blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

April 30, 2021

Teams Meetings are getting more and more user friendly

Filed under: Microsoft 365,New world of work — Tags: , — frederique @ 15:37

Nowadays, I spend a a large fraction of my week in Teams Meetings. I am meeting online with colleagues, clients and even fellow enthusiasts in non-work seminars. The meetings can be one-on-one, in small groups or in large groups. So I am happy that the tools to conduct such meetings keep improving, even though we all have to live through glitches sometimes.

Recently, Microsoft has added some options to Teams that I like: live reactions, dynamic view and PowerPoint live. Let’s take a look.

Live reactions

Especially in large meetings, with many people, live reactions are a nice way to give feedback in a compact but very visible way.

  • As an attendee, I like the way I can express my admiration, for example, without cluttering up the chat conversation.
  • And as a presenter, I like getting immediate feedback, even though I cannot keep an eye on the details of the chat. Then at least I know that my attendees haven’t all fallen asleep or left to grab some coffee.

Interestingly, the live reaction options only include positive sentiments. There is no button to shout “Boo!” Maybe Microsoft assumes that only great presenters will present in Teams, or that only charitable people attend them…

On the other hand, Microsoft used a different tool than Teams for the recent Ignite conference. There we did have a thumbs down icon for live reactions. Unfortunately, that button was placed right next to the switch for closed captioning. So in the discussion we saw a lot of questions why there were so many thumbs-down, and apologies from people who accidentally pressed that button. So maybe it is safer not to have a thumbs down option in Teams.

Dynamic view

In an online meeting, we often try to keep an eye on several things at once, including:

  • The information that is being presented. In my case, this is usually the desktop I share to show functionality, or a PowerPoint slide deck.
  • The video feed of the presenter. I am by no means a movie star, but I always switch on my webcam when I am presenting, because that makes my presentation more personal and easier to follow for the attendees.
  • Video feeds of other participants. When we attend a big meeting, we usually switch off all video feeds except the presenter’s, to avoid overloading the network and the tool. But in small-scale interactive meetings, seeing each other in the video feeds does make the discussion more lively and clear.
  • The chat, especially if it is not possible for (some of) the attendees to unmute their microphone and contribute directly. This is the case in large meetings, where this would result in a mess, but also in meetings with people that are in a very noisy room or – on the contrary – in a room where they are not allowed to make any noise speaking.

So it is important that all of the relevant elements are combined efficiently within the Teams meeting screen.

The Dynamic View that recently appeared in our tenant does just that, in a clearer and smarter way than before. For example, it displays the video feeds on the right hand side of the screen. Until you open the chat pane in that location, and then the video feeds move to the top of the screen.

The information that I want to share – the PowerPoint presentation or the demo – stays at the center of the stage. When I open the meeting up for discussion, I usually stop sharing, so that the video feeds take center stage and we can see each other more clearly during the discussion.

PowerPoint Live

In some meetings, I do most or all of my presentation with a PowerPoint slide deck. The interface for sharing a PowerPoint presentation in a Teams Meeting has been improved recently as well. It is called PowerPoint Live.

When I explicitly share a PowerPoint presentation in the Teams Meeting, the attendees see the slide I am talking about. But as the presenter, I also see my notes about that slide to the side, and thumbnails of the neighbouring slides at the bottom. And the thumbnails of the video feeds at the top. It is clear to me what is shared (namely: that slide), because it has the same red line around it as my screen has, when I share that.

One thing that does not work yet, in PowerPoint Live: animations to transition between slides and build up the elements on the slides. Sometimes the animations work, but most of the time everything gets dropped on the page all at once. When you backtrack, using the back button, the elements do disappear one by one, but I wanted them to appear one by one when I move forward. Oh well, it will be fixed soon, probably.

 

So the experience in our online meetings is improving all the time. Partly because we are getting better at them, but also because the tooling is getting better. We haven’t seen all of the improvements announced by Microsoft at Ignite in March yet, but we are seeing more and more of them. Hopefully more if the goodies will arrive soon, from What’s New in Microsoft Teams | Microsoft Ignite 2021.

March 31, 2021

Is it about the new tool?

Filed under: Adoption — Tags: , — frederique @ 23:42

In Microsoft 365 for example, we get new tools and new improvements regularly. Some people immediately get excited and start using them. But when we try to help innocent users to adopt the tools, we sometimes see challenges and obstacles that have nothing to do with the tool as such. So we will not overcome them by fixing the tool, and we need to stay aware of that. Here are some examples I encountered recently, when we organized a series of training sessions to introduce a new tool.

“Why didn’t we hear anything about this sooner?”

The IT department had set up SharePoint, to replace an old document management system that was falling apart. They did try to get buy-in from the main stakeholders in the business, but it was difficult to get any traction. So IT went ahead and implemented the new toolkit, before the old one died…

But most people in the organization did not know what was happening, why it was happening, what it would mean for them, how they would benefit et cetera. And when we started talking to them in the context of the training sessions that had been initiated, we got a lot of disgruntled response along the line of “why didn’t we know about this?”

So it is important to communicate early and often about developments. Not everyone will be interested, but they people who are interested will at least know about it. And then maybe you can get them onboard as key users or champions.

This is not about the tool, but about communication and engagement.

“You can’t ask us to join a training session when you haven’t finished the new environment”

The timing of when you communicate what, and when you train who, is delicate. One the one hand, you have people who want to learn soon what’s new and what’s hot. But on the other hand, you have plenty of people who do not want to be bothered by new stuff until it works perfectly and is completely finished.

The problem with waiting with your training initiatives until everything is finished, is that nowadays we have a continuously evolving environment. It is never finished. And it if you want to switch off the old system, the people have at least to be empowered to actually get their jobs done using the new system.

So it is key that you explain that they can already get serious benefits from the new system, even if it is not “finished”. And that they can really learn something useful in the training that you propose. They won’t learn everything in that session, but they will learn something worth their time.

This is not about the tool, but about encouraging people to be flexible and accept ongoing change. And about showing respect for the value of their time: don’t waste it.

“You did not involve me, so I won’t cooperate”

One of the teams was experiencing issues: they could not find files that were migrated from the old system into SharePoint. So they told IT about their problem and gave some nicely specific examples. Then IT started to investigate the problem and look for a solution: improving the search center, maybe the metadata need to be migrated in a different way. But they did not keep in touch with the team lead who provided the feedback about their progress and how to deal with the fact that some of the issues are .

As a result, when that team was scheduled to get some SharePoint training, they assumed that all of their problems would be addressed and solved in that session. Because otherwise, why invite them for training now? Unfortunately, that was not the case. The team lead did not actually say “you did not involve me, so I won’t cooperate”, but you could almost hear him think it… He wanted to cancel the training and stop everything. Fortunately, when we had a meeting with him and discussed with him what would be best for that team at this time, we determined together that it would be best to do the training session about the aspects that did already work.

So: go for the personal touch. Talk to people. Get them involved at an early stage or at least offer them the opportunity to get involved. Don’t just push a schedule at them. And don’t hide in your tech cave when you investigate someone’s issue, but keep in touch. Personal touch.

This is not about the tool, but about conversations.

“That is not applicable to us at all!”

We proposed training sessions to all teams in a certain business unit. We had created demo scenarios and exercises using examples from the main field that the business unit is working in. So we optimistically asked the team lead from the ‘minority domain’, if it would be ok to use those existing examples for their training too. The explanation would basically be the same after all. But it was absolutely out of the question to use the examples from the other domain! We saw a similar reaction from other departments: “we are different and the stuff that you did with the others does not apply to us”.

So: you do need to make communication and training as specific as you can. The people need see how it applies to their situation, or they will assume it is not applicable for them and stop paying attention. It does take more time to find examples and tips for every team, but it improves the adoption.

This is not about the tool, but about approaching people in their world. It is also about politics, and respecting the sense of ‘self’ of business units and departments that don’t want to be seen as just part of the ‘One Company’.

“Who will answer our questions after this session? I never get answers!”

