How to improve your Teams meetings

Teams meetings tips

Microsoft Teams is your central teamwork app – not simply for your own teams, but also across the entire company and with external partners. You will find everything you need for online collaboration in Teams, from chats and data exchange to telephony and online meetings. In our blog, we have compiled tips for you to make it easier to plan, conduct and follow up meetings via Microsoft Teams.

Preparation

1. Prerequisites for Teams meetings
The two fundamental prerequisites for Teams meetings are an Office 365 account with a valid license to use Microsoft Teams and a stable internet connection. Further applications such as OneNote and Whiteboard can improve the design and documentation of meetings, but are not strictly required.

2. Planning your meetings
Generally, there are several ways to plan/organise a Teams meeting.

2.1 Planning via Outlook calendar
One way is with the Outlook calendar, where the Teams meetings plugin is available in the calendar’s menu.






Click this button and a link to the Teams meeting will be added to the content of a calendar entry.


2.2 Planning via the Teams calendar app
Many Teams users find the second way – the Teams calendar app – to be more practical.
The detailed form is similar in structure to Outlook’s:



The Teams calendar app offers you an advantage that Outlook currently doesn't have in its desktop version: if a participant already has a different appointment for the time of the meeting, he will be marked in red. Teams supports you with AI-based functions and provides you with suggestions for a better date for a meeting with non-available participants even before sending the meeting invitation. By clicking on one of the options offered you can then add them to this meeting invitation. Those who like to work with Outlook Web Client, will find this function is also available in the web version of Outlook.

2.3 Defining meeting options
Once you have created and saved the meeting you should think about meeting options. This is particularly important when planning a meeting with participants that are not part of your organisation. In the meeting options, you can – among others – define who is allowed to present (e.g. internal, all or specific people) and who is allowed to bypass the waiting area. The Teams app meeting options are accessed by clicking on the three dots to the right of the time zone information for your meeting.

3. Preparing your meetings
As is so often the case, preparation is crucial in order to leave a good impression – and this is especially true for customer meetings. We recommend that you close windows that are not needed, especially those that display sensitive content. This will prevent information that is not part of the meeting from appearing on a shared screen.
To avoid having to search for content during a meeting, we recommend that you open any required web content, programmes, documents etc. before the meeting.
 This way you avoid unnecessary pauses and ensure a smooth process.


Summary of our preparation tips

  • Use the Teams app as it offers functions and advantages that Outlook cannot provide
  • Define meeting options for external meetings
  • Use the options of the waiting area
  • Prior to the meeting, open all documents and programmes that you might need during the meeting
  • Close all windows and programmes you won’t need during the meeting

Successful execution

4. Joining your meeting
Generally speaking, all participants in the Outlook calendar or in their Teams calendar in the Teams app are able to join the meeting. Once again, the Teams app offers two options Outlook doesn’t:

Push Notifications: the app sends you a message when other people have joined the meeting. This allows you to notice when other participants join your meeting room, especially in large meetings.
Launch page is not displayed: when you join a meeting directly from the app, the Teams launch page is not shown. This eliminates the time needed for loading the Teams launch page when joining a meeting from Outlook.





The waiting area
When conducting meetings with external participants we recommend creating a waiting area. The waiting area is used to have external participants wait until internal participants have prepared for the meeting and made arrangements. After internal preparations external participants are brought into the meeting by the moderator/meeting organiser.

               


5. Tasks of the moderator/meeting organiser
As a moderator/meeting organiser you have a range of tasks some of which are similar to those found in real-life meetings:

  • Check participant list: As described above, one of the tasks of the moderator/meeting organiser is to monitor the participant list and check, whether external participants are in the waiting area.
  • Teams calendar app: Generally, we recommend using the Teams calendar app as it offers many benefits. However, it is only available to Teams meetings participants whose Outlook mailbox is located in Exchange Online. We therefore recommend asking your external participants whether they have access to the Teams calendar app. If they don't they can always join Teams meetings via Outlook.

 

  • Monitoring the chat: As many participants may interrupt the presenter’s speech with questions, the chat is used to ask questions, comment on statements or provide links. As moderator/organiser you should therefore always monitor the chat and generally respond to comments quickly. By the way, the chat remains even after the meeting. This gives you the chance to answer questions after the meeting or add comments to your meeting minutes.
  • Activate video camera: Non-verbal communication makes up an important portion of all meetings. We therefore recommend activating the video camera feature. Videos allow participants to notice the facial expressions and gestures used by their counterparts which can enrich a meeting. If technical reasons make it impossible to leave the camera activated for the entire duration of the meeting, we recommend to at least activate the camera at the beginning and towards the end of the meeting.
  • Mute participants: this option is available for meetings with at least 2 other participants.



