Let’s reflect on how our daily work lives have changed over the past year or so. By now, many of you have likely set up a good home office space. Mine personally took over my kitchen table and I’m continuing to make improvements, including a new desk soon. While many of us were making the shift to working from home more, Microsoft Teams was also evolving to close the gap between working virtually and being at the office, giving you the most effective and efficient work environment. Teams is built on a foundation of collaborative tools and application integrations with sharing abilities and communication features throughout. But many underutilize all Teams has to offer when it comes to running effective meetings.
Did you know, depending on our role, we can typically spend 35-50% or more of our work week in meetings? That doesn’t include the time preparing for those meetings either. Making the most of this meeting time is essential. Think of your ideal meeting as a lifecycle. Successful meetings are achieved by the work done prior, during, and post-meeting. Teams provides you the tools and the environment for each of these stages to achieve a productive meeting. Typically, you send out a meeting invite and an agenda; then the real work is completed in a conference room. Let’s look at how you can use specific Teams features to create a more effective meeting experience by breaking down meetings into these three stages: pre-meeting, during the meeting, and post-meeting.
Pre-meeting work time is just as valuable as the time spent in the meeting. Some of this time is spent configuring technical aspects of the meeting, and the rest is sharing expectations and goals for the meeting with your co-workers prior to the meeting.
One technical aspect is managing meeting responses. This feature gives you the ability to turn off invite forwarding. If you are holding a more formal event, Teams now offers the ability to require meeting registration as well. With registration, attendees are given a registration link to sign up for the meeting. You can create customized fields as well to capture relevant details as well, such as job title, organization, or pre-event survey questions.
After sending your invite, Teams gives you the ability to add meeting prep content such as adding a OneNote notebook to house your agenda, minutes, and more. You could also add any handouts during this time. This content can be added to the Files tab of the meeting details (the screen seen when opening an upcoming meeting from Teams).
You can also prepare for an engaging meeting experience by creating polls or quizzes in advance to gauge important feedback and engagement throughout your meeting. When viewing meeting details after scheduling, select the + icon and select Forms. Forms allows you to pre-create individual polls and quizzes to easily launch throughout your meeting.
If you are organizing a larger-scale virtual meeting or event you might incorporate breakout rooms. Breakout rooms divide your attendees into rooms automatically or manually, such as when rooms are dedicated to special interest areas. To plan these rooms ahead of time you should consider questions like: How many rooms do you want to have? Will you split attendees evenly, or manually assign? These breakout rooms are intended to function similarly to how traditional conferences would (i.e. opening keynote followed by breakout sessions) and the virtual breakout room itself resembles a regular team meeting. As organizer, you choose whether breakout rooms are active for a specific time, or manually end rooms to bring attendees back to the main meeting.
Meeting chat is also active for correspondence and communication with attendees prior to your virtual meeting’s start time.
As you can see, there are several opportunities to help you as the meeting organizer and your attendees be best prepared for a successful meeting using Microsoft Teams.
during the meeting
Once your meeting has begun, Teams steps up to the plate to give you options like recording meetings, capturing transcriptions (including breakout rooms), launching your polls/quizzes, and utilizing the virtual Whiteboard application for real-time collaboration. The ribbon below houses many of Team’s core features.
It is recommended that you do a quick introduction to Teams meetings features for your attendees (some of whom may not use Teams as often), such as how to turn on/off your camera and microphone. If you choose to leave on your camera on, you can add a virtual background or blur your actual background. You may also wish to introduce how to access and engage in the chat area. Teams provides your attendees plenty of opportunities to engage with you and each other throughout the meeting, using the chat feature, and live reactions at the top ribbon, and on each attendee’s chat messages.
The chat area has several available features when you select the ellipsis above a message. These features include Save this Message, Translate, and Immersive Reader. Using the ellipsis above the chat message you can select More Actions; this will open to another menu. This menu gives you options like Create a new poll, Create task, and Add comment; what a great opportunity to create action items, tasks or get feedback.
As the presenter, sharing your content has evolved. First, if you have a video to share make sure you toggle Include computer sound to On. Next, with Presenter mode you now have two options; the first option is to share only your content, the second option is to have your image at the lower corner of your content while you present. The final step is what content do you want to share; you have the options of choosing from a screen, a window you have open, the Whiteboard, or PowerPoint Live.
PowerPoint Live is a recent update to Teams; it displays just your presentation to attendees while you see your presentation and your slide notes alongside them. Attendees are also able to click hyperlinks on your slides using this method, and you can allow them to move forward and backward through the entire slide deck as you’re presenting in case they want to spend a little more time absorbing particular content or looking ahead. You can find PowerPoint Live as the bottom section in the normal share dialog.
Teams also gives us a wide variety of ways to feel as if we are in the same room such as live reactions and Together Mode scenes. Remember to turn on those cameras so everyone can see your smiling face. And if you want to escape the literal office, try changing your background to a custom background for an interstellar or trendy scene.
At the end of your meeting; as the meeting organizer you now have the option to Leave or End meeting. When you Leave, meeting attendees can stay in the meeting and continue to work and/or chat amongst themselves. If you chose the End meeting option the meeting is ended and the window is closed; all attendees are dropped.
Post Meeting is the time to share those meeting notes, create and share the action items list, and add a tab or new conversation in your Teams channel to share the meeting recording to all that might have missed the meeting.
After a meeting, organizers can access an attendance report as well to see who attended as well as when each person joined and left the meeting. This can be found on the meeting details screen along with the recording and transcript.
Adjusting to virtual meetings might have you thinking, “my, how times have changed.” But in what way? One might say this Teams technology outshines the good old conference room; just by having the ability to record and store all communication and collaboration in the cloud. Has anyone ever taken a picture of the whiteboard or typed up the paper flip board notes? Now you have notes, action items, recording/transcription, and content collaboration virtually and the ability to share it with anyone that missed the meeting.
Teams meetings are in a constant state of innovation, constantly being improved to better the organizer and attendee experience, creating a more efficient use of our time and resources. Teams meetings are designed to help you make the most of the 35-50% (or more!) of your time you may be spending in meetings. It’s up to you now to take advantage of all that’s available pre-, during, and post-meeting.
If you’re new to Teams, or just want to take your skillset to the next level, remember that we offer an array of general (public) and tailored (private to your organization) M365 course offerings – included dedicated Microsoft Teams training. Contact us today if you’re interested in learning how to maximize your productivity using Microsoft Teams. Our M365 trainer team looks forward to helping you achieve your goals and improve your skillset.