People will have questions about any system, especially a new one. And they need to be able to get answers to those questions. They need to know who or how to ask their questions, and then there has to be someone who is actually willing and able to answer them. In most organization, this does not just “happen”. And unfortunately, in too many organizations I’ve seen that the follow-up after implementation of a new system is lacking.

So: make sure you have a proper support system in place. For example, key users in the business, and an accessible and competent helpdesk. Plus clear procedures and “buttons” to contact them. You really cannot skip this.

This is not about the tool, but about your support organization.

So yes, the tool should work properly of course. And preferably it should work excellently for the users. But it is not enough to offer a great tool. You really also need the rest.

February 28, 2021

Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways: some lessons learned

Filed under: Adoption,Microsoft 365 — frederique @ 23:59

Microsoft 365 offers a lot of applications that can help our users get their jobs done. But in order to take full advantage of the tooling, they need to understand what the possibilities are and how it all works. So we want to provide our users with an information portal, where they can find that out. But Microsoft 365 evolves all the time: new applications are added, existing applications are improved and expanded, new connections are added, tying these applications together. So how do we keep that information up-to-date?

We used to set up information portals and fill them with relevant content, but it is rather time-consuming to keep those up-to-date. It usually came down to one person managing the site. And when that one person leaves the company or gets another role, the information portal starts to fossilize…

Microsoft Learning Pathways helps us to outsource a lot of that work to Microsoft: they update the toolkit, and they update the information about the toolkit. See also Microsoft’s documentation Microsoft 365 learning pathways. I’m setting up Microsoft Learning Pathways for some clients, so let’s take a look at some lessons I learned when I got down it.

1.It is an information portal, rather than Learning Management System

When I started talking about Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways with HR people who are really in the learning business, they had expectations based in the name, that it would be a full Learning Management System, with courses, testing, tracking, certification and everything. It’s not.

Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways is more like an information portal, where you can find information about the applications and instructions on how to use them. Users consult the portal when they want to learn something.

So it went down a lot better when I called it an information portal. It actually is based on the Communication Site template, so it looks like the other information portals that we had in our environment.

Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways home page

Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways home page

2.The learning content is hierarchically structured with reusable assets

The content is organised in a structure that is mostly hierarchical, though the actual content can be used in different branches of that topic tree. The high-level structure is fixed, but we can add lower levels ourselves. 

The M365 Learning Pathways structure of Categories, Subcategories and Playlists

The M365 Learning Pathways structure of Categories, Subcategories and Playlists

  1. All of the information offered in Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways is organised in three main Categories for the end-usersGet started, Scenarios, ProductsPlus a category Adoption tools that is more geared towards Owners.
    We cannot add our own category.
  2. Within those Categories, we have Subcategories: the different scenarios and different products, like SharePoint.
    We can add our own Subcategories
    This hierarchy is strict: each Subcategory belongs to only one Category. 
  3. Within the Subcategories, we have Playlists. For example: Intro to SharePoint OnlineShare and sync with SharePoint. 
    We can add our own Playlists
    This hierarchy is strict: each Playlist belongs to only one Subcategory. We can create a copy of a Playlist to include it in another Subcategory though. 
  4. Within the Playlists, we have Assets. For example: What is SharePointFind and follow sites and news. The Assets contain the actual content
    We can add our own Assets.
    We can re-use an Asset in as many Playlists as we want.
The M365 Learning Pathways structure: the Playlists contain Assets.

The M365 Learning Pathways structure: the Playlists contain Assets.

3.The M365 Learning Pathways web part displays the content

What makes it the Learning Pathways instead of just a regular Communication site is the Learning Pathways web part that displays the actual learning content to the users.

As a user, you an browse the playlists: click on a playlist to open it and then browse the asset using the Next button or the pulldown menu.
Please note: we’ve experienced that not all users see that they can navigate through the playlist. So we have added a line of instruction at the top of the web part.

Browse the Assets in the Playlist using the Next button or the menu.

Browse the Assets in the Playlist using the Next button or the menu.

As the owner, you configure what you want to display on a particular page: the top level allowing the users to drill down the categories, subcategories and playlists. Or maybe a particular Playlist or even one Asset.

Configuring the M365 Learning Pathways web part to display the top level.

Configuring the M365 Learning Pathways web part to display the top level.

Configuring the M365 Learning Pathways web part to display a particular Playlist.

Configuring the M365 Learning Pathways web part to display a particular Playlist.

4.The Assets are bite-sized pieces of content stored elsewhere 

The Assets with the actual content consist of introductory videos and instruction videos of maximum a few minutes each, plus a short text version of the instructions. Some Assets are text only. By the way, the videos do not all have the same style: some have a voice-over, others do not talk but give their explanation in written text labels.  

Each Asset is a URL in the catalogue. Either in the portal, elsewhere in your Microsoft 365 environment or elsewhere on the internet. The standard content provided by Microsoft all lives on the internet, at https://support.office.com 

5.The content gets updated quarterly by Microsoft 

Microsoft updates the content four times a year; they don’t have fixed dates. For example, they will announce a list of content updates next week during Ignite (March 4th 2021) via Driving Adoption – Microsoft Tech CommunitySo the information about new features does not become immediately available in Learning Pathways. We have to wait for the next update. 

When the content is updated, it gets streamed to our Learning Pathways automatically. Not need to pull it in, because the Microsoft’s content lives on their site. 

6.Standard Playlists don’t work for us, so we use custom Playlists 

You can use the standard Microsoft Playlists offers in the catalogue. However, we found that they did not work for us. Usually we want to add something, remove something, change the sort order, change a title. And you cannot change anything in a standard Playlist. 

So we create custom playlists, often starting from a copy of a standard Playlist. In a custom Playlist, you determine the details of the Playlist as a whole, like the title, the summary and the image. Please note: you can select the level and audience, but you cannot add any choices. That is a pity, because most audiences don’t make sense to innocent users. 

A custom Playlist, with some standard Assets and custom Assets.

A custom Playlist, with some standard Assets and custom Assets.

In the custom Playlist, you can search for and add existing Assets.  

Add existing Assets to the custom Playlist: standard Assets and custom Assets.

Add existing Assets to the custom Playlist: standard Assets and custom Assets.

Or you can add your own Assets: add a title and a URL, for example of a page created in the portal. The custom Assets are indicated with the people icon in the Playlist.

A custom Asset: a page created in the same portal.

A custom Asset: a page created in the same portal.

7.Microsoft has more Assets than you can find in the catalog 

I could not find everything I needed in the catalogue. Fortunately, Microsoft has more Assets online, so I did not have to create the content myself. 

So, yes: Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways is very helpful. But is not “automagically” providing us a learning portal that meet our needs with one push of the button. We still have to do some manual work. 

January 31, 2021

You can use breakout rooms in Teams Meetings. If you are careful

Filed under: Digital Workplace — Tags: — frederique @ 22:48

By the end of 2020, many of us were looking forward to the new option in Microsoft Teams Meetings, to split a large meeting into smaller breakout rooms. For brainstorming in small groups in online workshops, for deep-diving with subgroups, for doing joint exercises in an online training. We wanted the option and we got it! But we do need to be careful when we use breakout rooms, to avoid breaking our meeting experience. Let us take a look at the seven main steps of organising and managing a Teams Meeting with breakout rooms, and what you should be careful of.

1.Have the key organiser schedule the Teams Meeting

As always, we want to schedule all our Meeting meticulously: early to avoid calendar clashes, with a clear agenda explaining what we will do and why, invite the right people. By the way, you can invite external participants from outside your organisation to join a Teams Meeting with breakout rooms – nice! But we often determine the exact roles of the various presenters and moderators later. Not when you want to include breakout rooms!

Be careful: Only the organiser can set up and manage the breakout rooms, i.e. the person who scheduled the meeting. Being a presenter is not enough to see the breakout rooms option. So think carefully who should schedule the meeting…

I’ve had situation where a high-level manager scheduled the meeting, because that emphasised how important the meeting was. But then that high-level manager would have to create the breakout rooms and be present during the meeting, to assign participants to their rooms. Not good… So make sure that the person who will actually be in charge of the session schedules the session: the main moderator for example.

