Meetings in Microsoft Teams: It's not just Video Conferencing!

Video Conferencing (VC) has been around ever since 1964 when AT&T launched the first ‘Picturephone’, which was so expensive it never caught on. Then many years later, at around the turn of the century, I remember hearing how VC was about to change the way we did business for good. It didn’t.

Since then, VC technology has slowly been creeping into our business lives, but it has struggled to gain any real traction until the COVID-19 lockdown this year. With so many of us now being forced to work from home, VC software has suddenly become the ‘thing’.

Comparing the platforms

As everyone embraced VC in their hour of need, people began comparing the features and functionality of the different platforms available. We’ve even seen mainstream media getting involved, doing their own comparisons and highlighting the potential security threats in some quarters.

Microsoft Teams in itself isn’t superior to other VC software – but its key point of difference is that it’s ultimately based on collaboration; it’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest, revolutions in the workplace in recent years. Chatting, calling and meetings are all an important part of collaboration and that’s why these functions are the bedrock of Teams. But Teams can do so much more than this.

1) Meeting Features inside Microsoft Teams

Before we get on to the full range of collaboration capability that makes Microsoft Teams hard to beat, let’s consider the features it does offer for your VC meetings:

  • Screen, Window or PowerPoint share. You can add system audio as well, which is great for video sharing
  • Change your background to a new location, particularly useful when you’re stuck at home in a study or at the kitchen table
  • Use the Presenter and Attendee modes to help control larger meetings
  • ‘Hands up’ notification for questions, rather than just having to try and find the least awkward moment to butt in
  • Full Instant Message chat functionality available from within your meeting
  • Federated Chat allowing anyone with the internet to join your meeting
  • Access from mobile or tablet without restrictions
  • No software or exe files required for your guests to join meetings, just an internet browser

Although there are small things which Teams misses out on such as break-out rooms, as a piece of Video Conferencing software, Teams certainly has plenty to offer with new features being added all the time.

2) Persistent Meetings

Let’s take the common scenario of the reoccurring team meeting. Every Monday you get together and talk about what’s happened, what needs doing and you allocate tasks. There might be meeting minutes to write up at the end to ensure everyone’s on the same page. There might also be some email back and forth before or after the meeting with attachments to add to the mix. This all takes time and can be an administrative burden.

In Teams, this whole process can be massively simplified. You can create the reoccurring appointment directly inside the Teams Calendar, add the people, link to any attachments, add the re occurrence and off you go. You can even still set it up in Outlook, as before, if you are not quite ready to leave that particular comfort blanket behind.

When you create a meeting, Teams automatically adds extra tools such as Chat, Meeting Notes and Whiteboard. You’ll find them as tabs at the top of the appointment card. As soon as someone uses the chat area, or the meeting starts, all the relevant info gets copied into the ‘Chat’ tab so you can find it easily. If the meeting is reoccurring, it will continue to use the same thread going forward so that nothing gets lost over time.

The meeting has a tab to share files and a meeting note tab so that minutes can be recorded and reviewed afterwards. It’s worth noting that a lot of users are now recording all their meetings, making minutes redundant. Recordings also mean that anyone who missed the meeting can easily catch up afterwards.  All this content will be stored in the chat thread and available to every invitee. It’s time to say good-bye and good riddance to those floating documents and emails.

3) Collaboration in a meeting

There are still many more useful features you can take advantage of, thanks to the Microsoft 365 suite of applications. You might, for example, want to collaborate with someone on a document during a meeting; no problem. You can easily hand control of your screen over to your colleague, so they can edit for you. Or everyone in the meeting can open the document on their own devices and you can all start editing together.

If the meeting notes are not working as a ‘to do’ list for your team, try copying the actions over to a Plan in Planner to ensure the key tasks remain on everyone’s radar.  If you’re using OneNote in your team already, you can just use that instead of Meeting Notes.

If you’re recording meetings and want to look back, you can go to Stream later and simply view the recording. You can also download fully transcribed meeting notes or search the video for specific words. And the list goes on…

Seamless integration

Meetings are an integral part of your day-to-day work, not an add-on, and that’s why we believe they shouldn’t have a separate application. Meetings inside Teams are just one string to your bow with this unrivalled collaboration tool.

The big question is, how will Microsoft Teams’ huge surge in popularity fare in a post-COVID-19 world? Given how quickly workplaces seem to have adapted, it looks like Teams is definitely here to stay as a core instrument in the modern company’s arsenal.

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