Generally, every participant can mute single or all other participants which means the microphone of the other participants is deactivated. Please note, however, that muted participants can reactivate their microphones themselves. If needed, this setting can be changed so that only the presenter can mute participants. Generally, the muting function is used in meetings when one participant’s loud background noise disrupts the meeting and the participant has not yet thought about muting his own microphone.


6. Notes during the meeting
Microsoft Teams offers you the option to show or hide the meeting notes sidebar.




The meeting notes in Teams offer many benefits. They are directly linked to your meeting. You can thus use them to both prepare your meeting, keep minutes during the meeting and even follow up on the meeting. One disadvantage is that sharing these notes is difficult.
Due to the advantages and disadvantages of the Teams notes function we recommend using them for preparing and communicating the agenda. For all other documentation functions such as minute keeping we recommend Microsoft OneNote as it makes sharing and distributing notes much easier.


7. Sharing content
Generally speaking, various content can be shared during the meeting. After clicking on the “share screen” icon you are given the following options:

  • Desktop: all screens connected to the device (many Skype users are familiar with this)
  • Window: e.g. various application windows that are currently open
  • PowerPoint / browse: sharing presentations directly
  • Whiteboard: a virtual “flip chart”





Particularly the options offered under desktop and window often lead to errors when sharing content. Often, instead of sharing the screen, only one window is shared. Furthermore, it often happens that a window other than the one desired is dragged into the screen or the team meeting or a window is dragged into the wrong screen. When presenting the screen, it is also important to ensure that confidential content that you do not want other participants to see, e.g. your mail inbox, is not accidentally displayed.
These mistakes when presenting windows and screens happen because presenters are used to the possibilities of presence meetings. In online meetings, these blunders disrupt the flow of the presentation because participants do not see what the presenter sees.


Recording presentations
Ideally, you should define whether a presentation is supposed to be recorded, before the meeting. Prior to starting the recording of a meeting or single presentations, make sure that all participants agree to the recording.

Several prerequisites must be met for recording meetings:

  • Participants require a valid Microsoft Streams license to be able to record
  • The Streams app will be activated for the user that starts the recording
  • The recording user is allowed to upload videos (as per default settings).


Every internal participant (from the organiser’s point of view) that meets the requirements can record a presentation or the entire meeting. This option is not available to external participants. Start the recording by clicking on the menu item “start recording” in the Meeting bar below the ellipsis (...).



All internal and external meeting participants are then informed by Teams that the recording has been started.



This message is also published in the chat, thus being documented. Guests and members of other organisations are currently unable to start recordings. If you are unsure whether recording is safe in terms of privacy protection we recommend contacting your company’s data protection officer.
The recording is ended once an internal participant clicks on “stop recording” in the menu or when the meeting itself is ended.



In this context, we recommend to note that the recording only ends once all participants have left the meeting room.

 

In our opinion recording a meeting has many advantages:
  • The meeting can be replayed later on. This allows participants to catch up on content they might have missed, for example in case they have joined with a delay or had to leave early.
  • Important content, especially decisions, can thus be reviewed later on since they are documented in the video.
  • Videos can be transcribed automatically. By this point, this option is even available in German. Using the transcript, videos can be searched quickly and accurately. They also make creating minutes much easier and faster.


However, recording meetings also comes with its disadvantages:

  • Videos require a lot of storage space.
  • When recording a lot of meetings, managing and storing these videos becomes confusing quickly.


In the light of these advantages and disadvantages we recommend thinking about recording long and hard before actually doing it.


8. Whiteboard
Whiteboard is part of your Teams app. Among other things, the Whiteboard allows you to create drafts. This digital Whiteboard replaces “analogue” whiteboards and flip charts that would be used in real-life meetings. During your meeting, start Whiteboard with the function “Share screen”.

QuQuQImage Source: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/office-365-blog/microsoft-whiteboard-now-available-for-the-web-and-integrated-in/ba-p/973566

As an alternative to Whiteboard, you can use OneNote for this task as OneNote also offers a drawing function. In our opinion, drawing in OneNote should only be considered if you have a touch screen and an associated touch pen. Drawings created with a mouse and a touch pad (i.e. without a touch pen) are usually less than professional. Neither are the app’s relatively long loading times helpful.
When sharing the Whiteboard in Teams, you have the option of opening the Windows 10 app (if you have installed it from the App Store). This client offers you improved drawing options.

Currently Whiteboard content can only be shared with internal participants. According to Microsoft the option of sharing content with external participants will follow.