Be careful: I’m not entirely sure about breakout rooms in Channel Meetings. I like to organise meetings in a Teams Channel, to embed them within a Team that can provide more context. Especially for ongoing meetings for which we also share files and other information, and for big events that require a lot of work before and after the meeting. It looks like you can create breakout rooms in channel meetings at this time, but I have heard that there were problems with it and I haven’t tried this for real lately.

2.Create the rooms beforehand

Of course you’ll want to set up your breakout rooms beforehand, so that you don’t have to worry about that when your participants are requiring your attention after the meeting has started.

You cannot include the breakout rooms when you schedule the meeting. But you can open the Teams Meeting days before the event takes place and create the breakouts rooms early. And rename them, to make sense to your participants. These rooms and their new names stay available when you close the meeting and re-open it.

Be careful: You need to use the Teams app on your computer for this. The breakout rooms option is not available in the Teams Online version yet. Fortunately, I prefer the Windows app version of Teams anyway. But you do need to pay attention as a consultant, that you cannot run a breakout meeting for a client in a browser, while you have Teams conversations with colleagues of your own organisation in the Teams app on your computer.

Be careful: You may give the participants a pop-up to trigger them to enter the meeting early too, if you have already invited the participants. So consider setting up the breakout rooms first, and then invite the participants afterwards. And again: you can only do this, if you scheduled the Teams Meeting in the first place.

Teams-BreakoutRooms-Add and rename-ann

Open the Breakout Rooms from the main Meeting toolbar as the organiser. Add rooms and rename them via the usual ‘…’ ellipsis.

3.Assign participants

So who should participate in which breakout room? When you start setting up the breakout rooms, you can choose whether you want to assign the people automatically or manually to the rooms.

  • You can let Teams decide and assign them automatically to a random room.
  • Or assign the participants manually, to select the right mix of participants for each groups. For example, do you want to respect existing teams or mix them up and have a representative of each team in every breakout room? Mix experienced participants with newbies? Mix enthusiasts with seriously critical people? I usually like to select my groups manually. Ok, maybe that means I am a control freak… 🙂
Teams-BreakoutRooms-StartSetup-Manual-ann

Choose if you want to assign people automatically or manually to the breakout rooms, when you create the rooms.

Be careful: The choice between automatic or manual assignment to the rooms only appears in the beginning, when you start setting up the breakout rooms. At least, at this time there does not seem to be a way to change it. So think about it before you start creating your rooms. Made a mistake? You can delete the rooms and start again via the ‘…’ ellipsis of the breakout rooms > Recreate rooms.

Be careful: You can only assign participants who are the your Teams Meeting to a breakout room. So you cannot assign them beforehand, from the invitation. If you value the participants input, you can do it together: assign them on your shared screen  – as the organiser, because that is the only one who can assign anyone to a room. If you want to avoid that discussion, ask the organiser to assign the people to their rooms, while the presenter explains what we will do.

Teams-BreakoutRooms-Assign-ann

Assign selected participants to a selected breakout room.

4.Start the rooms

When you assign people to their breakout rooms, nothing happens yet. But as soon as you start the rooms, the participants move to their assigned room.

Open a specific breakout room or start all of your rooms.

Open a specific breakout room or start all of your rooms.

Be careful: Warn the participants before you open the breakout rooms, because less Teams-savvy users might freak out instead of break out… How do they get into the breakout room and what happens to the original meeting? Will there be a host to help them there or how can they get help? How will they get back? The default setting is that the participants are automatically moved to their rooms in 10 seconds. They get a message to that effect in the blue bar that appears at the top, but they need to understand what is happening before they get confronted by this automated move.

The participant gets a message that the breakout has started and she will be moved in 10 seconds.

The participant gets a message that the breakout has started and she will be moved in 10 seconds.

Be careful: There is a toggle settings to enable and disable the automatic transition of the participants to their breakout rooms. If it is switched off, they themselves will need to click a button to move to their room. I prefer the automatic move, especially in these early days when people are still unfamiliar with this functioanality. People may get left behind… So please check if the setting is correct, before you open the breakout rooms in an important meeting.

Change the settng to automatically move the participants to their rooms, or not.

Change the settng to automatically move the participants to their rooms, or not.

If the participants do not get moved into their rooms automatically, they need to click a button to join.

If the participants do not get moved into their rooms automatically, they need to click a button to join.

5.As the organiser, manage the breakout sessions

As the organiser, you are responsible for keeping the Teams Meeting as a whole, with its breakout rooms, on track. You may want to moderate one particular breakout room, and ask other presenters to moderate other rooms. Or you can leave the participants to it and take charge of their own breakout sessions. Because once everyone is in their breakout room, they have presenter premissions, so they can interact freely.

But from time to time, they may need your help. As the organiser, you can join any breakout room in your Meeting. Click in the ‘…’ ellipsis for that room and then select Join room.

As the organiser, you can join any of the breakout rooms.

As the organiser, you can join any of the breakout rooms.

Be careful: Make sure the participants know how to ask for your help. Asking the question in the chat of their breakout room will work nicely, but only if they remember to @-mention you, so that you are notified.

When the participants need attention in a breakout room, they can draw your attention by @-mentioning you in their chat. You will see it in your Teams.

When the participants need attention in a breakout room, they can draw your attention by @-mentioning you in their chat. You will see it in your Teams.

And as the organiser, you can post announcement to all of the breakout rooms at the same time, from the central settings of your breakout rooms panel: click the ‘…’ ellipsis and then select Make an announcement.

Be careful: You only have room for a single line of text in the announcement, so make it snappy! Don’t start explaining things in announcements, or provide detailed information. Aim for concise, practical reminders like “If you have a question, @-mention me in the chat”. Might be useful if they do know about @-mentioning but they forget to actually do it… Or: “You only have 5 minutes left!”. Because someone needs to keep an eye on the clock. Of course you should also tell everyone how much time they have before they dive into their breakout rooms, but that is just the same as in real-life breakout sessions.

Make an announcement to all breakout rooms. It will appear in their chat as an important message.

Make an announcement to all breakout rooms. It will appear in their chat as an important message.

6.Switch between the main meeting and the breakout rooms

When you enter a breakout room, you open a separate Teams Meeting, which is connected to the main Team Meeting you scheduled. When you open that breakout room meeting, you put your original main meeting On Hold. When you resume the main meeting, you put the breakout on hold for you.

When I joined the breakout called 'Test Room 1', I put the main meeting called 'Breaking out Test' on hold.

When I joined the breakout called ‘Test Room 1’, I put the main meeting called ‘Breaking out Test’ on hold.

Be careful: In the online version of Teams, the meetings are not clearly labelled. In the Teams client, your meetings are clearly labelled with the name of the original meeting. But the participants who join online need to be careful of where they are.

Be careful: Either avoid using the lobby or avoid the option to manually return to the main meeting. You can allow the participants to return from their breakout room back to the main meeting manually. This is not the default settings, but you can select it via the ‘…’ ellipsis of the breakout rooms in general > Rooms settings > Participants can return to the main meeting. But if you allow your participants to return to the main meeting from their breakout rooms, the people who had to be admitted from the lobby when you got started need to be readmitted from the lobby when they return using the Return button. And I have seen examples where the wires got crossed somehow: the external participant was stuck in the lobby and meeting pane of the organiser did not that participant in the lobby, so they had no way to let her in… Fortunately, you don’t have this problem when you don’t allow them to return manually – when you pull them back automatically when you close the breakout rooms, they don’t get stuck in the lobby.

Be careful: Avoid leaving and rejoining the meeting as the organiser. The participants may be able to continue in their breakout rooms after you have left. But when you rejoin and then close the rooms, the participants do not get back automatically. And when you try to reopen the rooms for the next round, the assignments have disappeared. At least, that’s what I experienced recently. So try to make it work by leaving the meeting with the breakouts on hold, while you join another meeting. Or even better: just stick with the meeting you organised for these breakouts and don’t try to multitask…

7.Get everyone back to the main meeting

When you want everyone to come back from their breakout rooms to the main meeting, for example because you want to get started with the next topic, you can close the breakout rooms: just click Close rooms in the breakout panel.

