Ensuring the best online meeting experience when working from home during COVID-19

With COVID-19 now dominating our lives and forcing most of us to work from home with lock-downs now in place across most major metropolitan cities around the globe, we (through Cisilion where I work), have been helping our customers either get started with, or rapidly increase their use and adoption of Microsoft Teams to ensure they can stay connected, work collaborately, co-author documents and most importantly get face-time with the people they work with

The focus of this blog is around meetings since I’m sure like me online meetings is something you are doing lot of now we are confined to our homes..

So whether you are brand new to Teams or an experienced Teams Champion, this blog shares my own experiences and tips on how to have the best online meetings in Teams.


1. Use Teams to stay connected with anyone, not just those in your organisation

As the “Hub for Teamwork”, you can use Microsoft Teams to host online meetings with up to 250 people, just like you would a normal in-person meeting.  For external guests, just invite them in the same way you would normally in Outlook or Teams.  It doesn’t matter if your external attendees don’t have Teams either – they can simply click on the link (no need to download a plugin or install Teams) enter their name, and join the meeting from their web-browser or mobile phone.

Teams Guest Join Browser


Note: Teams also features Teams Live events which allow for broadcast style town-hall type presentations with Q&A, Sentiment analysis and on-demand play back for up to 10,000 (which has today been extended to 100,000 participants).

2. Built in dial-in conferencing keeps everyone connected

For users that cant get on-line or have poor internet for example, or those that just “prefer” to “dial” into a meeting, the Teams meeting invite (assuming the meeting organiser has a Audio conferencing License assigned) also includes audio-only dial-in instructions. Users can simply click on the dial-in number from their mobile phone and their phone should automatically launch the dial-pad, dial the number, and even enter the conference bridge ID. 

Teams Dial-in Conferencing

Of course, for the best experience I’d suggest everyone joins the full Teams experience – especially if you are planning to share content. 

 

3. Video,  Video, Video :  This makes a real difference when we can’t do physical face-to-face.

Since you can’t meet people in person anymore due to COVID-19 lock-downs or when just working from home / remotely anyway, meeting online with video makes a a huge difference and I strongly advise to make all calls video by default.  Encourage everyone in your Teams meeting to turn on their video. If your device supports it, I also suggest turning on background blur to keep the focus on you instead of what’s behind you (especially if your home office is a “make shift” space). 

4. Share Share Share – screen, apps or presentation.

When in a Teams call or meeting, you can share/present content in Teams. You are in control at all times as to what others can see. You can decide whether you wish to share

  • Your entire desktop (or screen)
  • A specific window/application
  • Upload a PowerPoint presentation directly into Teams – so attendees can review/mark-up and event advance slides
  • Start / Open a digital whiteboard for real-time collaboration like you would on a normal pen and ink board in a meeting room – more this next.
Sharing in Teams

If you or someone else is sharing their desktop or an application, any one else can “request” that the presenter gives control – you can also take it back at any time!

If you are sharing content that has audio/video within it, you can also choose to have the system audio shared/included.

5. Whiteboard the hell out of your meetings

I love a whiteboard me! When I’m in a face-to-face meeting, I cant help but draw and scribble on a whiteboard and usually find other meeting attendees love to draw and annotate on a board when planning a project or approach to something.

This is where Office 365 and Teams come to life – Microsoft Whiteboard, as well as being available on the web and via a App on Windows and iOS, is also integrated and available in every Teams meeting, enabling meeting attendees to join in with their pen and touch (our mouse and keyboard) and collaborate / contribute in real time with digital ink.

These Whiteboard sessions are saved as part of every meeting and available for future use and reference and can even be opened outside of the meeting directly in the Whiteboard app – which provides a host of additional features too.

6. Make the meeting on demand too – Record it live!

Teams can also (if enabled by your admins) record your meetings for you. Instead of relying on a summary email only or “I’ll update you later” conversation – you can simply record your Teams meeting.

The recording captures everything, video, screen share, presentations, whiteboard, everything and unlike Skype for Business (RIP), the meeting is stored in Office 365 Cloud with a link provided within the meeting chat / or Teams space.

What’s more, attendees of the meeting can also search the meeting (yes it transcribes the audio to text) and jump to the point in time of the meeting where a particular phrase or topic was talked about.

7. Live Captions helps with Accessibility

While today only available in English, every call and meeting in Teams support real-time live captioning allowing participants to read subtitles. 

This is a game changing feature for any attendees who may be hard of hearing,  or have different levels of language proficiency. More languages are rolling out shortly we are told.

8. Finally – Secure and Control your meetings

Making sure only the people you intend to join your meeting can join, participate and see content is key – after all you wouldn’t let a random person into your office and into your in-person meetings unless they were invited.

Teams provides meeting organisers with options to allow them to define the roles and permissions for attendees of their meetings. These can also be set and controlled in part by IT admins at a organisation level if needed.

Meeting organisers can choose to (or not to):

  • Enable the meeting lobby feature (its on by default), which lets the organiser define when and who is admitted into the meeting  – this can include automatically people from your organisation but not guests, allowing or not allowing PSTN dial-in users to automatically join etc.
  • Designating who can present, mute attendees, and start/stop recordings.

Privacy is a right within Teams and is always secure

Teams does not disclose things like IP addresses or computer names or any other information that could identify the machine or user to anyone not specifically invited and all recorded content is under the control and access by the organiser / presenters.

Finally – if your organisation uses technology like Data Loss Prevention (DLP) to protect sensitive or GDRP type data, then these polices also flow into Teams, meaning confidential or sensitive data not allowed to be shared outside your business still cant – even in Teams! – this is not covered in depth here by the way!

Stay safe, stay in doors and work smart!

Thats it from me – hope you find this useful. Look forward to hearing how you are getting on during COVID-19 lock down.

Thanks

Rob

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