete. So I have created my own roles mapping for you to use. I will keep this updated as “who can do what” is important! (Please feel free to download for re-use)

Preview of what to expect when you open my document

Of course, options are not only depending on role, but also on the app used. Microsoft has an extensive overview for that.

But wait, there’s more:

During the creation of the list I found another variable:

  • Is the participant from your organization or not?
  • If not, do they have a Microsoft 365 account or not?

OK, so that’s my homework for next time! πŸ˜‰

Update November 22, 2020: I have posted my findings about this, and updated the roles mapping!

Title inspired by “The importance of being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.
I have once played the role of Lady Bracknell!
😁

Make your Teams meeting screen work for you

You may think that a Teams meeting is what it is, but there are so many ways you can adjust what you see!

Seeing other participants in the meeting

In general, you will see those people who have their camera on and who have made a sound most recently. If you have your camera off, your picture/initials will generally be moved to the bottom of the screen, depending on the number of people present. The same goes for your microphone.
So, if you want to make a mark in that meeting, make sure you have your camera on and make noise! πŸ™‚

But…this is also depending on the app and other options you are using.

  1. Web app:
    You can see only 1 person
  2. Mobile app:
    You can see max. 8 people in a 4 x 2 grid. This has recently been improved from 4. I have not heard much about it and only found out by accident the other day!
  3. Gallery:
    By default you will see max. 9 people in a 3 x 3 grid. More attendees will be moved to the bottom of the screen, attendees with video off and microphone muted first. Desktop app only.
  4. Large Gallery:
    You can see max 49 people in a 7 x 7 grid when you have the latest version of the app, and select “Large gallery” from the … in the Teams meeting control bar. Teams will auto-adjust the grid for fewer attendees. Nice post on the topic. Desktop app, and I found it in the Android mobile app as well!
  5. Together Mode:
    You can see max. 49 people in an auditorium-style setting when you have the latest version of the app, and select “Together Mode” from the … in the Teams meeting control bar. Desktop app, and I found that it is available in the Android mobile app as well! Thank you, Sam Gray, for the comment!
  6. No video.
    You can also turn off other people’s videos altogether and see people’s picture only. In the Teams meeting control bar, click the … and select “Turn off incoming video”.
    This is useful if all those moving videos distract you.
  7. Pin someone.
    You can pin someone’s video to keep seeing them, even if they do not speak. This can be useful for interviews or a group therapy session, if someone is very quiet. This is done in the Participants panel.
  8. Spotlight yourself or someone else.
    Contrary to the other items, you do not do this for yourself alone, but for everyone in the meeting. This will show the spotlighted person full-screen for all participants. This is useful for speeches.
    Do this only when they do not share a screen (otherwise the screen will be shown at the bottom, too small to read) and when the camera quality allows it. Desktop app only. This video tells you more.
Here’s where you apply Pins and Spotlights. For the Meeting control bar options, please scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Presenting yourself in the meeting

There’s also choices you can make for the way you are visible on screen, apart from Spotlighting in #8.

9. Turn video on or off.
During most calls, I have my camera on. During webinars, after the introductions I turn my video off as it does not add much value while I share presentation and screens. It also saves bandwidth for myself and others.

10. Blurring your background.
With everyone working from home, you sometimes run into interesting home situations. One of my colleagues works from her storage room, which means she sits in front of storage shelves. Others have children coming into view, or pets. I really appreciate seeing those real-life backgrounds, but in some cases you’d best blur. Desktop app only.

11. Changing your background.
This is also desktop-app only. One of my colleagues entertains us with an endless array of pictures from far-away places, and another sometimes uses a picture of himself sitting at his desk in the office, while he covers his web cam (which makes you disappear from your background). 🀣
My home office is rather neutral, so I generally keep things as they are.

Looking at presentations

When someone presents and/or shares their screen, you also have a few options to show their presentation on your screen.

This is the normal view, when someone else shares a presentation with me.

The regular view when someone shares a presentation with me

12. Focus
With Focus, you enlarge the shared screen so it hides the other attendees’ videos and pictures and is therefore less distracting. Click on the … in the Teams meeting control bar and select Focus. Desktop app only.

This is Focus. You see that the presenter’s video at the bottom right is hidden by the PowerPoint.