Close all breakout rooms with one button

Close all breakout rooms with one button

When you close the breakout rooms, the participants again get a message in the blue bar at the top: “This room will close in 10 seconds. You will be automatically moved back to the main meeting”. They also see in the chat that the organiser has removed them from the breakout meeting. And yes indeed, they do automatically get back to the main meeting, This even works for external participants joining in the online version of Teams.

The participant of the breakout room gets a message that this room with close in 10 seconds and that she will be moved back to the main meeting.

The participant of the breakout room gets a message that this room with close in 10 seconds and that she will be moved back to the main meeting.

And when you want everyone to move into their breakout rooms again for Round 2, just open the rooms again. This will transfer the participants back to their own breakout rooms, where they will find the chat that they had in the first round. It is like going back to the room where the blackboard is still filled with your scribblings…

So breakout rooms are not fully mature yet in Microsoft Teams. But we can already take advantage of the new functionality. If we are careful.
See also Microsoft’s announcement Breakout rooms generally available today in Microsoft Teams (december 2020) and instructions Use breakout rooms in Teams meetings.

December 31, 2020

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year 2021

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 18:25

I wish you all the very best for the new year: happiness, health, conviviality and whatever else you may need. I hope that we all will be able to travel again and meet face to face. And that we can keep the good things we learnt this year.

This year was quite strange, for me and for most of us, I think. Working from home not sporadically but systematically. Being locked down, which is similar to locked up but not quite the same fortunately. Meeting virtually instead of face-to-face.

I feel privileged, most of all because my nearest and dearest are doing fine.
And I have an apartment with sufficient space, peace & quiet and a nice view, so my home office is not bad at all. It complements my digital workspace nicely.
Also, in my consultancy job I can work remotely. Of course, it is better to discuss things face to face, for example in workshops, training sessions, and deep dive conversations. But for me, it is definitely possible to work online.

The funny thing is that when this all started, spring 2020 in my neighbourhood, I was involved in an adoption programme to help end users make the Microsoft 365 toolkit their own. These users all had Microsoft 365 at their disposal, but they were not really using the tools, like Microsoft Teams. In some of the training sessions, participants told me that they were always working together in the same office or at the same constructions site. So why was I going on about remote collaboration?

Well, that certainly changed! All of the sudden, everyone was working remotely. Or at least, everyone who was working primarily on a computer rather than actually laying the bricks at the construction site for example.

From that point onwards, the question no longer was why you would use tools like Microsoft Teams, but how to use them. If I were a cynic, I’d say a global pandemic is the best way to make people adopt the tools for working remotely…

Yes, people still prefer face to face meetings. But I hear quite often that they do see the advantages of, for example, online meetings. For a short meeting, you can save travel time by doing it online. The chat functionality and Yammer do allow you to ask a question without interrupting your colleagues quite a much as a phone call does, or you standing at their desk. When many or even some of us work from home, there are less traffic jams, and the air gets cleaner.

So it is good to know that there are online alternatives to face to face collaboration. Now we hope that we can soon get face to face alternatives to all of this online collaboration…

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

November 30, 2020

How to organise executive meeting using Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:09

Now that most of us are working from home and joining meetings remotely, we often discuss our best practices for online meetings. In our case that means: meetings in Microsoft Teams. A special case is the Executive Board meeting. For such meetings, the requirements more stringent than for the informal meetings that I have with my colleagues. In this article, you read how we set up those executive meetings.

Of course, the regular tips for online meetings also apply to executive meetings. So can also check out the 12 Practical tips for online meetings using Microsoft Teams and the 20 tips for presenting online.

But for the Executive Committee it is even more important that they can:

  • Join a secure meeting that others cannot access
  • Allow guests to join (part of) a meeting, without seeing the rest of information
  • Have a secure place to collect input for meetings
  • Have a secure place to store and collaborate on information
  • Quickly & easily find meeting documents for current and past meetings

The short version of what we advise is: set up a Team for the ExCo, plan the meetings in a channel of that Team, invite guests separately, ask the guests to upload their meeting documents in a separate library and enable the meeting lobby when you expect guests.

Now lets take a look in more detail….

1.Set up a Microsoft Teams environment for the ExCo

A Microsoft Teams environment is a great place to collaborate with a clearly defined team, like an Executive Committee. Only the members of that Executive Committee and the executive assistants are members of that Microsoft Teams, so only they can access the information shared within that Teams. Nobody else can see it. Actually, usually the assistants are the owners: they manage the Team.

In this Team, we include elements like: general information about the Team and instructions on the Teams meeting, an agenda topics list, a decision list, the OneNote notebook, and a Planner plan board to manage tasks.

Microsoft Team for the Executive Board, with details on how to join online meeting.

Microsoft Team for the Executive Board (a demo, Team to avoid leaking sensitive info), with details on how to join online meeting.

I know some executives are wary of a plan board in which tasks are assigned to them, but I have seen it work. The executives obviously did not have detailed tasks, because they delegate a lot, but they were responsible for high level actions. Most of them updated their tasks in the plan board before the next meeting, and the others did so after some prodding by the executive assistant.

The Planner plan board in the demo ExCo Board Tem.

The Planner plan board in the demo ExCo Board Tem.

2.Plan the meetings in a channel of the ExCo Team

Once you have set up a Team for the ExCo, you can organize the ExCo meetings in a channel of that Team. We usually create a channel called ‘ExCo Board meetings’ for that purpose. These are the advantages of setting up the meeting in a Team channel, instead of a regular meeting scheduled from Outlook.

  • Everything is in one place: before, during and after the meetings
    • All meeting files are in the same place, in the Files tab of the Team channel: this meeting as well as previous meetings.
    • The meeting chat remains available in the Team channel after the meeting.
    • The recording is available in the Team channel after the meeting.
    • You can use channel posts to have discussions or ask questions before and after the meeting.
    • Integration with Planner tasks and SharePoint lists like a decision list
    • The MS Teams meetings notes become part of the channel (in a tab). We actually don’t use the meeting notes option offered by the Teams meeting, but we use OneNote. We include that OneNote notebook in the Team channel.
  • Everything is secure: before, during and after the meetings.
    • Only Team members have access to the meeting content
    • New ExCo members have access to the meetings and all materials, as soon as you add them to the Team.
    • You have the option to invite guest participants without sharing the meeting files or chat

Note: Unfortunately, it is not possible at this time to organise a channel meeting on behalf of someone. Delegation still only works for meetings scheduled from Outlook for individual participants. That means that the Executive Assistant who schedules the meeting is the organiser. Fortunately, Microsoft will address this point, according to the User Voice item MS Teams meeting delegation. In the meantime, you may get by without delegation, because the invitations are sent in the name of the Team, not in the name of the assistant. And the assistants usually join these meetings anyway. Even if the assistant is not present, the executives all have presenter permissions, so they don’t need the organising assistant to get started with the meeting.

Schedule the meeting in Teams. Tip: first connect to the channel, before you configure the recurrence - otherwise you can no longer connect to the channel... Invite the guests separately.

Schedule the meeting in Teams. Tip: first connect to the channel, before you configure the recurrence – otherwise you can no longer connect to the channel… Invite the guests separately.

A Teams channel meeting as seen in my Outlook calendar: the invitation comes from the Team, not the organiser.

A Teams channel meeting as seen in your Outlook calendar: the invitation comes from the Team, not the organiser.

3.Invite guests separately

In the ExCo meetings I’ve seen, they often asked guests from elsewhere in the company to join part of the meeting, to present and discuss specific agenda topics. For example, somebody from HR to talk about an ambitious programme to find, hire and onboard new talent.

These guests are not part of the Executive Committee, so they are not members of the Microsoft Team for the ExCo. But you can invite them separately as individuals, in addition to the ExCo team members who are invited automatically via the connection to the Team channel.

