How to get the most from your meetings with Microsoft Teams

Because of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many of us have been asked to work from home whenever possible. That means that most of us have to switch to online communication. So how do you get the most out of your online meetings? And how can you use Microsoft Teams for your online meetings? Kees Huizer, Office 365 Architect, gives you all the ins and outs you need to know. From the basics, to tips to make your meetings more efficient.

In short, here are a few key pointers:

  • Make every meeting a Teams meeting.
  • Prepare your meeting and create an agenda etc. in the meeting notes in the Teams calendar item.
  • Upload any relevant files for your meeting into the Teams calendar item.
  • Make sure your headset or conference speaker and your video are working before the meeting starts.
  • Make meeting notes during the meeting.
  • If presenting a PowerPoint presentation, share the presentation instead of your screen.
  • Make use of the Whiteboard functionality.
  • Record meetings for future reference.

To get all the ins and outs of how to have an efficient meeting, keep on reading!

Changing a (or any) meeting into a Teams meeting

Making all of your meetings a Teams meeting has the benefit that all the related assets – including the recording of the meeting, chat, meeting notes, digital whiteboard, transcript, and shared files are saved in a persistent conversation that helps the team continue the discussion and drive work forward. Nothing gets lost in the cracks.

A regular meeting can easily be converted into a Teams meeting. To do this open the meeting that you are the organizer of, and click on 'Teams meeting'. This will add additional information to the meeting description through everybody will be able to join the meeting. The meeting can be joined by clicking on the 'Join Microsoft Teams Meeting' link.

If none of the attendees will be joining from the already reserved meeting room, make sure to remove the meeting room from you meeting. So the room becomes available for other colleagues that need a physical meeting room.

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Creating a new Teams Meeting

Creating new meetings can be best done from the Teams client, as doing so will automatically make the meeting a Teams meeting with all the added benefits that Teams brings (which will be discussed later), even for old-fashioned face-to-face meetings!

To create a new meeting, click on 'Calendar', and click on 'New meeting', fill in the information and click 'Save'.

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Apart from the regular options (like title, attendees, etc.) you can also select the time zone, and you can also select' a channel. Doing so will create a conversation in a channel of the desired Teams Environment, and ALL team members can join the meeting from this conversation entry. This is particularly handy for planned team stand up meetings with the entire team.

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Creating an 'Ad-Hoc' Teams meeting

The inability to have a talk with your direct co-workers might create a need for more ad-hoc 'right now' meetings, having a Teams chat conversation with a co-workers only goes so far, so it's far better to create ad-hoc video meeting.

When in a Teams Chat session with somebody, or when in a group chat you can click on the icons at the top to either start a video meeting, or an audio only meeting. Having a video meeting is always better! (if everybody enables their camera of course!)

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When you want to have an ad-hoc video meeting with your team, you can also initiate one from the conversations screen. Go to the desired Teams Environment and channel, and click on the 'video' icon at the bottom. This will open a video screen in which you can enter a title (which will also become the title of the conversation topic).

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Clicking 'Meet now' will start the video meeting session and post the conversation topic. You as the organizer can then invite colleagues, or wait for team members to join through the posted conversation topic.

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There are a couple of other ways to create a Teams meeting, but just creating and having a video meeting doesn't necessarily make it an efficient meeting, although creating a Teams meeting for EVERY meeting (so including old-fashioned meeting room meetings) already makes it more efficient as doing so will enable all participants to join the meeting, even when they are stuck in traffic.

So what can we do to make a meeting more efficient?

The Teams client added some additional functionalities to your meeting to enable you to make it more efficient, but there are also things you, the organizer of a meeting, can do to ensure the meeting will be as effective as possible.

Before the meeting

A lot of meeting preparation is about content, context and conversation. This is now made simpler because every Teams Meeting comes with a persistent conversation. Microsoft Teams surfaces this information easily and conveniently in the context of your meeting. People can have discussions about the meeting beforehand and bring those conversations into the meeting without losing context. And since Teams is the hub for teamwork in Office 365, your Teams Meetings are held where your chats and files live, naturally bringing this context into your meeting.

When you open the calendar item for the meeting from your Teams client, apart from the regular meeting 'Details' and 'Scheduling assistant' like you see in Outlook, you are also seeing a 'Files', 'Meeting notes' and 'Whiteboard' tab.

Files - This enables you to share files before the meeting, and even enables you to work in those files together before the meeting.

Meeting notes - Here you can create an agenda for your meeting, or place any additional information needed for the meeting.

Whiteboard - Enables you to create a whiteboard drawing before the meeting.

All attendees will receive a notification whenever a file or meeting notes are added to the meeting, and they can have a look at the information before the meeting.

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Before the meeting starts

Before your meeting starts, take a minute to make sure your headset or conference speaker and camera are functioning within Teams. You can verify this through 'Settings / Devices'. Here you can see which devices are currently configured, make changes, and even perform a test call to make sure everything is in working order.

During the meeting

When the meeting has started, the extra functionality that Teams gives to any meeting can be helpful to create a more streamlined meeting. Files that have been shared in the appointment are available during the meeting, as are the meeting notes.

Click on the 'People' or 'Text balloon' image to either show the list of participants, or the chat screen.

Meeting notes

Use the meeting notes for the agenda and the meeting minutes. All information stored there is kept indefinitely. To view information about a past meeting, just find the meeting in the (Teams) calendar, and all shared files and meeting notes are there.

To display the meeting notes, click on the '...' menu item, and click on 'Show meeting notes', this will open the meeting notes at the right-hand side.