13. Full screen
This will hide the title bar from the meeting AND the task bar from the PC, but will leave the videos of attendees visible. Click on the … in the Teams meeting control bar and select Full Screen. This is also available on the web app, but it completely fills your screen. Below is what it looks like from the desktop app.

The meeting title bar at the top has been removed when using Full Screen, and the task bar from my PC is also hidden. As I have captured the active window only, you have to trust me on that.

14. Focus AND Full Screen.
Focus and Full Screen can be applied together. The presentation will then take as much screen as possible, hiding the title bar, the videos and the task bar.

Combining Focus and Full screen will give you a large and distraction-free presentation.

15. Control + Mouse wheel
This option allows you to zoom in or out of the presentation. It generally changes the ratio of shared screen vs. line of videos.

16. Show presenter and presentation side by side.
To be honest, I have as yet been unable to work this out, but you may want to check out Matt Wade’s video.

Conclusion

There’s many things you can do to determine what you see during your Teams meeting. This will allow you to select the best way for your purpose and preferences. During Ignite, more options were presented, so I guess I will need to update this post soon! 😁

The desktop app gives you many more options, so use it whenever you can.

To compare, I share two screenshots from the … in the Teams control bar, a presenter on Chrome, and an organiser/presenter using the desktop app.

Presenter on Chrome:

This is what a presenter can do using the web app

And these are the options for the desktop app:

The desktop app has many more options

Did I miss anything? If yes, please let me know!

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 πŸ™‚ )
  • 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.

Lessons from producing my first Teams Live Event

Recently I “produced” my first Live Event in Teams: a symposium with the project presentations of three of our students.
The organisation expected around 100 attendees, so I tried to push them towards the regular Teams Meeting with some extra control measures (see my earlier post). But they really liked the moderated Q&A, so a Live Event it had to be.
As I need to learn to work with this anyway, I suggested to be the producer, so I could create procedures and scripts so they know how to do this themselves afterwards.

How a Live Event works

Scheduling a Live Event is easy, however I find being a producer quite some work. Tracy’s video makes it all appear fairly simple, but to be honest, I have been struggling a bit with this tool and needed a number of tests to get to grips with it. Perhaps it was our complex setup, perhaps I need more practice.

What have I learned?

1. Give your event a good title

When your audience is entering the event, and the event has not started, all they see is the title of the meeting. Make it a clear one.

2. The producer should just produce

Although you can be producer AND presenter, I would advise against mixing these roles unless you are an experienced one-person-show. If there is a welcome or break slide to be shared, leave it to someone else.
When you (producer) share content or your desktop you do not see your dashboard, which makes it hard to do your work as a producer. And when you go back forgetting to stop sharing you will end up with a very annoying caleidoscope effect. If you do stop sharing there will be an annoying message that the Event will continue soon. You can not win.

I am sure an experienced producer/presenter can avoid this but I still do not know how – I can share a presentation but sooner or later this shows.

3. Keep the # of presenters to a minimum

When I did my first Live Event, a number of people were interested to see how it worked so I added them as a presenter. That provided some challenges as I could not see them all on my 13″ laptop screen, hence I could not select their video to show.
Additionally, during one of the breaks one of the “curious extra’s” decided to move to another room, accidentally sharing her screen. 😱 She did not have her earbuds in, nor was she looking at the chat, so we could not warn her that her living room was visible for all to see. πŸ˜‰

The presenters are shown bottom right and on a smaller screen, you can not see them all, and therefore you can not select their video!

4. Schedule a separate Live Event as a test run

As this was new to everyone we decided to do a test-run a few days before the meeting. You need to create a new Event for that, as you can only “use” a Live Event once.

5. Have as few transitions as possible

Transitions are a bit of a logistical nightmare. I had expected that when the next presenter shares their screen, that would pop up in the Queue, so I could add the speaker’s video and set it all Live at the right moment.
But it does not happen that way – presenters generally override their predecessor’s screen during the event, causing a need for the producer to frantically switch to the correct presenter. Or, they stopped presenting and then their face filled the screen.
So try to limit the number of transitions to keep your producer’s sanity πŸ˜‰

6. Test starts, stops and transitions

We really needed this as presenters had no clue as to what to expect. So we went through the programme of welcome talk, first speaker, etc. People could practice how to share their screen, when to stop, how transitions worked, what they had to look out for, what not to do, etc.