If you invite the guest in this manner, they can join the meeting in a secure way:

  • The guests can
    • Join audio and video: hear & speak, see & show their video feed.
    • See the PowerPoint slides and desktop shared by others while they are in the meeting.
    • Present their topic: PowerPoint slides or share their desktop.
  • The guests CANNOT:
    • See the chat. So they cannot take a peak at what was discussed earlier
      (This is different from a regular Teams Meeting organised in Outlook, where they can see the entire chat).
    • Read the meeting notes.
    • Read the meeting documents, except when they are shown in the meeting at the time the guest is present.
    • View the recording afterwards, even if the find the address: they don’t have permission.
This is what a guest sees in a channel meeting, especially: no chat option.

This is what a guest sees in a channel meeting, especially: no chat option.

Please note: you can only invite guest from your organisation to a channel meeting. Not external guests from outside the organisation. In the cases that I have seen, the guests always had accounts from the organisation, because they were either regular employees or consultants provided with such accounts.

A table summarising what Team members, guests inside the organisation and guests outside the organisation can do in a Teams Meeting organised in a Teams channel or in Outlook

A table summarising what Team members, guests inside the organisation and guests outside the organisation can do in a Teams Meeting organised in a Teams channel or in Outlook. (click for the readable version). See also Roles in a Teams Meeting.

4.Ask the guests to upload their meeting documents in a separate library

The executives want to have the documents to pertaining to a meeting all in one place, so the executive assistant creates a folder for each meeting in the Files tab of the meeting channel. The ExCo Board members can simply upload their own meeting documents in that folder – it is just as easy as mailing them to the executive assistant.

The meeting documents are gathered in a folder per meeting, in the Files tab of the meeting channel.

The meeting documents are gathered in a folder per meeting, in the Files tab of the meeting channel.

However, guest invited to present a specific topic in a Board meeting do not have permission to see, let alone upload, files in that Teams library. So we set up a separate library in the Team, which we call the upload library. The assistants ask the guests to upload their file in there, with an email that offers them a direct link to that library.

Mail to a guest: please upload your meeting documents in the library - just follow the link.

Mail to a guest: please upload your meeting documents in the library – just follow the link.

We configure that library in such a way that all guests can upload their documents into the library, but they can only see their own documents. After all, other guests may be invited to different sections of the meeting, to discuss sensitive topics. So we configure the ‘Upload library’ as follows:

  • Add a separate library in the SharePoint site associated with the Team.
  • In the Library settings > Permissions for this document library, stop inheriting permissions from the site and give ‘Everyone except external users’ contribute permission on this library – ONLY this library.
  • In the Library settings > Versioning settings, switch on content approval and specify who should see draft items: Only users who can approve items (and the author of the item). Then the guests uploading their files cannot see the files uploaded by others.
  • The executive assistants set an ‘Alert Me’ on this library, so that they receive an e-mail notification when somebody uploads a file.

Then the executive assistants move the uploaded files to the meeting folder where the other document for that meeting are being gathered, so that all documents can be found in one place.

The executive assistant moves the documents uploaded by the guests to the meeting folder.

The executive assistant moves the documents uploaded by the guests to the meeting folder.

5.Enable the meeting lobby when you expect guests

The standard setting for meetings is usually that the participants can enter the meeting directly, without waiting in the lobby. The lobby is quite annoying for the regulars after all.

However, if you have invited guests, you may want them to join only for their own topic and NOT join the meeting for previous, sensitive topics. In that case, activate the lobby. The meeting organiser can do that before the meeting or during the meeting, after the regulars have already joined.

Changing the Meeting Options from inside the meeting, to activate the lobby.

Changing the Meeting Options from inside the meeting, to activate the lobby.

Please note: Only the meeting organiser can change the meeting settings to activate the lobby. So if an executive assistant has scheduled the meeting, he or she should activate the lobby.

So: in this manner you can help the executives collaborate and meeting in a safe and user-friendly way.

October 31, 2020

15 Tips for virtual classroom training with Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:26

Now that we cannot conduct a classroom training in an actual classroom, due to the threat of COVID-19, we do our training in a virtual classroom in Microsoft Teams. Actually, this is also a valid alternative after the pandemic, because it can save a lot of travel time. But how can we ensure that the training participants learn something for real in this virtual classroom? Here are 15 tips for things you should to do before, during and after the virtual training session.

Of course there are other ways of learning in the virtual world instead of classroom training sessions, like instruction videos and self-paced e-learning modules. But in this article we focus on virtual classroom training, where a group of participants can learn together, interactively. We use classroom training particularly in scenarios where a shared experience is important. For example, in a department that starts working in a new way with Microsoft 365, where the employees not only want to learn how they should use the tools to get their jobs done but also want to discuss how to apply the tools in their team and how it will change their way of working.

A virtual classroom training session is a special case of a virtual presentation. So these 20 Tips for presenting online also apply.

Before: Set up the training and invite the participants

1.Plan the training in the right set-up

How you should set it up, depends on the type of training your envision. For example, if you aim for a large-scale presentation, you can set up a Teams Live Event, where the presenters tell their story and show their demos, while the attendees can only ask questions via the Q&A panel.

However, if you want to conduct an interactive training, set it up as a Teams Meeting with few restrictions as to who can present and use their microphones. And most of all: keep the group small. Technically speaking, you can squeeze 250 people into your virtual classroom. But if you want to allow for real interaction, keep the group to 10 – 20 participants at most.

We used to organise training sessions that would take an entire day or an entire morning. In the virtual world, we split them into sessions of at most 2 hours, because video conferencing it is more tiring. Don’t forget to plan for a short break after an hour, if not more often.

2.Set up a training environment

For your training, you need more than just a meeting room. Even when I conducted real-life classroom training, I set up a training environment in Microsoft Teams: a Training Team where we could share information before, during and after the actual training session. Not only from the trainers to the participants, but also the other way around and amongst the participants themselves.

We did a training programme for different departments, with sessions on different themes. To facilitate this, we created a Training Team for each department and in that Team set up a channel for each training on a different theme. In each channel, we had information about that training, conversations, shared files and notes.

A Training Team for a training programme on Office 365, with a channel for each training theme.

A Training Team for a training programme on Office 365, with a channel for each training theme.

3.Set up your physical and hardware environment carefully

In the real world classroom training, we had to make sure that there were enough chairs in the room and that the screen/beamer was working. In the virtual world, the set-up is like the one we need for virtual meetings. Only for a serious training, you may need to pay even more attention to your set-up than for an information get together with your colleagues. See for more details: 20 Tips for presenting online.

Use a good microphone, like a decent headset, and put your webcam at the right height and angle.

Use a good microphone, like a decent headset, and put your webcam at the right height and angle.

4.When you invite the participants, explain how it works

For any training, you’ll want to make sure you invite the participants plenty of time in advance and state what they will learn in that training. What is different in the virtual world, is that you may need to explain how the participants can actually enter the virtual classroom. Not everyone is sufficiently familiar with Microsoft Teams Meetings…

Include brief instructions in the invitation (“Click on the Join Teams Meeting”) and provide a link to a more detailed help page / user manual with full instructions including screenshots. And I offer to help anyone who cannot figure out how it works following these instructions, to schedule a practice run with them so that they can try it out before the important training session begins.

We also invite them to the Training Team, and explain that they can find all the relevant information in there. We schedule the meeting as a Teams Meeting in the appropriate channel, so that the chat of the meeting and its recording automatically become available in the Training Team afterwards.

5.Ask input beforehand

In order to finetune your training, ask your participants for input. For example, do they have experience with MS Teams Meetings? Or: which version of Windows do you have, so that you can pick the right demo laptop? For this purpose, you can use a poll in the Training Team. You easily create a poll in the Team conversation: in a new conversation, click the … ellipsis, select Forms and enter your questions and answer options.
Note: if you select the checkbox that the poll should be anonymous, it really is anonymous. In the past, the author of the poll could see the names of the voters, but that has been fixed now.

Create a poll in the conversation of the Training Team.

Create a poll in the conversation of the Training Team.

 

During: Deliver the training

You conduct the training inside a Microsoft Teams Meeting, instead of real world classroom.