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Screen sharing

Whenever you have to show something to the other attendees, you can use the screen share functionality to share your screen, or just a specific application.

Sharing your entire screen is usually the easiest way, but keep in mind that the attendees get to see everything happening on your screen, like notifications, and other desktop interactions.

When you share a specific application, then only the window of that application is seen by the attendees, no notifications or other desktop activity is displayed.

To share your screen or an application click on the 'Screen' icon, and click either on the 'Desktop' screen or one of the open 'Windows'.

Presenting using PowerPoint

When you need to give a PowerPoint presentation during a Teams meeting there is a better way than just running PowerPoint on your machine and sharing your screen.

During the Teams meeting click on the 'Screen' icon. If your presentation is stored on your OneDrive it will automatically be shown under 'PowerPoint', or by clicking on 'Browse', you can locate the file, or upload it from your computer.

Once you have selected the file, the presentation will be displayed on the screen of all attendees and you as the presenter can walk through the presentation by clicking on the 'Arrow' buttons, or using the arrow keys on your keyboard.

Sharing a PowerPoint presentation in this way doesn't share the file itself, it will only display the presentation, with some extra functionalities, it will not make your notes etc. available to everybody.

When presenting in this way Teams also enables the attendees to walk through the presentation independently. If you want the attendees to focus on what you are showing and saying you can disable this 'Private viewing' function by clicking on the '...' menu item and clicking on the 'Show device settings' entry. Under the 'Meeting Settings' you can now disable the 'Private viewing' function so that everybody only gets to see the presentation slide you are showing.

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The advantages of sharing your PowerPoint presentation in this way, instead of just sharing your screen, are that this will enable you to give a presentation while also giving viewers to ability to go back to a previous slide, without having to interrupt the presentation and asking to go back to a previous slide.

Another advantage is that whenever you have incorporated a video into your presentation the attendees will not be able to hear the audio when the presentation is done via sharing your screen. If you share the PowerPoint presentation as described all attendees will be able to hear the audio.

Whiteboarding

This is another option which can be seen from the Sharing Center (the 'screen' icon), and when selected will fire up the whiteboard for all participants within the meeting. Everyone then can use their fingers, mice and pens to draw, doodle, scribble and work in the same space to get ideas down.

Keeping focus during the meeting

Let’s face it, nothing is more embarrassing than attending a very important meeting, only to have someone barge in on you. Well, in Teams, you can blur your background to avoid such a situation. This option will only work during scheduled meetings, and you can enable it by enabling the 'background' function before joining the meeting, of by enabling the 'Blur my background' option in the '...' menu item once you have joined the meeting.

Not all devices will support the 'Blur my background' option, but if you see it, you can adjust a slider to conceal your background, and make you the primary focus of your video, and not your background.

Recording your meeting

Sometimes, you might want to record a meeting in Teams so you can go back to it for future reference, or to enable co-workers that have missed the meeting to catch up. Recordings happen in the background and are shared to Microsoft Stream. As we haven't released at the time of writing, recordings are only available for a few days. When Stream has been released, all recordings are stored indefinitely.

Unfortunately, though, you only can record meetings and group calls. Recording one-on-one calls are not currently supported.

Still though, you can record a meeting by going to the meeting controls, clicking on the '...' menu item and select 'Start recording'. Everyone will then be notified that recording has started and a notification about the recording will be posted to chat history. If you started the recording, you’ll also get a link via email.

After the meeting

Once a meeting is complete, you can access notes in a few ways. If you want to access notes from a channel meeting, all you need to do is to head to where the meeting occurred and find it. You can then select 'Show notes in full screen'. For finding notes in a private meeting, you can go to 'Chat and find the meeting and select 'Show notes in full screen'.

Another way is to just open the meeting from your Teams calendar.

Notes will show up in a Wiki tab, and you can read, edit, or add more notes.

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The benefits of working with notes in this way is that all information is available during the meeting, and notes can be created by any of the participants. There is no need to create a separate document with the meeting minutes anymore, as those are available in your current AND past meetings.

Teams meetings with external persons

Besides organizing Teams meeting with your colleagues, it is also possible to add external persons like customers or partners to a Teams meeting. This external person doesn't have to exist as an External Guest user in our Environment, this is only needed when an external person needs access to a Teams Environment.

Inviting an external person

Inviting an external person is just a matter of typing the email address of the person in your meeting invite. The external person will receive a meeting invite, and he or she can connect to the meeting by clicking on the 'Join Microsoft Teams Meeting' link.

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How does an external person join the meeting?

Once the external person clicks on the 'Join Microsoft Teams Meeting' link, a browser window will be opened. If an Edge (Chromium) browser or Chrome browser is used, then there is no real need to download the Teams windows app, as audio and video will work when using those browsers. So the 'Join on the web instead' button can be clicked.

The web based Teams client will then be started. Here the camera and microphone can be enabled or disabled, and the person can enter his or her name.

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Clicking on 'Join now' will join them to the meeting, however, as they are external persons, they will not be added to the meeting directly, they will first be added to a 'waiting lobby', and the meeting organizer will need to add them.

What does the meeting organizer see?

Once the external person has clicked on the 'Join now' button, and is added to the lobby, a notification will pop up in the Teams client of the meeting organizer, telling him the person is waiting in the lobby.

The organizer (or any other employee that is part of the meeting) can admit the external person by clicking on the 'Admit' button, or by going to the lobby (by clicking 'View Lobby'), and admitting them from there.

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After being allowed to the Teams meeting, the external person is added to the meeting, and can participate just like any other meeting attendee.

We wish you good luck!

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