Be a meeting Ninja with Scheduling Polls in Outlook.

Microsoft has replaced the legacy FindTime plug in for Outlook with a new native experience called “Scheduling Polls” which is now built directly into Outlook on desktop and the web experience.

Information regarding the end of support for FindTime can be found in the Message Centre article MC688929

Introducing Outlook Scheduling Polls

Scheduling Poll (which replaces a similar tool called FindTime) is now available to all users of Outlook on the Web and Mac. It is available to Classic Outlook for Windows users in Current Channel, Monthly Enterprise Channel, and Semi-Annual Enterprise Preview. It will become available to Classic Outlook users on the Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel in January 2024, and to the Semi-Annual Extended Channel in June 2024.

Users who do not have access to Scheduling Poll yet can either switch to the Current Channel, Monthly Enterprise Channel, or Semi-Annual Enterprise Preview in Classic Outlook for Windows; or they can use Outlook on the Web to create polls.

Creating and using Scheduling Polls

Using Meeting Polls is really simple. You need to be using the Outlook Desktop app or Outlook on the web, and it’s not currently available on mobile devices but hoping that will change as I create lots of meetings on the go!

Step 1: Start with an email message

We start a new Scheduling Poll from an email (not from Calendar). For example we might start with an email to a team of people (or it could be reply) and instead of asking for or suggesting a list of dates “that work”, we simply click on the Scheduling Poll button on the Toolbar as shown below.

I’d advise adding the people you need to the email message before clicking on the button.

Step 2: Create the Scheduling Poll

Try to ensure you have added the people you need to the email before you click the “New Scheduling Poll” button. You can add them later, but it makes the process a little slicker.

Once you click the “New Scheduling Poll” button, you’ll be presented with a new side-bar screen with some options within it.

From here, you can choose the meeting duration (default is 30mins), and then you’ll see availability of your “invited” attendees, based on calendar availability at the time of creating your poll.

You can see below, that there is availability on the 13th Nov but limited availability on the 14th November. You can also look as far out as you need to, but Scheduling Polls will help you find suitable dates.

Using Meeting Polls within Outlook
Scheduling Poll side bar in Outlook (picking options).

When you have finished picking the best dates for you (you are the organiser after all), you can click the “Next” button.

You are then presented with the ability to customise the meeting poll including:-

  • Meeting Location: For example Boardroom, Nero Coffee etc or online (via Teams).
  • Schedule with attendees reach consensus: This means once everyone has voted on a date that everyone can do, Outlook will automatically schedule the meeting
  • Hold Selected Dates on my calendar: Means the options you offered get blocked until the meeting is scheduled – in case someone books you first.
  • Notify me about poll update: Means you get an email notification when someone votes.
  • Lock Poll for attendees: Means attendees can’t suggest alternative dates.

When you are happy with the options (the ones below are default), you can click Create Poll.

Step 3: Send the Scheduling Poll

You can then check your email body and simply send the email with the poll attached. You can also if you need to add other people at this point which can also include external attendees such as customers or partners from other organisations.

Once everyone has voted on the meeting and a common time is agreed, Outlook will schedule the meeting for you and free up and “blocked” time.

Step 4: Editing or Viewing your Polls

You can get back to your polls at anytime to update them, cancel them or review the status of the voting, before and after the meeting is scheduled. You can do this from the email with the poll it or from the “Scheduling Poll” button in Outlook.

You’ll see that from here, you can do things like:

  • Send a reminder – this emails all attendees to remind them to vote (I use this a lot)
  • Cancel the poll – this cancels the poll and frees up your diary again
  • Add or Remove attendees – perhaps some one emails you and asks you invite someone
  • Update your preferred times – just like attendees you can pick a time you “prefer”

Responding to a Scheduling Poll as another person.

Any one receiving a Scheduling Poll will see the following within their email when the poll is sent. This is the email sent in the previous step and invites each requested attendee to vote.

Image showing the meeting poll email as received by a user.
Scheduling Poll email received from meeting organiser.

Each requested attendee then, simply needs to click on the vote button and choose the times they prefer, can attend or cannot attend. At the time of voting, the scheduling tool updates availability options based on their Outlook Calendar.

Depending on the options chosen by the meeting organiser (host), they can also see how others voted and can request a different date and even add additional attendees. These settings are controlled by the meeting organiser.