6. Share the right content

As the trainer, you tell your story, presenting for example a PowerPoint slide deck and a demo. In the real world classroom, you had the presentation and demo on the big screen and you were standing next to it. In the virtual world, you need to determine how you want to share your content in your Teams Meeting.

You can share a specific PowerPoint presentation. The advantage for you, as the presenter, is that you see the video thumbnails of the participants when you share your presentation in this way.
Please note: by default, the participants can browse through your PowerPoint by themselves. If you want them to stay with you, click the eye icon to block them from clicking through the slides.

Sharing a specific PowerPoint presentation. Click the eye icon to stop the participants from browsing through your slides on their own.

Sharing a specific PowerPoint presentation. Click the eye icon to stop the participants from browsing through your slides on their own.

Sharing a specific PowerPoint presentation is less practical when you want to switch between the PowerPoint presentation and one or more demos. For that scenario, sharing an entire screen, and everything on it, works better. I tend to show a lot of demos in my training sessions, usually in different apps, so I share my screen: screen 2, and I keep screen 1 for my own notes and application I don’t want to show at that time. However, when I do a bit of PowerPoint and switch PowerPoint to its presentation mode on the shared screen, I no longer see the video thumbnails or the chat or anything like that. So I depend on my moderator to keep an eye on the participants.

Share an entire screen, I have two screens, and I share the second screen.

Share an entire screen, I have two screens, and I share the second screen.

7. Avoid a monologue and use your video to make your presentation more lively

In a virtual classroom, it is more difficult to keep the participants’ attention. So make sure the participants don’t fall asleep listening to you drone on. It helps if the moderator breaks up the monologue: relay questions that were asked in the chat, add remarks with an example from their experience etc.

It also helps if you leave your video feed on and the participants can see you talk. You are not a robot after all.
Please note: be careful with the spotlight functionality. If you really want to look the participants in they eye and talk to them, you can put a spotlight on yourself. But that means that your ‘talking head’ replaces the screen you are sharing in the spotlight. The participants can find the shared screen in the row of thumbnails at the bottom of the screen and click on it to get it back. But I have often heard participants get confused by this. So be careful.

Later this year Microsoft will gives us an option to transpose your video feed onto our presentation. That will make your story look more personal.

Display your video feed on top of your presentation in a Team Meeting [Microsoft screenshot]

We will be able to transpose our video feed on top of our presentation (by the end of 2020; Microsoft screenshot)

8.Facilitate the conversation

In an interactive training session, conversation is key. So if you can trust your participants to behave, do not restrict their access to their microphones. In my training sessions I could fortunately trust my participants to mute their microphone when they were not talking and to refrain from talking over each other.

Ask the participants to raise their hand when they want to talk; the moderator can give them the floor by just telling them to go ahead and unmute. Please note that either the participant or the moderator should lower the hand after the participant has started talking – I often see ‘old hands’, which are still raised to flag an earlier question.

The participants can also ask questions or make remarks in the chat. If it is a simple question, the moderator can answer in the chat. This is the best way to ask and answer practical questions that don’t concern all of the participants and would interrupt the flow of the presentation (“where can I find the slides”, “I have to leave early”, “How can I access the demo environment”). More interesting, complex questions should be asked in the main presentation via the microphone. The moderator can do that, if the participant cannot unmute for some reason.

9.Use polls and quizzes to interact with the participants

From time to time, shake things up and do something different. For example, ask the participants to vote on a poll or do a quiz. At this time, you can for example create a poll in Microsoft Forms, allow the participants to scan a QR-code or click a link to open it, and share the Forms page with the result in the session.

Allow the participants to open the poll via a link or QR-code and then vote on the poll. Show the results via your shared screen.

Allow the participants to open the poll via a link or QR-code and then vote on the poll. Show the results via your shared screen.

Later this year, we will also get poll functionality inside Teams Meetings; these seem to be the same polls we can already create in a Teams conversation. The new poll functionality will allow us to set up polls before the meeting and then launch them at the right moment inside the Teams Meeting. For such polls, the participants to not have to scan any QR-code or navigation to some other location in any way.

Set up polls inside the Teams Meeting and launch them at the right time inside the meeting (by the end of 2020)

Set up polls inside the Teams Meeting and launch them at the right time inside the meeting (by the end of 2020; Microsoft screenshot)

You can also make a more fancy poll or quiz, that give the audience more of a ‘wow’ factor. A Kahoot quiz for example is quite playful, with music, colours and pictures. Please note: Kahoot quizzes and third party poll apps do not live inside your tenant. So if security is strict in your organisation, you are not allowed to use these third party apps.

Create a Kahoot challenge, with questions and multiple choice answers. The participants who has the best answers and the quickest response wins.

Create a Kahoot challenge, with questions and multiple choice answers. The participants who has the best answers and the quickest response wins.

10. Let the participants do exercises in breakout rooms

For me, what distinguishes a training session from a presentation, is that the participants are able to try it for themselves: do exercises in a safe playground environment. I like to let my participants do these exercises in couples, two by two, so that they can explore together and learn from each other.

In the real world classroom, they would sit together at a table. In the digital world, I give them a digital room where they are in charge: they can talk, share a screen with each other, take a minute to grab a coffee. And they can ask me to join them in their digital room if they have a question, by @-mentioning me in the chat of the main meeting or in their own meeting; the @-mention is key! We did this as ‘Meet now’ meetings in the channel or in separate exercise team channel meetings in the Training Team. But soon we will get official breakout rooms functionality in Teams Meetings! It is expected by the end of 2020.

With these breakout rooms, you can assign the participants to a breakout room beforehand. When the exercise time starts, you can open the breakout rooms and move everyone into their assigned breakout room automatically. As the trainer, you can hop between these rooms and post announcements to all rooms (“We have 5 minutes left”). When the exercise time finishes, you close the breakout rooms and everybody gets moved back into the main meeting automatically.

Breakout rooms in a Teams meeting, for brainstorming in sub-groups for instance [Microsoft screenshot]

Breakout rooms in a Teams meeting, to do exercises in small groups (by the end of 2020; Microsoft screenshot)

After: Collect feedback and keep in touch

Learning should not stop after your training session…

11.Get feedback

After the training, you want to collect feedback on what went well and what needs to be improved. You can ask for quick feedback in a poll or more elaborate feedback in a survey. Microsoft Forms can facilitate both.

Offer a QR-code and link at the end of the session, so that people can give their feedback right away. But also provide it in the Training Team, for participants who have to run at the end of the session and want to consider their answer more carefully. You can include the survey in a tab in the Training Team.

A Microsoft Forms survey to collect feedback after the training, included in a tab of the Training Team.

A Microsoft Forms survey to collect feedback after the training, included in a tab of the Training Team.

12.Launch a quiz

Do you want to check if the participants learned anything in your training? You can create a quiz in Microsoft Forms. If this is an informal quiz, you can just make it available after the training in a tab of the Training Team and ask the participants to take it. For an informal quiz, it does not matter that the participant looks the answer up; what matters is that they go through the material and think about it.

Create a quiz in Microsoft Forms. You can indicate the right answer and explain what is wrong with the other answers.

Create a quiz in Microsoft Forms. You can indicate the right answer and explain what is wrong with the other answers.

If you need more of a formal exam, you have to guard against cheating. So you cannot let the participants take the quiz in their own time: they should do it during the Teams Meeting, with their camera and microphone switched on to monitor them. And in Windows 10 there is a ‘Take a test’ app that clears their clipboards and disables the participants’ access to the outside world. In MS Forms, you can sort the questions randomly and shuffle the options in the multiple choice. Fortunately, I never had to organise real exams for my trainings…

13.Share all relevant information with the participants

Make the latest version of your materials available via the Training Team in MS Teams, so that the participants can check back. Did you make a recording? That can be found in the Training Team too. A recording of the central ‘auditorium’ part of your training can be useful; the decentral exercises, not so much.

