Whilst not something that ever appeared on the official Microsoft Teams Roadmap, Microsoft last week, announced and released the “Games for Work app” to both commercial and education customers. The Microsoft 365 blog article on the matter said….
What is Games for Work?
Games for Work is an app developed by Microsoft Casual Games and initially includes four classic Windows games: Solitaire, Minesweeper, Wordament, and Icebreakers, all of which can be played individually or with up to 250 multiple players.
Using Games for Work in Teams
As with all Teams app, the Games for Work shows up under apps in the Teams admin center, and before employees can launch the app, there needs to be a Teams app permission policy assigned to the user for them to use it (unless already permitted via a higher-level policy).
Once a user has access to the app, they can add Games for Work to their meetings before or during a meeting, just like any other app. Meeting co-organizers and presenters can also install apps in meetings.
Once a user has been given access to the app, they can add Games for Work to a meeting before or during a meeting, just like any other Teams app. Meeting co-organisers and presenters can also install apps in meetings.
Choosing and Launching a Game: When Games for Work launches, the app takes centre stage in the shared content area, just like any other shared app like whiteboard or PowerPoint would do.
Once the Games for Work app opens, it connects to the Microsoft Games online site and the meeting host (or an organiser) selects the game they wish to play and launches it. As other members join the meeting the host can share their screen to agree which game is plays or launch their choice of game and wait for other members to join.
To Stop a Game: To stop playing, the user who starts the app (the host) stops sharing. Attendees can also leave the game at any time (to do some real work perhaps!)
Blocking Access to Games for Work
The most straightforward way to prevent employees using Games for Work is to simply ensure IT “block” the app. If it is decided to allow some employees to use the app, then a custom policy will be needed and applied to a group that contains those users.
Another thing to bear in mind is that different users may have different app permission policies (especially in larger organisations). As such it is possible that not everyone in a meeting will have access to Games for Work. If this is the case, they will receive a generic error message asking them to speak to their Teams administrator or call the help desk.
Verdict and Thoughts
Personally, I’m not sure about this and think many organisations will want to remove or block this functionality (which you can do). Microsoft believe, however that “playing games with co-workers in Teams meetings will foster relationships and build collaboration”.
I’m sure many will say that “Games for Work” may help people to relax (or take a break) but I’m sure there are better ways than adding games to a Teams meeting. This is not a pandemic “Zoom party” with your friends!
Webinar features are now available in Microsoft Teams – they don’t need a separate subscription or add-on and setting up a webinar is as easy as scheduling a Teams meeting.
Webinars will support up to 1,000 interactive attendees, with an “overflow” experience to a 10,000-person view-only broadcast experience.
Webinars vs Live Events in Teams
I work with many organisations (including my own), that embraced Teams for Live Events (which are also available through Yammer) to deliver company all-hands, virtual events etc, and were a natural evolution to the familiar (but slightly cumbersome) Skype Broadcast Service which emerged around the time of Skype for Business Online.
One of the biggest criticisms of Teams Live Events, however, was that it was broadcast only, meaning it didn’t really support any form of audience engagement and presentation, layout and in-broadcast options were limited – it could also be tricky to get remote (outside your organisation) presenters into Teams Live events.
Webinars will support up to 1,000 interactive attendees, with what they refer to as “overflow” experience that allows additional attendees (up to 10,000) to join in a view-only broadcast mode – similar to how Live Events works!
You can be forgiven for being a bit confused by the terminology used by Microsoft here – as they talk about “meetings”, “virtual events”, “live events” and now “webinars”. The distinction here is virtual events/Live Events can and typically use dedicated AV equipment, have multiple co-ordinators and “drivers” and use broadcast tech like NDI to stream/restream content to YouTube, LinkedIn etc.
So – what are “Webinars in Teams“?
You can now use Microsoft Teams , as the single and familiar tool for all your meeting types whether that’s 1:1 or 1: many, ad hoc meetings, scheduled meetings and now webinars and within Microsoft has included several options (more are coming) to choose from to make the webinar experience as professional, rich and engaging as possible for both presenters and attendees including the ability to use native registration pages if you wish.