When everyone has voted the meeting is automatically scheduled. It not everyone votes, the meeting organiser can choose to schedule the meeting based on their own choice.

Voting on a meeting Scheduling Poll in Outlook.
Voting on a meeting Scheduling Poll in Outlook

Forcing the meeting to be scheduled.

Every time an attendee votes, (depending on the options you chose), you’ll receive an email notification like that below. This also includes the current status of everyone else that has voted (you’ll see here that 3 of the 4 attendees have voted).

I have the choice to wait until everyone has voted and the meeting get’s arranged for me, or if there are certain attendees that have not voted, I can choose to go with the majority and just book the meeting.

To do this I simply need to

  • Click on “view all your polls” to go see all my meeting schedules .
  • Select the meeting I want to schedule.
  • Decide if I want to send a final reminder.
  • Update the meeting time options or attendees
  • Schedule the meeting I think is best.
Choosing to schedule a meeting in Outlook Scheduling Polls
Choosing to force the meeting to be scheduled.

Once this is done, the meeting is scheduled and an invite sent to every user.

Attendees still need to accept or decline the meeting as usual.

That’s it – an overview and guide on using Scheduling Polls in Outlook.

You’re missing a trick not using Surface and Pen in meetings

Taking notes on Surface

As a Chief Technology Officer, I meet with a lot of clients, partners, and executives within our customer base. I have often found the clicker clatter on a keyboard (taking notes) in a meeting off putting and acutely aware that it can look like I’m not paying attention or catching up on emails. Sorry to say, I do get the same impression sometimes of others in meetings (it’s like having your camera off in meetings!).

Taking notes and actions in meetings

But….often, if we are using a laptop to take notes looks like we are not paying attention, then ways the alternative?

It amazes me (at a technologist) that “most” people still resource to scraps of paper which they shove in their bag or at best a neat company (or vendor freebie) paper notebook. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying you should never write on paper, but there’s a much better way… Stay with me here!

Picture of a notebook with notes

We take notes for a few reasons…

  • To be clear of our actions during the meeting or workshop
  • To jot down the names and roles of people in the meeting
  • To summarise key points and
  • To of course take notes that we will later use for following up on, or to look back at in a week or month or so.

Using a physical notebook to take notes can causes admin and security headaches.

  • I need to hope I do not misplace my book and know where it is and how to find the notes I took in ink. This not only means my notes are gone but others may have access to stuff I capture (which could be confidential).
  • I need to write up my notes and type them into OneNote, Outlook, or CRM system.
  • I may need to search for something in the notes and can’t remember exactly what book it’s in or what I’m looking for.

That’s where the Surface with pen and ink comes in (yes, I am aware you replace this with an iPad or other tablet and pen), but my key message here is why not to use scraps or paper, or even a traditional clamshell notebook for typing notes.

Inking on Surface Pro

Note taking is best with Surface and Pen

Here are some reasons I can’t imagine using anything other than Surface with pen and ink for client and team meetings:

  1. Perception and Focus: It looks like I am paying attention, taking notes on the meeting at hand and not doing emails or something else.
  2. You remember more: This is true. research shows that when we write notes down than when we type them
  3. It’s a natural Writing Experience: Using a Surface Pro (or Surface Go) with Surface Pen provides a natural writing experience that feels like writing on paper. I can write notes, draw diagrams, underline things, and even cut and paste text etc and then highlight or scribble all over it. It’s just like using pen and paper and has so many other benefits.
  4. Realtime Collaboration: If I am with other teammates, I can use the features in Microsoft OneNote and collaborate in real-time. Using a shared OneNote, I can write and draw on the screen, and my colleagues can see my work in real-time and add their notes to it. This makes it easy to brainstorm and collaborate on ideas. Alternatively, I can keep my notes as “my notes”.
  5. Efficient Notetaking: Using Surface with Pen makes note-taking more efficient and saves me time later.  I can choose to leave my notes as digital ink (this means I can search the text later without converting it to text), or I can have apps like OneNote convert my handwriting into text which then makes it easy for me to copy and paste into emails, CRM systems or anything else. Using OneNote, I can also easily organise my notes into folders and different notebooks.
  6. Professional Experience and Appearance: As a technologist, working on Surface with pen and ink looks professional and sleek. I find it’s a great way to make a good impression on clients and colleagues and helps us promote the use of the best devices of business on the market.
  7. Secure yet accessible: Since my notes are digital (in my case in OneNote), I can access them securely anywhere from any device whenever i need them. I don’t need to worry about losing my notes, not being able to find content or having to ask others to “send me their notes”. If I lose my device or get a new one, my notes are securely stored in the cloud.