If you have an information portal with more information about the training topic, promote that everywhere: tell the participants during the training where it is and link to it from the Training Team, in a tab, in an announcement in the Posts, in the information tab…

14.Get back to ‘parked’ questions

Were there any question that you could not answer straight away during the training session? I usually ‘park’ those in the OneNote notebook associated with the Training Team. Do not forget to get back to those questions afterwards! Answer the question in the conversation of the Training Team, @-mentioning the person who asked the question.

15.Invite the participants to the knowledge sharing community

The participants may have new questions when they start working in the new way. They may find interesting new solutions. The toolkit will evolve. So it is very helpful if they keep in touch after the training, in a knowledge sharing community.

We had a community in Yammer. Everyone could join, but we specifically invited the training participants, because they were clearly part of the target audience.

So yes, you can organise and conduct virtual classroom trainings in Microsoft Teams, and you will even get more options by the end of 2020. A virtual training mirrors the real life classroom training, but you do need to prepare it specifically as a virtual training and test everything thoroughly. We don’t have to stop learning and we don’t have to stop training people just because we have to work from home…

September 30, 2020

My Top 5 from Microsoft Ignite

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: , , , , — frederique @ 23:53

Microsoft Ignite was fully digital this year and anyone could register. Nice. And fortunately I had some time to attend quite a bit of it, because there were a lot of interesting sessions. Here are my favourites. Not my favourite features or announcements, because there were too many of them, but my favourite themes addressed at Ignite. My top 5, not necessarily in order of importance.

1.Project Cortex with the new Microsoft SharePoint Syntex

At Ignite, Microsoft announced the first product of Project Cortex: SharePoint Syntex. It’s a tool to automatically “understand” content and categorize it, in order to better process, enrich and reuse it.

The example we saw in a demo was on contracts: You train a no-code AI model to identify key data in the contract documents, like the stakeholders and money involved.

Demo of SharePoint Syntex: The AI model analyses selected contracts

SharePoint Syntex: The AI model analyses selected contracts (Screenshot of the demo)

Syntex then extracts that information into metadata, which you can then use to get a better overview of your contracts, slice & dice the collection and automate where needed.

Syntex demo: Key information extracted from the contracts by the AI model is put into metadata.

Syntex: Key information extracted from the contracts by the AI model is put into metadata (Screenshot of the demo).

See also Announcing SharePoint Syntex

I can’t wait for the other elements of Project Cortex to become available as well, like knowledge management ..

2.Yammer for knowledge sharing

Talking about knowledge, the preferred about for informal knowledge sharing was and still is Yammer: it is definitely alive and improving.

In Yammer, the capabilities for questions and answers are beefed up. You can tag your post as a question, which makes it more visible and allows everyone to find it by filtering the posts. And then you can pinpoint good answers to these questions: upvote answers and tag the best answer. This helps us to distill knowledge from the informal conversations.

Microsoft screenshot: You can upvote answers to questions

You can upvote answers to questions (Microsoft screenshot)

We will get new topic functionality: the #hastag 2.0… These topics help to manage knowledge within Yammer more systematically: each topic will have a topic pages with a summary and an overview of all posts on that topic across Yammer. An improved version of what happens now when you click on a hashtag. In a Yammer community, you also see the most popular topics within that community.

And yes these topics will be connected to the Project Cortex knowledge topics: you see the Cortex topic card inside Yammer when you hover over the term. And the other way around: on the Cortex knowledge topic page, you’ll get a feed from the Yammer topic .

Combination of Microsoft screenshots: On a Yammer topic page, you can also get the topic card from Project Cortex.

On a Yammer topic page, you can also get the topic card from Project Cortex (Combination of Microsoft screenshots).

See also Microsoft’s What’s new for Yammer at Microsoft Ignite 2020.

But knowledge sharing is not the only thing that we can do in Yammer…

3.The new intranet: SharePoint + Yammer + Teams

Employee communication and engagement used to happen in a SharePoint intranet. But the “new intranet experience” takes place in an integrated conglomerate of SharePoint AND Yammer AND Teams. They’re better together!

One of the things my users ask for, is a clear homepage or ‘start page’, with an overview of what’s important and a place to start working. In SharePoint, the starting point is the ‘Home site’. People work in Teams all day can soon also take advantage of that starting point: the Home site will become available as an app in Teams. So you don’t have to leave Teams to get this start page.

The SharePoint Home Site as an app in Teams, including the new global navigation (Microsoft screenshot)

The SharePoint Home Site as an app in Teams, including the new global navigation (Microsoft screenshot)

We will also get such a starting point at the level of Teams channels: a ‘start pane’ or info pane that tells especially new team members what this channel is about: the description, active members, pinned posts.

Another big challenge is getting important news to the right people. Quite a few options were announced to help with that. In SharePoint, we will be able to boost news for a specified time or until the news has been viewed enough. And people can receive in their email a digest, generated by AI, of the news articles they have not read yet. You can share the news to a selected Yammer community, to notify more people – there is the integration again.

You can boost a SharePoint news article and share it to a Yammer community (Combination of Microsoft screenshots)

You can boost a SharePoint news article and share it to a Yammer community (Combination of Microsoft screenshots)

In Yammer, you can also draw attention to important posts, by tagging them as a featured conversion, posting them as a priority announcement and pinning them to the top of the community. Ok, of course the news publisher will have to restrain themselves and not push everything as a top priority featured boosted pinned to the top of everything. But at least we will have the options.

Priority announcements in Yammer send notifications (Microsoft screenshot)

Priority announcements in Yammer send notifications
(Microsoft screenshot)

Some more integrations: the search of Teams and Yammer will be integrated with the SharePoint search, so it will function as one “intranet” or rather: one digital workplace. And the Yammer notifications will also appear in the Teams activity feed, because more and more people will “live” in Team for most of their day.

See also Innovations for workplace communications and employee engagement in Microsoft 365.

4.Improvements in Teams Meetings?

Talking about Teams, Microsoft Teams is also our foremost app for online meetings. There are improvements in the collaborative meetings that help the participants to find what they need more easily. For example a meeting recap appears in your agenda after the meeting: the initial meeting details are hidden and links to available materials appear, such as the recording, transcript, notes, presentation, whatever there is.

Also, Microsoft will bring Teams Meetings (which are now mostly used for small-scale collaborative meetings) together with Teams Live Events (which are used for large-scale virtual broadcasting events): they will beef up Teams Meetings with capabilities that allow for such big events. Later, Live Events will probably be replaced. Not yet, but soon they will take several steps in this direction. For example, Teams Meetings will allow for webinar registration and reporting.

A new option that will be especially useful for big presentation is the custom layout: your video transposed on your presentation.

Display your video feed on top of your presentation in a Team Meeting (Microsoft screenshot)

And we will soon get breakout rooms in Teams Meetings: meetings from the main meeting, for example, for small brainstorm breakout sessions in a big conference. Everything associated to a breakout room is only for the people in that meeting room, but presenters can hop between rooms and announce to all rooms. And when the separate brainstorming breakouts are finished, the presenter closes the rooms to bring everyone back to the main meeting.

Breakout rooms in a Teams meeting, for brainstorming in sub-groups for instance (Microsoft screenshot)

Breakout rooms in a Teams meeting, for brainstorming in sub-groups for instance (Microsoft screenshot)

See also What’s New in Microsoft Teams | Microsoft Ignite 2020.

5.Focus on the well-being of ourselves and our planet?

Ok, so this last one is not a killer app for me. Quite the opposite in a sense. It was just but nice to see a big focus in Ignite on keeping us alive & well… You can’t treat people like machines; it is not just about efficiency. People also need time for recovery and help to perform their best and stimulate their ingenuity. The graph helps with data, Teams with collaboration tools.

The Insights app in Teams helps to protect our time and close our day with a virtual commute, now that we don’t have a physical commute to transition from our ‘work self’ to our ‘private self’. Microsoft now even has a partnership with a meditation company, which results in a meditation app in Teams.

Give your mind a break with a virtual commute or meditation (Demo screenshot)

Give your mind a break with a virtual commute or meditation (Demo screenshot)

See also Microsoft’s Introducing insights in Teams to power wellbeing and productivity.