How Teams Webinars Work
Exactly the same as a Teams Meeting! – this is one of the best bits – There’s no additional app to use, the only additional being filling in some optionalregistration features (if you wish to use the registration option).
Setting up the Webinar
To get started and organise a Webinar from within Team, you simply head to your calendar in Teams, and select ‘Webinar’ in the ‘New Meeting’ drop down. From here you can add presenters and co-presenters, also create a customisable registration form which you can then share via your marketing platform or share on LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
1. Create the Webinar from the Teams Calendar
Creating a Webinar from Teams Calendar
2. Decide who you want to have register for the event (no one, all or internal only). I’ve found that for most customers, the “for everyone” is greyed out. To enable this, you will need to get your Microsoft Teams administrator(s) will need to allow this setting to be enabled at an organisation level via a policy in Teams.
Whilst this willbe possible to do in the Teams Admin Centre, at time of writing, it must be done via PowerShell – You can read more on how to do this here.
3. If you choose to require registration (bear in mind, you don’t have to – you can continue to use your existing third party event registration process), then you can create a customised registration page as illustrated below.
Important: Only invite your presenters/organisers to this meeting – you use the registration link to send to attendees!
4. If you chose “Require Registration”, then you can go on to complete the registration input form and get the link.
You can see from the example below that you can also add custom fields for the registration and can add things like speaker biographies for your guests to see.
Registering for your Webinar
Once you have set-up your Webinar, you simply send out the registration URL via email, your website or any other method. Depending on the registration type, your users then click on the link and register. If the webinar is for “internal” only, then the users will be be authenticated by Azure AD and their name, email etc., filled in automatically. If set to “everyone”, then everyone needs to manually register.
On registering, the attendee receives an email to say they have been registered along with the join link and option to add to their calendar.
The Webinar Experience
When it’s time for the webinar, presenters / co-presenters are presented join the meeting in the same way they would join any other Teams meeting – complete with the familiar lobby experience.
On joining / starting the webinar the presenters get the same set of rich features they are used to in Teams (because it is Teams) including, dynamic view, chat and more.
Also worth noting, that Microsoft have continued to make huge improvements to optimise the participant and presenter engagement experience. For example, when you’re presenting a PowerPoint within the Webinar, PowerPoint presenter mode provides the same familiar presentation experience presenters are used to in presentations – meaning instead of the presenter seeing the same screen as the audience, they can see all the meeting controls as well as the attendees to the right or at the top allowing them to have the most engaging experience with their audience.
Also just rolling out is the ability to now appear in-front of your presentation or screen share – think weather report experience on TV!
Attendees (which is arguable the most important attendees in the webinar), can join via Teams on their mobile, desktop or via a browser in the same way anyone would join a Teams meeting.
Attendees can view the presentation, send live reactions, and use the raise hand feature if they want to ask a question. With PowerPoint Live built into the experience, attendees can even move through the presentation slides (if enabled by the presenter) at their own pace if they’ve missed a slide or want to preview content ahead of time.
Throughout the event, the presenter is in fully control of the meeting and can disable the microphone or video of attendees but if needed, reactivate them, and even spotlight presenters (or key attendees) should they want to give them the opportunity to speak.
What happens after the webinar?
After the webinar finishes, the webinar host receives (or can download) an attendee report which shows details around who joined the webinar, how long they stayed for etc.
This data can be exported and re-imported into your CRM or even automatically “connected” into Microsoft Dynamics 365 for follow up and post webinar engagement.
What do you think?
That’s it really – hope you found this useful. Welcome your feedback on using Teams for webinars, and on this information.
Released at the end of 2020, the Poly Sync 20 and Sync 20 + are personal Bluetooth and USB speakerphones designed for use with Microsoft Teams. Whilst nothing new in terms of form-factor – as other vendors such as Yealink, Jabra, Lenovo etc., all have similar form factor speakers, the quality design and easy to use features make the Sync 20 a great device for home workers, hybrid workers or anyone looking for a stylish, Bluetooth / smart portable speakerphone solution that has been “designed” for Microsoft Teams.