7. Invite an attendee to ask questions

It helps to have an attendee in the test run to ask a few questions, so new presenters can learn how to handle the Q&A’s.

8. Use “desktop” rather than “content” for sharing (depending on setup)

We found that the following combination resulted in “flickering tabs” which is a major distraction:

  • Using Google Chrome as a browser
  • Using PowerPoint Online for your presentation
  • Selecting “content” rather than “desktop” for sharing

So: ask people to present with PowerPoint desktop app (if they have that) or ask them to share their desktop.
Or use Microsoft Edge, of course. 😁

9. Create a script

It may be good to have a timetable with who does what when and the timing of the breaks. It was good for the presenters but also for the producer, as I could then check when I needed focus and when I could relax a bit.

10. The “crew” needs the Teams Desktop App

One of the presenters logged into the test meeting via the web app and she entered the meeting as an attendee. Fortunately all our employees now have the Teams desktop app so all of us can produce or present Live Events (despite the fact that 90% of my colleagues have an F3 license, which is web + mobile apps only).

11. Make sure the producer has a large screen or monitor

As mentioned in item 3, I needed a larger screen to see all presenters, but also to see the Live result better. If your screen is too small, you will get prompts to expand your screen. Fortunately, I have an extra 23″ monitor.

Suggestion to change my screen.

12. Teach presenters how to unmute

EVERY presenter forgot to unmute themselves, so I had to jump in and ask them to unmute. πŸ™ It was nerves, I get that, but I did not like having to intervene. However, I later heard people actually appreciated me jumping in, as it showed that someone was noticing, saving a lot of questions in the Q&A.

13. Avoid having an audience in the same room as the presenters

Our students really wanted to have some family in the room, so they would not have to talk into a void, but it posed extra issues:

  • Due to the delay that a Live Event has (about 1 minute) in image and sounds it was impossible to project the Live Event in the room with the presenters.
  • Therefore we needed an extra person to click through the presentations from a separate laptop in the room. We could perhaps have duplicated the laptop screen but it would have to be changed between speakers and I know that some situations/laptops do not support duplication.
  • I was producing from home, and I did not exactly know what tech was available in the convention room, which made it difficult to explain to the presenters what to do in the room (which was not my responsibility anyway – that was producing this Live Event)
  • Presenters got easily distracted by the audience so the MC’s had to make sure everyone was back at their laptops in time for the next presentation – while this will also happen in a physical-only situation it is less annoying there as everyone can clearly see what is going on. People online do not see that.
  • Your laptop’s microphone is not good enough in this situation – it usually sounds rather tinny and will pick up sounds from the surroundings and that can cause an annoying reverb – so your producer must mute you. Presenters, use a headset and keep it plugged into your computer at all times!
  • The presenters also had to find a good position in the room with a good background, which needed time during set-up.
  • Questions from the room could not be heard and needed repeating by the MC, which they sometimes forgot. Which led to Q&A’s.

14. Learn basic sign language

This may seem silly, but as everything the presenters and producers say when you are Live is audible for everyone online, you can not really talk about things, and not everyone was watching chat all the time. So sometimes I wished I know sign language to tell people “get ready to present the break slide” or “unmute”.

15. Producer, mute yourself when going live

Do not say “Here goes” or something similar when you Go Live, because it will be recorded in the video. Guess how I know this? πŸ˜‚

16. Download the attendance report during or immediately after closing the event

When someone from the “crew” enters the Event after it has closed, it will overwrite the attendance report. By the way, the official word is “Attendee engagement report”.

17. The “crew” can only view the recording from the web app, even when they use the Attendee link

If they click the Attendee link and select the desktop app, they go into the “back end” of the meeting, overwriting the attendance report. See item 15.

18. The video lives in Azure, not in Stream

Do not look for the video in Stream – it is not there. You can download it from the meeting information and upload to Stream if you want to make it available for longer term. (It is available on Azure for 180 days)

There’s some good Microsoft info about post-event actions.

And if you know of a way to make transitions smoother, please let me know! If you have any other “gotcha’s” to share, they are welcome too!

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 πŸ˜„

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 πŸ™‚
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.Β 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:Β  a link or as a PDF: How to join a Teams Meeting – as a guestΒ 

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?