If you’re using Teams and you’re like me, you’re discovering new things about it every day. Microsoft has been a busy bee since the release of Teams and even more so since 2020 became the year of working from home. While there is certainly shiny and new goodness coming our way all the time, there are a few Teams staples everyone should master to have the best meetings possible. Let’s explore 9 tips for meeting with Teams (including one shiny newbie to look forward to).
Editor's Note: The blog was updated August 21st, 2020 to reflect the newest Teams experience: Together Mode!
If you’re not super familiar with Microsoft Teams check out this quick overview:
Teams Tips Table of Contents:
- Join a Meeting + Teams Invites for Non-Team Members
- Custom Backgrounds in Teams
- Mute & Unmute in Teams
- Screen Sharing
- Give or Request Control of a Screen
- Calling from Your Phone (+ Call Me Function)
- Hosting Live Events in Teams
- Live Captioning in Teams
- Together Mode
Join a Meeting + Teams Invites for Non-Team Members
If you’re working on a project involving clients or contractors, etc. outside of your team, chances are you’re going to need to meet with them. But if they aren’t on Teams, you’re toast, right? Wrong. Anyone can join a Teams meeting if you send them the link. Simply enter their email into the attendees section of your meeting and an invite will be sent (see last video in this section for a how to).
OK, but how do they join the meeting on the day of? Making joining a meeting a painful process is not a good look and forcing outsiders to download new software is a no-no. With Teams, it’s no problem. While your guest certainly can download a free version of Teams in minutes if they don't already have it, there’s also a web browser option for instant access. Confused yourself how (and from where in Teams) to join a meeting? The video below covers how an outside user joins (and BONUS how you join, because, you know, you really should be there too), all in just 3 minutes.
And…one more to watch: how to invite anyone to a Microsoft Teams meeting:
Custom Backgrounds in Teams
About a month ago we talked a little about custom backgrounds in Teams. Back then, the “custom” in custom backgrounds came solely from stock. Microsoft had some fun backgrounds (think Minecraft, images from Halo, my personal favorite you can see below: balloons, and more) but if everyone has the same thing, how is that “custom”? I found a few hacks to upload my own images but it was more effort than I wanted to put in. Thankfully, Microsoft heard the call and added in the “+ Add new” option in your backgrounds. Simply click on the "+" and poof! your file finder will come up. Add any image you like!
Quick recap: why do you need a custom background? You don’t. But let's say, your laundry isn’t done or your bed isn’t made or your kids are running amok behind you. A background allows you to put your best professional foot forward (even if it is still in slippers). If we’ve learned anything from working from home, it’s that we are all human (gasp!) and we aren't always going to be able to be our most polished selves. So, if your workspace is looking less than ideal, or if you just want to add a little personality to your background today, go for it. Put up a picture of your last vacation, pretend you’re at the Eiffel Tower or in Jurassic Park. Whatever makes you smile will probably give your co-workers a little lift too and hey, we could all use that these days, right? Check out a full custom background how-to here:
Mute & Unmute in Teams
My dog is in puppy love and has been proving his Malamute devotion via utterly ground shaking howls. Thank goodness for mute, right? Right. However, in between howls, when I have something to say, sometimes I forget to un-mute myself. Yet with Interactive Troubleshooting, Teams automatically understands that I’m trying to communicate. It prompts me with a reminder that 1. I am muted and 2. How to un-mute myself. Handy, right?
You can also set your meeting settings to automatically mute tardy (or even on time) participants upon entering a meeting so as not to interrupt the meeting’s flow and with WFH conundrums aplenty (howling dogs, screaming children, chatty cats) we all know that the power of the mute button has risen to a new level.
“I know, I know” you’re probably thinking “Sharing is caring”. Right? Well, kind of. Sharing is great. Oversharing? Not so hot. We’ve all been flustered in a meeting when asked to share our screen to better elucidate what we’re trying to communicate and I bet we’ve all shared a little too much (aka your whole desktop, open emails, chats, etc.).
Overshare no more. With Teams, when you click “Share”, you get options on options. You can share your entire desktop (aka all of your open apps and windows) or you can select specific windows at a time. For instance: you need to share a PowerPoint. You can share just that, not your entire computer. Pretty nifty, eh? Agreed. Check out the video below for a visual rundown (1-minute total):
Give or Request Control of a Screen
Have you ever felt like trying to point something out in a meeting feels more like a game of charades? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve pointed on MY screen to show someone something on theirs (hint: it wasn’t effective. Hello face! Meet palm). In the last tip (Screen Sharing), we learned how to share our screen our screen of choice but what if someone sees something on your screen or vice versa that you don’t?