The Poly Sync 20 was the first in Poly’s new Sync range of USB and Bluetooth speakerphones. The Sync 20 has two bigger brothers – the Sync 40 and the Sync 60 which are aimed more for use in huddle spaces and smaller to medium sized meeting rooms – The Sync 20 and Sync 40 are available “now” and the Sync 60 is “coming “soon”. This review just looks at the Sync 20.
These device types are designed for those people that travel or are on the road often (outside of current COVID restrictions of course) and needing to join Teams Meetings / conference calls either alone or with one or two other people – or as a permanent set-up at the home office. These personal speakers are great to ensure you have the best audio experience and that those on the other-end can also hear you well – certainly beats using a phone on “speaker phone” – please don’t do that!!
Speeds and Feeds
The Poly 20 Sync costs circa £160 and measures 34mm x 95mm x 182mm so easily fits in your laptop/Surface bag or pouch. Like many of its competition, it includes a rechargeable battery that gives about 20 hours of talk time (according to Poly – I didn’t test that) between charges and takes just 4 hours to charge using the attached USB A cable. One nifty thing about the Poly Sync 20, compared to most other similar devices in this category, is that it also doubles up as a portable battery charger allowing you to plug your smart phone or headphones into the Sync 20 to keep your other gadgets charged when working remotely.
Bluetooth / USB Speakerphone
Portable Battery Charger
Windows 10 Dongle (Sync 20 + version only)
Look and Feel
The Poly 20 Sync measures 34mm x 95mm x 182mm so easily fits in your laptop/Surface bag or pouch.
As you’d expect from Poly, the Poly Sync 20 is a good-looking device. As you can see from the images above, it has a silver bezel and a high-quality fabric mesh speaker cover. The device is also IP64 rated (meaning it is dust and water-resistant) and comes with its own equally stylish case for storage and protection against scratches etc.
On the front of the device, there are familiar buttons for call controls as well as a programmable button that you can use to open a voice assistant, check status, play / pause music etc., (this requires installing the Poly Customisation Software). Since this is a Teams certified device, there is also a dedicated Teams button on the device for instant access to the Teams app, joining a meeting etc. There’s also a large call status light on the front.
As expected, the Sync 20 is incredibly easy to get going. I chose to plug mine into my Surface via the USB port. The Sync-20 was instantly recognised by Windows 10 and also showed up in Teams along with the recognition that this was a Teams Certified device.
Pairing to my Samsung phone was also quick and easy and by using the PLT Hub app I could then simply configure the device and was even able to change the voice to British English!
Performance and Quality
Sound Quality was tested by using my Surface (wired) and phone (via Bluetooth) to play some Spotify hits and some movie content (yes, Star Wars from Disney Plus!). Sound quality was crisp and clear. There was no distortion even with the volume “pumped” all the way up to maximum. I am no audio expert, but for a portable device – it was loud enough for use in a meeting room, home office / hotel room.
Bluetooth connectivity works as expected on my mobile device (I didn’t bother pairing it to my Surface since I used the USB-A cable for this and “hate” using a dongle which is needed to use the device as a Teams Certified speaker).
USB Charging – is a nice to have and it does mean I don’t have to carry multiple devices about – Using the device as a Bluetooth speaker on my Samsung phone, I was able to charge my phone from 54% to 100% whilst playing music from it in less than an hour.
Summary and Close
In all a great device if you are in the market for a high-quality, Teams certified small portable smart speaker to use with your mobile or laptop/tablet then you won’t be disappointed by the Sync-20. The built-in battery charger is a definite plus point too when working remotely – though there’s not enough power in the USB to charge my Surface Go.
At ~£160 it’s on par with similar devices in its class and has fantastic build quality. Like most devices, firmware is upgradable via the Poly management apps, but the real test will of course be when I finally return to some form of going out and working in different places.