Best Surface devices to use

With the exception of the Surface Laptop Go, all Surface devices support touch, pen and ink, however for the optimum inking/writing experience you don’t want to be trying to write on a clamshell type laptop. As such I’d suggest either the

Surface Studio Laptop, Surface Pro or Surface Go devices.


Anything other than Surface + Pen + OneNote is a compromise in a meeting where I need to take notes. It provides a natural writing experience, makes it easier for me to come back to my notes, search for notes later and keeps them safe and secure.

Using Surface devices with ink and touch is also a superior experience and looks professional too. No more tatty notebooks, no more typing loudly on a keyboard with a screen between you and your customers or colleagues or boss.

As always, I welcome your views and comments….

Some useful links

Microsoft launches Teams Town Hall – Replaces Live Events

Microsoft is replacing Microsoft Teams Live Events with a new “Town Hall” in the experience. Users with Team Premium licenses will also gain exclusive access to new “advanced features”.

Teams Town Hall | Image (c) Microsoft

What is Teams Town Hall?

Town Halls is revamped experience for large-scale events in Teams called Town Halls, cv will replace Live Events. The new Town Halls experience is officially available for commercial customers from Thursday October 5, 2023.

What features does it offer over Live Events?

Teams Town Halls offers many new advanced production capabilities, a new experience offering a structured approach for attendee engagement, and a new unified experience for users. Some of these features will only be available to Teams Premium customers.

  • Teams Town Hall enables customers to host various types of internal and external events, such as company-wide town halls, all hands, global team meetings, internal broadcasts, fireside chats, and more.  It gusto provides much better support for external presenters.
  • Teams Town Hall supports up to 10,000 attendees, and up to 20,000 attendees for Teams Premium customers. It also allows up to 15 town halls to run at the same time, and up to 50 for Teams Premium customers
  • Teams Town Hall features advanced production capabilities, such as a new meeting template, third-party eCDN support, green room functionality, control over what attendees can see, moderated Q&A sessions, and more.
  • Teams Town Hall provides a structured approach for attendee engagement, such as attendee reporting, live reactions, polls, surveys, and more.
  • Teams Town Hall features Email communications and advanced customisation (for Teams Premium users). Organisers will be able to send pre-configured email templates for the event invitation and the event recording emails instead of manually creating a separate email, copying the event link, and sending a calendar invite to attendees.
  • Teams Town Hall will (soon) support both RTMP-in (so events can be produced directly from an external encoder and integrate different external media feeds) and
    RTMP-out, allowing organizers to stream the event out to a custom app or different endpoint outside of Teams such as YouTube, LinkedIn, X, Meta Workplace, and others. Note, this functionality will be available next year.
  • Teams Town Hall will create a unified experience for users whether they are hosting a small meeting, customer-facing webinar, or company-wide town hall. The current live event platform is not a consistent experience with Teams.
  • Teams Town halls will (soon) be integrated with Viva Engage to allow attendees to view the event in Viva Engage, whether the event is produced directly in Teams or with an external app or device.

When will Teams Live Events be retired?

Retirement of the current Teams Live Event service will continue to be supported over the next 12 months and fully retire by September 30, 2024.

Existing recordings will be available until December 31, 2024, but the transition to town hall must be completed before the retirement date.

Getting Started with Teams Town Hall

To help customers get started with Teams Town Hall, Microsoft are offering technical guidance and support resources including on demand and instructor-led training, and FastTrack onboarding assistance for eligible subscriptions.

To set-up a new Town Hall event, users (unless disabled by policy) can create a new Town Hall directly from Teams as shown below.

Don’t forget Microsoft Mesh

Microsoft is also rolling out Microsoft Mesh to Teams users in public preview in this month (October 2023). Mesh is a virtual reality platform that will enable richer and more immersive events. It will work on PC and Meta Quest VR devices. You can read more here.