Summary of our tips on holding Teams meetings

  • As a meeting organiser, monitor the waiting area and add waiting participants to the room. Monitor the chat where questions are frequently asked and answer them in a timely manner
  • Use the participants’ video images as they expand the communication possibilities
  • Share content but make sure to share content that is intended for the circle of participants
  • Chat entries, shared links, notes etc. created during the meeting, are stored in Teams even once the meeting is over
  • Extend the possibilities of Teams and use OneNote for documentation purposes or Whiteboard to create drafts

Meeting completion and follow-up


9. Completing your meeting
Each participant ends his meeting presence by leaving the meeting room. Especially in smaller meetings it makes sense to say goodbye to the other participants before leaving the meeting. If someone does not want to disturb the meeting or presentation, it is also possible to say goodbye in the chat.

We recommend for the meeting organiser to only leave the meeting room when all participants have left the meeting. Some participants stay in the chat until hardly anyone is present to ask the presenter specific questions that you do not want to discuss in a large circle. By leaving the room last, the organiser can ensure that all questions have been asked and answered.

Ending the meeting recording
You can end the recording of the meeting at any time by selecting the menu item "Stop recording". This menu item is available to every internal participant, not only the organiser or presenter.
In any case, the recording ends automatically when the last meeting participant has left the room.




10. Meeting notes
Meeting notes are currently only accessible to internal participants. From a technical perspective, the meeting notes feature is based on the Teams Wiki app, which makes it difficult to share content. We recommend that the organiser collect the notes of the individual participants after the meeting.



The most common ways to collect notes are via the meeting notes in Teams described here, as well as via OneNote notes, which can be easily shared. From all available notes, the organiser creates minutes which are then sent to the participants. We recommend that Whiteboard content is also included in the minutes as an image export. To make it available later in the meeting room, this log is also stored with the files in the meeting room.

Video-recording meetings
If the recording of the meeting is to be made available to participants, it is the organiser's responsibility to edit and prepare the video. We will not describe the stream and the necessary settings at this point, as this would go beyond the scope of this article. Access to the video provided in Teams or Stream is currently only available for internal meeting participants (access for external users is on the Microsoft roadmap for Q4/2020). If you want to make the video available to external participants, we recommend that you manually download the video from Stream, store it in the collaboration area of your SharePoint and share it from there if necessary.

As an organiser, you should always ask yourself these questions during video post-processing:

  • Are the name and the description of the video correct?
  • What language is to be set for the video to make sure the transcription delivers optimum results?
  • Who is supposed to have access to the video?
  • Have all unnecessary parts been removed from the video?



11. Documentation availability
All meeting resources are retained even after the meeting in Teams. After the participants have left the meeting, they can subsequently access the content stored in the meeting room via the meeting entry in the chat app. We recommend making all the essential contents of the meeting available to everyone in the meeting room, if necessary afterwards. In the case of important recurring serial meetings, it has proven to be a good idea to attach these to the chat history. In this way, you have quick access to your most important appointments, save yourself the trouble of searching and can work more efficiently.

The meeting room
Every meeting room offers four areas to internal participants (as per default settings):

  • Chat
  • Files
  • Meeting notes (see above)
  • Whiteboard
 

 

  • Chat

The chat tab of the respective meeting room allows you to trace when which participant has joined the meeting and when they have left. It also provides you with information on whether questions were posted during the Meeting in the chat room and, as was already mentioned, these are retained. In case the meeting is recorded, this is also where you find the video recording quick access function. As this quick access function is part of the meeting room, it is currently only available to internal employees.


 

  • Files

This is where you can deposit documents that were shared during the meeting. This makes documents available to all meeting participants even after the meeting is over. All files deposited here are available to the user who has uploaded them in OneDrive for Business.


 

  • Whiteboard

If the Whiteboard is used in the meeting, Whiteboard content is available permanently in this area. Whiteboard content can also be exported as images. We recommend including the image export function in the meeting minutes, especially if the minutes are made available to external participants.




12. Continue communication via chat
As mentioned, the chat area and all content is available in the meeting room even once the meeting has ended. We recommend using the chat for further communication with meeting participants. Especially for further information interesting to all participants and information that only became known after the meeting or opinions that have only manifested once the meeting had already concluded. This keeps all participants up to date and allows for further exchange within the group.


Summary of our tips for meeting completion and follow-up:

  • As a meeting organiser, you are the last one to leave the room
  • Chat records are retained and offer quick access to videos
  • All documents deposited in the meeting room are retained
  • As a meeting organiser, you create the minutes and edit the video recordings
  • Also use the chat after the meeting to communicate with the group
     
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