Microsoft has just started rolling out a heap of new updates and features Teams displays, such as the Lenovo ThinkSmart View.
In case you are not familiar, Teams Displays are low-cost, dedicated devices design for just Teams Meetings, Calls, and simple collaboration/presentation. The idea behind these is that having Teams on a dedicated second display means that separating out “teamwork” and individual work can make focus easier. I have a ThinkSmart View on a small table on the other side of my home office which I find helps me to focus on the meeting in situations where I don’t need to “stuck” in front of my Laptop. You can read my earlier review of the ThinkSmart here:
In the latest update, Microsoft has brought us the following features and improvements:
Voice Control: Powered by Cortana, you can now search for meetings, ask teams to join your meeting, find a message, open a file, or call a person.
Custom Background: Providing feature comparison with the desktop clients, you can not only blur your background but use the Microsoft provided custom backgrounds in meetings and calls.
Live Reactions: You can now send a range of emoticons to show support, applause, “love”, and laughter during a meeting.
Cortana and Bing: Seach integration, allow users to find information hands-free with voice while collaborating or taking part in meetings and calls – For example, “what is the time in Seattle”, or “Show my latest messages from Rachel”.
These features are rolling out as part of the March 2021 update for Teams displays.
Now, I don’t need to tell you just how fast #MicrosoftTeams is being adopted across organisations globally, but one thing we are seeing is the shire explosion of new form factor devices by leading (and new) manufacturers into the Teams Collaboration space. Some of these new devices fits into the new category of Microsoft Teams Displays.
Microsoft Teams Displays – are a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices featuring an ambient touchscreen, and a hands-free / touch-free experience “powered by Cortana” (though this is currently only available in the US only at this point).
One of these vendors is Lenovo, who are no means a “new kid on the block” when it comes to end user devices such as tablets, laptops, and desktops, but they are kind of new in the Teams Collaboration Device Space. Interestingly, Lenovo are now also supplying the “PC” component of, not only their new Teams Rooms Systems, but also that of Poly!
You may ask why, when employees have access to laptops, web browsers, smart phones and tablets, all more than capable of running Microsoft Teams, so we need a dedicated Teams Collaboration Display….
Introducing the Lenovo ThinkSmart View
The Lenovo ThinkSmart View is a dedicated personal business communications device for hosting and taking part in Microsoft Teams audio and video calls – the devices of which can be managed by the Lenovo ThinkSmart Manager software, a proprietary software application built for IT departments to easily manage their fleet of ThinkSmart devices.
Designed and certified exclusively for Microsoft Teams, Lenovo calls this a “…collaborative smart device that works from an individual’s workspace…” – it’s a collaboration device really designed for execs or those with a pop-up home office who want to be “free from their laptop or tablet” but still need a video rich and audio rich endpoint and a price point that really appeals.
Lenovo are attempting to “reimagine the personal workspace” with Microsoft Teams displays by integrating the Teams collaboration and communication experience into the home and workplace with high fidelity audio and video.
So, what can you use it for?
Meetings – and it’s really good at them too!
Most of what the device can do is set out by, and limited by what Microsoft allows the device to do since the collaboration device is powered by the Microsoft Teams Android client that runs on the device. Initially, and when first reviewed the device earlier this year, the device was really just for joining meetings and for Teams Phone features, however the update in September 2020 brought the FULL Teams Mobile features to the device including:
Teams Call / Video Meetings with full phone UX for Calls, Meetings & Voicemail
Common Area and Personal Phone Support
Hot Desking Support
Support Live Captions / Subtitles
Full video calling, screen sharing / viewing
Ambient display support – for notifications, and activity views
Raise hand support
Better Together for Calling & Meeting
IM and Chat
Full support for starting, participating, navigating and interacting with Chat
Full access to your recent files and full access to your OneDrive
View your Team and company org chart
My other favourite is the ability for colleagues (or most likely, your kids to leave you a message, voice memo or video memo) on the device if you are away from your desk (more likely..in the loo or getting a coffee!)
What’s in the box?
This is really simple. The ThinkSmart View device and a UK plug.
What’s the Price?
The retail for these is £229 plus VAT – so I definitely put them into the affordable gadget category for most managers/exec that work at home or need a dedicated Teams Video endpoint in their office.
What’s the Spec?
As I said – think of this as a giant Teams Phone. Its runs the same native Teams Mobile app but is perfect as a Teams On-the-go collaboration device – as long as you have a power-plug to power it up as it doesn’t have a built in battery. With this device you get:
5MP wide angle (720p) with a physical camera shutter to cover it for privacy.
Supports software background blur in Teams meetings
Built in microphone with mute switch to temporarily cut the audio.
1.75″ 10W full-range speaker
Bluetooth® 4.2 (LE) – pairing allows use with a headset and support auto device lock.
8″ HD (1200 x 800) IPS touchscreen with auto rotate for landscape / portrait mode
The ThinkSmart View is an interesting form factor device from Lenovo. It’s not immediately clear as to the audience it has been designed for. I think initially it’s designed for the exec or manager’s office – but with the 2020 being the year of “remote working”, this is ideally suited as a second / dedicated Teams end-point…
Audio is surprising good – rather than the often tinny sounds you get from laptop speakers, the 10-Watt full-range speaker in the ThinkSmart View has 2 passive tweeters allowing it to produce loud, crisp and clear audio, and testing on the receiving end (yes, I called my self), the audio picked up by the 360-degree microphone array was also “room system” quality in my opinion. Audio is important…. with virtual meetings, the spoken voice is the most important aspect of the call/meeting and while video is king, now more than ever, you can more easily forgive poor quality video as long as audio is sharp and clear.
For anyone working at home, this is much better than having a Teams Phone on your desk and it’s actually something that would be great in another room (or area) of your home/office, but of course it’s limited to use within #MicrosoftTeams which probably limits that – there’s certainly no danger in your kids or other family members using it for WhatsApp calls for example – though they might inadvertently video call your boss via Teams!
Within the “office environment”, the Lenovo ThinkSmart display can also fill the need for a “walk up and use” video collab device which can be placed in a small focus space or breakout area – especially as it supports “hot desk mode” – the lack of a handset makes it a bit in practical for a common area but you can pair it with a headset (again – great to dedicated use, no so much for common area use).
I think for anyone working at home, this is much better than having a Teams Phone on your desk and it’s actually something that would be great in another room (or area) of your home/office, but of course it’s limited to use within #MicrosoftTeams which probably limits that – there’s certainly no danger in your kids or other family members using it for WhatsApp calls for example – though they might inadvertently video call your boss via Teams!
This a new(ish) form factor, though not entirely unique to Lenovo. The other Teams Collaboration device manufacturer in this space today is Yealink – who’s device is due to launch early 2021 and is rumoured to have a battery as well as being mains powered which is the main thing missing from the Lenovo in my opinion.
As you’d expect from Lenovo, build quality is excellent. There is a premium feel to the device and its weighted on one-side, presumably to prevent accidental movement or repositioning. Its not heavy though – no heavier than a Bluetooth speaker the weight just helps with positioning and premium feel.
At just over £200 (RRP is £240 as of Dec 2020), it’s a great device to buy a handful of, to test out the use case within your organisation – a few of the clients I work with have done just this.
Microsoft has posted its August monthly wrap-up to look back at all the new features and capabilities added (or announced) in Microsoft Teams as part of the August 2020 update. One thing to note (as my commenters often point out) is that, as with all these updates, as that Microsoft announce, the rolling out of these features and due to the gradual rollout, not all customers will get these at the same time!