Giving or getting screen control is a quick and easy way to up your communication and collaboration game. Simply click "Give Control" and select the lucky guy or gal from the drop down list. Think of it as handing the dry erase marker off to someone else at a brainstorming session or having a teammate teach you something hands-on instead of guiding you through it with words alone (“No Karen, your other left!”). Sharing is caring but so is giving up control. Give it a shot.
Calling From Your Phone (+ Call Me Function)
You have a meeting, but…your computer audio isn’t working or your battery died and you need to join from your phone and…you forgot to download the Teams app. Nightmare? Nope! Simply head to the meeting invite and dial. Join from any phone, anywhere. Tired of typing in numbers and codes? Fair enough. We’ve all got a little virtual fatigue these days. So, have Teams call you instead. Say what?! I was pretty shocked when I saw that too but yes, it’s true.
Teams can be your personal assistant and patch you into a call. Simply enter the meeting, click on the ellipses (the three dots) and select “Meeting Details”. From there, all you have to do is enter your number and click “Call Me” and the selected number will ring momentarily and... tada! You’re in the meeting. This can work for adding someone to a call last minute as well without them ever needing to download anything.
Hosting Live Events in Teams
Live Events have become the standard answer to the cancellation of in-person events and it seems like each day the Teams live events capabilities get better and better. With an Enterprise or Education license (see this article for license requirements and more) you can host an event with up to 10,000 participants. Yep, you read that right. Ten thousand. Come one, come all (well, up to 10k). Events are still on in 2020. Check out this video to learn how to plan yours:
Live Captioning in Teams
We’ve all seen how hard it is to read one another’s faces with the presence of masks. Thankfully, meeting virtually has changed all that but even though we are no longer missing social cues obscured by hidden faces, we still might be missing the point. “Live captions can make your meeting more inclusive to participants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, people with different levels of language proficiency, and participants in loud places by giving them another way to follow along” says Microsoft in this live captioning how-to. True story. In order to get the best out of your team, everyone needs to clearly understand one another. With live captioning, communication (and thus, participation) is clear and equitable. See how it works here:
This feature is fabulous, but what about multi-lingual teams? While the live captioning doesn’t currently work for meetings (though you CAN translate messages, posts or chats. See a video on it here), Microsoft has already rolled out the live translation feature for events. Choose up to 6 different language options so your message gets heard by more people, all around the world. Learn how to set this feature up here and watch the video below to see it in action: (I set it to start at the exact instructions at minute mark 4:46):
There’s no way around it: 2020’s theme is some variation of “be together while staying apart”. Even as I write to you from remote Alaska (meaning over 300 miles from the nearest large grocery store type of remote) social distancing is very much a constant practice and…it’s not that fun, is it? Enter: together mode. Nope, it’s not a way to teleport but it is the closest you can get to being together online and it’s not just some 2020 based gimmick. A ton of research went into the importance of replicating the essential nuances (eye contact, social cues, etc.) of an in-person gathering as best we can.
Have you ever been bothered by the fact that you truly can’t tell where people are looking in a meeting? Even in a 1:1, different camera angles or monitor setups can mean you’re looking at someone who does not appear to be looking at you. It’s disconcerting. In group meetings, there’s no real way to tell where or to whom attendees are giving their eye contact. It’s distracting and creates a communication breakdown as we lose those non-verbal cues and body language that only face-to-face interactions allow. But…Together Mode. It puts everyone in the same place at the same time, be it an auditorium, a meeting room or a coffee shop. Check out Together Mode in action in the video below and come September, get Together (Mode):
Update: August is coming to an end and ahead of schedule, together mode is up and running. Our BEMO team took it out for a spin and it was a hoot. You can even "reach out" to one another, high five or a pat on the back. It kept us smiling the whole meeting through. The picture below says it all:
Microsoft is on a constant mission to make your meetings as engaging and efficient as possible. The updates are flooding in and changes are coming fast. Ready for more? Check out this video to see what’s coming down the pipeline and...make sure you have your dancing shoes on. Microsoft is getting groovy: