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Getting the most from Microsoft Teams – Better Communication

8/10/2020 in Technology

Whether you’re a long-time user of the platform, new to Teams or just wondering what all the fuss is about, one feature that has likely piqued your interest is the ability to hold virtual meetings. Indeed, video/audio conferencing is the centrepiece of the Teams experience; with the ability to hold virtual meetings with up to 300 participants, and ‘live events’ with up to 20,000 attendees, Teams has the tools to unite remote workforces of all sizes.

So, let’s look at some of the finer details of the meetings experience. We’ll skip the basics (it’s an intuitive platform) and focus on some of the tools and features you’re more likely to overlook.


Meeting Scheduling and the Scheduling assistant

Even in a relatively small organisation, scheduling meetings at times that suit everyone can be a challenge. However, Teams makes this task much simpler with its easy-to-use scheduling assistant which can be accessed through the ‘new meeting’ tool located within the calendar tab.

To arrange a meeting in advance, navigate to the calendar tab on the left. Then, select ‘new meeting,’ located below your user icon in the top right. You’ll then see a form into which you can enter all the required meeting information. Enter the names of those you wish to attend, including a start and end time, link the meeting to a channel, set the meeting to recur if you wish, and so on.

Now, here’s where things start to get clever…

Upon entering the names of participants, you’ll notice you’re presented with suggested times just below the date and time section of the form. Teams pull data from the schedules of all the selected participants and identify time windows when everyone is free, this is the essence of the ‘scheduling assistant.’ You can choose one of these suggested times, or examine everyone’s availability in greater detail by navigating to the ‘scheduling assistant’ tab at the top of the window, which displays each individual’s schedule in calendar format.


Creating a Group Calendar

Teams lets you attach communal ‘group calendars’ to an individual channel. This is a great way to keep collaborative groups informed of the upcoming week’s events, allowing them to plan and prioritise work accordingly. The process is fairly simple once you know how…

Log in to the web version of Outlook and select the desired group from your list on the left. Then click on ‘go to group’ calendar as shown below. Once open, copy the calendar’s URL from the address bar.

Then, open Teams and navigate to the channel you want to attach the calendar too. Click on ‘add a tab’ and then select ‘website’ as shown below.

Create a name for your calendar and paste the URL copied from outlook into the form…

But my group can view their calendars in Outlook, why do I need the same calendar in Teams?

You don’t, but bringing all the resources your group needs into the Teams interface makes for more convenient and streamlined collaboration. Bringing everything under one roof means your Team will spend less time switching between applications, resulting in improved productivity.


Introducing the Meetings experience in Teams

If you haven’t held a virtual meeting through Teams you’re missing out. With support for up to 300 participants and an extensive range of in-meeting features it’s not hard to see why Teams is the communication platform of choice for over half a million companies worldwide. Let’s have a look at some of the actions that can be performed within a meeting.

In-Meeting Chat

In-meeting instant messaging lets participants communicate with one another as the meeting is progressing. This is a great way to pose a question without interrupting the speaker.

To display the chat interface, select ‘show conversation’ from the menu of actions at the top right of the meeting window.

Raise your hand’

A simple tool that lets you get the speaker’s attention without interrupting. Select the hand icon from the menu of actions. This action will then appear ads a notification in the ‘show participants’ tab. Any attendee who raises their hand will have an icon displayed beside their name.

Meeting Notes

Notetaking is a great way to record the fundamentals of a lengthy meeting. To enable notetaking during a meeting navigate to ‘more actions’ in the top right and select ‘meeting notes’ from the drop-down menu. The Teams app window will then appear, allowing you to take notes in a window separate from the meeting.


Innovative changes

This summer saw a series of changes to the meeting experience within Teams, introduced via the ‘new meetings’ update. This update introduced a number of major new features as well as a range of experiential alterations and minor tweaks. Here are a few of the most notable additions…

Large Gallery Mode

This mode lets you view up to 49 video streams at once in a 7 by 7 layout. To activate, select ‘large gallery’ from the ‘more actions menu. Note: this mode can only be activated in meetings with more than 10 participants.

Large gallery mode in action:

Together Mode

Together mode is a more advanced version of ‘large gallery’ mode that harnesses the power of AI to superimpose meetings into a large communal space such as a lecture theatre, café or meeting room. Designed to reduce video conferencing fatigue and engender a sense of togetherness, Together mode can be activated with a minimum of 5 attendees and a maximum of 49.

Focus feature

A quick and easy way to minimise distracting video feeds and focus on whoever’s presenting content. To activate, select ‘Focus’ from the ‘more action’ menu and you’ll see the video feeds of those who aren’t sharing content disappear.

Note: this feature only becomes active when an individual is actively sharing content such as a calendar, PowerPoint presentation or screen share.

Exploring the features of Teams Meetings will help you get the most out of your virtual get-togethers. Why not explore some of these features today and make your meetings more immersive, engaging and productive.


Need to get more from your tools?

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If you have any questions or wish to discuss anything read in this article further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.