Meetings and Calling Enhancements
With Teams Calling and Meetings being a constant area of innovation, demand (COVID and post COVID) and of course immense competition from the likes of Zoom in the meetings space, it won’t surprise you to hear there are tons of new improvements coming. All these features have been designed of course to enhance the user experience in Microsoft Teams and include: –
The addition of Spotlight mode,
Enhancements to Meeting Recordings
New Call Merge option
Chat and Presence enhancements
Updated transcribe service (Speaker Attribution)
Teams Education Specific Enhancements
Said to be going live in the next couple of months (Sept to October), and not to be confused with the “Pin participant” feature, spotlight mode will provide presenters and meeting organisers the ability to lock an individual video feed for all attendees to see during a Teams meeting. This will mean presenters will be able to put someone in the spotlight by heading to the meeting video grid or directly from the Participants panel.
Meeting Recording Improvements
Until now, Teams records meetings in Stream which is fine so long as Stream is available within the customers geographic region. Until such time that Stream is available in all Office 365 Teams regions, a new admin setting is rolling out to let users to store meeting recordings in the Office 365 data centre closest to their region. In addition,
In addition, Microsoft have announced that Microsoft Teams is now fully supported with their “optimised experience” with VMWare Horizon 8, in additional to Citrix and of course, Windows Virtual Desktop, helping meet the increasing demand for collaboration tools to support remote workers and work across Virtual Desktop environments.
Enhancements to Teams Voice (Calling)
Microsoft announced new features for calling in Teams including a new call merge option for both Teams VOIP and PSTN calls which lets users merge several separate calls into a bigger group call.
Another new feature announced was new devices designed that will further enhance the collaboration and meeting experience. The list announced by Microsoft includes a new Windows collaboration displays from Avocor as well as various new Microsoft Teams Rooms setups powered by Yealink, Logitech, and HP.
Chat and Presence Enhancements
After two years, Microsoft have finally “fixed” presence, although they announced this as a new feature since the tech behind it was rebuilt based on the updated and new communications APIs.
Called “real-time presence”, this means that Teams will be able to provide a much more reliable and faster status updates.
Microsoft also announced that they are bringing enhanced Visio integration into Microsoft Teams to make it easier to access, managed and edit Visio files directly through a dedicated Visio tabs within a channel or chat.
Speaker Live Translation with Speaker Attribution
Microsoft is bringing a new Live Transcription with speaker attribution capabilities to Microsoft Teams which rolling out this month (September 2020)
The new Live Transcription feature will give users a new way to follow and review meeting conversations. Once rolled out, users will see two options in the meeting control bar – Recording and Transcription.
Transcripts will be viewed in real-time using the desktop client, or at the end of the meeting on the web application and will be attributed, in line with the speaker rather than the current simple subtitle / closed caption view today.
Teams Education – Enhancements
Teams in Education is different from Teams Commercial as has many discrete and dedicated features that empowers education establishments to use Team to deliver whole class teaching whether it’s for Academy, Adult Ed, Primary, Secondary, or Further/High Education.
There are new Education Insights that have been rolled out in public preview which allows “administrators to monitor digital engagement through system-level engagement monitoring reports which has been designed to provide enhanced visibility into educator best practices in remote instruction” – according to Microsoft.
Thirsty for more detail?
For the full details, refer to the wider Microsoft Blog here:
Microsoft have just announced some changes and enhancements coming to the way their Microsoft Teams “Cloud Voice” services are purchased and licensed.
Firstly, from August 1st, all Office E5/A5 and Microsoft E5/A5 plans will now include 120-minutes per month domestic user calling plans in eight countries at no additional cost. This will be for new and existing E5/A5 users including the following countries: –
Secondly, Microsoft are also adding new Microsoft 365 Enterprise Voice Plans. This will make it easier for customers to add voice to Teams since these new bundles will include That means, in those countries, E5 now ships as a full phone system with PSTN connectivity and user phone numbers/minutes included in the single license.
The new Enterprise Voice bundles are a new offering / add-on that will includes.
Audio Conferencing, and
Domestic calling minutes
The new Voice bundles will come in different sizes and will include a different number of inclusive minutes (similar to how the Calling Plans are purchased today).
Voice Plan 1 works out around £4.50 per user per month cheaper than the previous separate items of Phone System, Audio Conferencing and 120 Minute Calling Plan
Office 365 E5/Microsoft 365 E5 will include PLAN 1 which equates to 120 mins.