How to use Intelligent Meeting recap in Teams

Microsoft Teams Meeting recap is now live for both Teams Standard and Teams Premium users. For users with Teams Premium licenses, they also get access to the AI powered “Intelligent recap” feature. In this blog I will cover.

  • What is Intelligent Recap
  • What is Teams Premium
  • How does Intelligent recap work in Teams
  • How do you summarize a team meeting transcript
  • How much does Intelligent recap cost?

What is Intelligent recap

Intelligent Recap is a Teams Premium (a service that provides an enhanced Teams experience, including many advanced features including several that use artificial intelligence to provide time saving tasks for meeting organisers and attendees.

Intelligent recap provides AI powered insights, automatically takes notes, recommended tasks, and highlights, as well as creating speaker-indexed video and transcriptions of the recording. It is available to use now for Teams Premium users.

According to research by Microsoft and feedback from their customers, this tool should save people a lot of time since who, more than 55% of people claim that actions and notes are often unclear or inconsistent following a meeting.

What is Teams Premium

Microsoft Teams Premium was released early this year and amongst other premium features, it brings new artificial intelligence powered tools to Teams designed to improve your productivity. The biggest AI feature within Teams Premium is intelligent recap, which after being in preview for while is now generally available.

Intelligent Meeting Recap in Teams Premium

How does Intelligent recap work in Teams

To be able to recap a meeting the meeting organiser (or permitted attendee) will need to ensure they choose (or set to automatic) to record and transcribe the meeting. You also need to have a Teams Premium license.

Intelligent recap is designed to help attendees to catch up on a meeting by reviewing the content, video, key content, and discussion points and to review suggested actions. It also useful for people that were invited to the meeting but were unable to attend and to ensure that everyone has notes from the meeting and are clear on the actions (which it suggests based on the meeting).

Intelligent recap uses Microsoft’s Generative AI to generate meeting notes, recommended tasks, and personalised highlights, which it takes from the transcription it creates.

Intelligent recap also creates personalised timeline markers that are only visible to a specific user. These highlight when someone is specifically mentioned by name, when something is shared by that person and when someone leaves the meeting. This is useful, if, for example, you had to leave an over running meeting because, you can then easily use the recap to catch up on what you missed at the end – particularly if you are given an action.

Intelligent recap also creates speaker timeline markers which make it quick and easy to jump to the most important (or specific parts) of a meeting. They speaker markers show when different people spoke and are organised based on who spoke the most, which is again useful to see the dynamic of a meeting.

Chapters, (which have been delayed but are coming soon), will divide meetings into sections and attempt to organise them by topic – this is currently in testing.

Meeting Recap in Teams “Standard”

It is worth noting that the standard version of Teams does have a meeting recap feature – but lacks the AI powered intelligent notes described above. Instead, the “Recap” tab of a Teams meeting provides links to the meeting transcript, recording, and any notes that were taken manually. You are also able to watch the meeting recording directly within Teams without needing to go to another app or web page. This will also support the new collaborative meeting notes feature when it rolls out in the next month

How do you summarize a Team meeting transcript

To summarise a Teams meeting transcript, you need to make sure the meeting is recorded and transcribed, and you need to have a Teams Premium license assigned.

There are no manual steps needed to summarise the meeting, since the Intelligent Recap feature will work automatically after the meeting ends and after it has processed and analysed the recording and transcription.

One the meeting has finished; you will see a recap tab within the meeting window.

In the Recap panel, you can watch the recorded meeting and access key information such as the agenda, meeting notes, shared content etc. You can also quickly see and navigate to where specific people spoke or where you were mentioned in the meeting for your mentions. You can do that by clicking on the @ over the video window.

The Recap panel is simple to use and very intuitive. From here you can access any notes manually taken during the meeting as well as access the AI notes generated by Teams.

Scrolling down further, shows the AI generated actions that Teams detected or has suggested if not explicitly stated. In my experience these are quite accurate, but it does mistakes – expect it improve over time with more user feedback!

How much does Intelligent recap cost

Intelligent meeting recap is part of Microsoft Teams Premium. Depending on your region and licensing agreement, pricing may vary but RRP is currently on promo for £5.80 pupm. It is due to increase to around £7.

Thanks for reading – as always welcome your comments and feedback.