About Microsoft Enterprise Voice
Microsoft 365 Enterprise Voice
…is a cloud-based telephony solution that enables users to make and receive PSTN calls in Microsoft Teams. It includes Phone System, Audio Conferencing, and Domestic Calling Plans. These will be now be available in a Plan 1 and Plan 2.
…are what Microsoft call the associated DDI and calling minutes which are assigned to users or common are phones for example and gives users a PSTN phone number and inclusive out-bound minutes to make PSTN calls outbound. Inbound PSTN calls are not minute capped or charged. E5 licenses already include “Phone System” which enables the ability to use Microsoft Teams as a phone, but there is a still a requirement to add either a Microsoft Calling Plan or to use Direct Routing (an SBC and service from an approved Telco) to enable a user to make and receive phone calls.
Enterprise Voice Plans (for A3/E3/F3 users)
Voice Plan 1 (incudes 120 mins a month): RRP £9.80
Voice Plan 2: (includes TBC mins per month) RRP £16.60
Note: Voice Plan 1 works out around £4.50 per user per month cheaper than the previous separate items of Phone System, Audio Conferencing and 120 Minute Calling Plan
Find out more
To find out more, you can refer to the announcement here:
After being criticised for several months now as playing catch up to Zoom, Microsoft has just announced a host of new innovate features in Microsoft Teams that will make virtual interactions much more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human.
Microsoft say these new features offer three key benefits
They will help you feel more connected with your team and reduce meeting fatigue.
They will make meetings more inclusive and engaging
They will help streamline work and save time
Microsoft say that it is all about “enabling people everywhere to collaborate, to stay connected, and to discover new ways to be productive from anywhere” and it’s all backed up by months of scientific research and analysis to how people have been working, the pressures and announces they have faced as people have and continue to spend more time in virtual meetings than physical ones.
Let’s start with the Official Microsoft promo video
1. Feeling more connected and reducing meeting fatigue
“Together Mode” is a new meeting experience that will help reduce fatigue during remote collaboration. This feature will place participants in a shared virtual background to make it feel like everyone is sitting in the same room/space with all other meeting participants. Here, Microsoft is aiming to make your video meetings more engaging by helping us focus on the faces and body language of other attendees so that you can pick up the nonverbal cues that are vital for human interaction and something that is often absent from virtual meetings. According to Microsoft “Together mode with auditorium view” is already in private preview and will be rolled out to everyone else by August 2020.
Also related to video aspect of meetings, the upcoming “Dynamic View” uses AI to dynamically personalise your video meeting view to suit your preferences and needs. Microsoft acknowledged that whilst the new “Together Mode” will offers a great new meeting experience, it’s not intended or suited for every meeting. With Dynamic View, users will be able to access new controls and get the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side as well as have content and layout dynamically adapt to the meeting, number of attendees and content and other activities being drawn upon during the meeting.
Dynamic View will build on the other recent meetings enhancements, including the ability to see up to 49 participants (still rolling out) at once on a single screen, and virtual breakout rooms, which is coming later this calendar year.
Microsoft is bringing video filters into Teams to allow users to better customise their online appearance before joining a meeting with the help of common filters you are most likely used to on social media photo tools like Instagram etc. These filters are designed to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of your camera to make your video more “real”.
Reflect Messaging Extension
Also said to be coming in the next “few” weeks, Microsoft announced a new “Reflect messaging extension” is coming to Teams. Once installed (it’s an extension) Microsoft say it will make it easier for managers, team leaders, and teachers to track their teams’ performance, the status of a project, current events, or a change within the organisation for example. Note: IT admins will need to install the Reflect extension from GitHub, and then make it available to employees in their organization in the message extension menu
Reflect Messaging will also provide the ability to add custom questions to create a poll-like experience for team members.
2. Making meetings more inclusive, engaging, and effective
Microsoft Teams will soon allow meeting participants to use emojis to share how they feel about the event. Emojis will appear on everyone’s screens, and the instant feedback experience will be similar to the Live feedback feature already available with PowerPoint Live presentations and in Skype Consumer as well as other popular Video Conferencing platforms such as Zoom. The latter will also be available in Microsoft Teams in the future, the company said today, while the Whiteboard app in Teams will be improved with faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities.
Microsoft also is said to be raising the maximum number of Teams meetings participants from 300 people (just rolled out) to 1,000.
Microsoft research suggests that during meetings, “chat has become a much more lively space for conversation and idea-sharing, and offers an option for people to participate in the discussion without having to jump in verbally. But it can be challenging to pay attention to video feeds, presentations, and chats all at the same time“. Currently, Teams users need to manually open a chat window to view the chat screen. This is set to change as Microsoft Teams meetings will soon get support for what they call chat bubbles, which will make chat messages appear on the screen for chat participants while they are in a meeting.
Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts
Microsoft is also enhancing the live captions features for teams and making transcripts more accessible and fluid also making it easy for participants to see who is speaking. Thsi is similar to what Cisco have done with WebEx in the latest update and it’s great to see this coming to Microsoft Teams later this year. Teams will also get support for more languages, as well as Live transcripts participants can download once the meeting has ended. speaker attribution
Interactive Meetings for 1,000 attendees
Microsoft will soon allow for interactive meetings for up to 1,000 participants to allow for large groups, to come together for meetings or classes. As an alternative to Live Events (which are for town hall and broadcast sessions), Teams will now also allow you to bring more people together to watch a presentation or discussion where Teams will soon support a view-only meeting experience for up to 20,000 participants.
Teams Whiteboard Updates
The Whiteboard feature in Teams will soon be updated with a host of new features making it more aligned to the Windows and iOS version of Whiteboard. This will include faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities and will also be optimised for users that don’t have access to a touchscreen device or Surface Hub to participate in whiteboarding sessions during Teams meetings.
3. Streamlining work and saving time
New Task App
Microsoft have announced a new Task app that will be available in late July/August. The Task app will give Teams users a tab within Teams that unifies all of their tasks and actions across Outlook, ToDo and Planner. In addition, it will support smart lists which will dynamically group things like “Tasks Assigned to me” and will unify tasks across different shared plans, whether you’re on desktop, web, or mobile.
Suggested replies will enable users to utilise quick “AI-generated” responses based on contextual understandings of previous messages. These will work in a similar way to the newly rolled out “auto-replies” in text messages or email, allowing users to reply with a single click to common responses without having to type out a full message in their response.
Microsoft Teams displays
Microsoft has also announced new extended partnerships with Yealink and Lenovo to bring what it calls the “Microsoft Teams display initiative”.
This will allow Teams users to make use of a centralised hardware offering that makes use of an ambient touchscreen coupled with a microphone and a camera to host meetings. Lenovo already have a product about to ship and yesterday announced an extended partnership with Yealink to bring new device categories into the mix later this year / early 2021.
Touchless Meeting Experiences
Whilst Teams already has support for touchless proximity join, Microsoft has announced a host more touchlessness for its meetings which will include voice commands for leaving a meeting, adding participants, muting and unmuting rooms, adjusting audio volume, turning cameras off and on as well as wirelessly casting to any Teams enabled device.
In conjunction with this, new companion features will be rolling out to the Teams mobile app to provide Teams Rooms remote control features that will allow users to be able to be conduct entire meetings, brainstorming sessions, and presentations without ever having to physically touch meeting room equipment with their hands!
This must be one of the biggest sets of updates announced by Microsoft and shows the commitment to driving innovation, inclusion and accessibility.
Teams is the place where people everywhere come together to get work done and I’m seeing an explosive pace of deployment and adoption within my customers at @Cisilion.
One thing is for sure, with all the innovation, new features and changes to Microsoft Teams, a solid and robust Adoption and Change Management programme is needed to ensure users are educated about the changes, given the opportunity to learn and test the new features and that IT and your Teams champions have the chance to help users embrace the new features.