In addition to that focus on our personal well-being, we saw a lot about Microsoft’s efforts to keep our planet healthy. We had already seen that Microsoft takes Important new steps on our path to be carbon negative by 2030 and Microsoft commits to achieve ‘zero waste’ goals by 2030. Now we also heard that Microsoft will replenish more water than it consumes by 2030. Good stuff!

 

Speaking of good stuff, you can get an overview of the announcements in the Ignite 2020 Book of News. And the recordings still are available at myignite.microsoft.com.

August 31, 2020

What happens when you archive a Microsoft Team?

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 21:16

We have the option to archive a Team in Microsoft Teams. This allows us to keep the content of an inactive Team for future reference, but move it out of our way to reduce clutter. And it helps us to stop new contributions, because these would not be seen by colleagues who don’t monitor the archives. Or does it? Let us take a look how archiving a Team works and what you actually get when you archive a Team. Let us take a look.

How do you archive a Team?

You need to be an Owner of the Team you want to archive; Members cannot archive Teams. If you are an Owner, you can archive your Team as follows:

  1. Click at the bottom of the Teams section on the Gear icon: Manage Teams.
  2. Find the Team you want to archive by scrolling down the list under the heading Active, or by using the search field.
  3. Click for your Team on the ellipsis dots … > Archive Team.

    The Team Owner can archive a Team via the 'Manage Teams' gear icon.

    The Team Owner can archive a Team via the ‘Manage Teams’ gear icon.

  4. In the pop-up, select ‘Make the SharePoint site read-only for team members’ and click Archive.

    When the Team Owner archives a Team, he or she selects ''

    When the Team Owner archives a Team, he or she selects ‘Make the SharePoint site read-only for team members’

What happens to the archived Team?

A Microsoft Team is a collaboration hub for your team, which brings together various applications that help your team to work together: the shared files are stored in a SharePoint site. You can take notes in the associated OneNote notebook, which is also stored in SharePoint. If you want, you can store videos like meeting recordings in a Stream channel associated to this Team and manage your team actions in a Planner plan board associated to this Team. So what happens in these apps when you archive the Team? Foreshadowing: it is not always what you would expect as an innocent user…

In Microsoft Teams itself: The Team disappears from the navigation

You no longer see the archived Team listed in Microsoft Teams. But both Members and Owners can still find the archived Team via Manage Teams, under the heading Archived. The Team then appears under the Hidden Teams, labeled with an archive icon.

An archived Team is no longer listed in Microsoft Teams, but you can still find it via Manage Teams.

An archived Team is no longer listed in Microsoft Teams, but you can still find it via Manage Teams.

In Microsoft Teams itself: Posts become inactive

When you open an archived Team, you can no longer add, edit or delete posts in the conversations. You can still read them, and take actions that do not make any changes in the archived Team, like translating posts.

By the way, during my test I did see the option to delete my post. But when I clicked it, it blocked me with a message “Delete failed”. And I did see the edit option. When I tried to edit my post, I got the message “This team was archived, so you cannot post any more messages” and now I am stuck for that post: I cannot see that post anymore. So don’t try to edit archived posts…

You can no longer add, edit or delete posts in the archived Team.

You can no longer add, edit or delete posts in the archived Team.

In SharePoint (Files): the Team Members are demoted to Visitors in the site

The Files sections in the Teams channels are handled in the SharePoint site associated with the Team. When I archived the Team, I selected the option ‘Make the SharePoint site read-only for team members’. And that is literally what happened: the entire Team members group, and everyone in it, was moved from the SharePoint Members group to the Visitors group. So the site became read-only for them.

However:

  • The Team Owners are still the site owners in SharePoint, so they can still perform the same actions as before the Team was archived. An important gotcha when you test the archiving functionality as an owner…
  • Anyone who was added to the SharePoint Members manually from SharePoint still has contribute permissions.
  • If you have added a group to the SharePoint site, like ‘External users’, they still have the same permissions they had, including any contribute permissions or more. We tend to give read or sometimes contribute permissions to such a group of ‘External users’ in a separate library ‘External documents’. That is still active, after the Team has been archived.

Not necessarily a problem, but you need to be aware of this when you archive your Team.

When you archive your Team, the Team Members are demoted to Visitors. Anyone who received permissions directly in SharePoint still has the original permissions.

When you archive your Team, the Team Members are demoted to Visitors. Anyone who received permissions directly in SharePoint still has the original permissions.

In SharePoint (Wiki): The wiki read-only for the Team Members

Each Microsoft Teams channel has a wiki tab by default. After the Team has been archived, the Team Member can only read the wiki pages. They can no longer add or edit them.

We only use the wiki inside the Team, but the pages are actually stored inside the associated SharePoint site. This explains the behaviour I noticed: as we saw in the paragraph about the files in SharePoint, the team members are demoted to read-only Visitors.

In Stream: The video channel is still active

For every Team, we have a corresponding Group in the video portal Stream. For these groups, we can create channels where the Team Members can upload videos. Even after I archived the Team. Archiving does not have any impact on the associated Stream channels. You can see that in Stream itself, or in the tab where the video channel is displayed.

Even after the Team has been archived, a Team Member managed to upload a video into the associated video channel.

Even after the Team has been archived, a Team Member managed to upload a video into the associated video channel.

In Planner: The Plan is still active

For my Team, I can add a plan in Planner, to manage the actions of my Team. Or a Planner plan for each channel. The members of my Team are automatically members of the plans hosted in Planner and I can add these plans to my Teams tabs for greater visibility.

Nice integration, but it is not that close: when I archive my Team, the associated plan(s) in Planner remain active. Team Members can still add, edit and delete tasks in those plans.

The Planner plan remains active, after the Team has been archived.

The Planner plan remains active, after the Team has been archived.

When I view the plan inside Teams, I see the message “The Team is archived, you cannot make any changes” but that does not apply to the plan displayed here. In Planner, I can use the plan without even knowing the associated Team has been archived. Confusing for our innocent Team Members. As the Owner, I can even add members to the Plan.

As the Owner, I can still add members to the plan associated to my Team in Planner.

As the Owner, I can still add members to the plan associated to my Team in Planner.

And yes, these new members are then added to the Team, despite its archival status. This is announced in the General channel. I can no longer post messages myself, but the system can…

The archived Team can still get new members and these new members are still announced in the General channel.

The archived Team can still get new members and these new members are still announced in the General channel.

In Microsoft Teams: User management is still active

Even though the Team has been archived, I can still manage the Team Members and Owners from the Team itself. The advantage is that this allows the owner to remove users who should no longer be able to see the content of this Team, because their role has changed. The problem is that Owners won’t be very alert when it comes to managing users in an archived Team that you only see when you navigate to the ‘Manage Teams’ section. So make sure you do more than just hitting ‘Archive’ when you want to archive sensitive content.

Although the Team has been archived, the Owner can still manage the team users.

Although the Team has been archived, the Owner can still manage the team users.

Conclusion

When you archive your Team, you do not archive the underlying Office 365 Group. Actually, you only archive the posts and you switch the associated SharePoint site to read-only for the people you had added to your Team Members. But if you made any specific changes to the permissions in your SharePoint site, that part is not archived. And if you use associated apps in the tabs of your Team, like a plan in Planner plan or a video channel in Stream, those are not archived either.

So if you want to archive your Team, you need to be aware of what happens. And you may have to take additional steps to really archive the entire Team including all its associated apps.

July 31, 2020

20 Tips for presenting online

Filed under: New world of work,Office365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 22:30

Now that we all keep our physical distance from each other because of the Covid crisis, most of our presentations are online instead of on stage. The advantage is that we do not have to travel for them. But the disadvantage is that it is more difficult to stay focused when you attend an online presentation. And it is more difficult to engage your audience when you give the presentation. So let us take a look at 20 tips that I’ve distilled from my experiences as a speaker and an attendee in countless online presentations. Ok, plus a few sub-tips.

I am doing my online presentations in Microsoft Teams these days; earlier we used Skype for Business. But these tips are mostly tool agnostic: it doesn’t matter which tool you use.

Set up the right tools & environment

1.Find a place where you won’t be disturbed.

When you are presenting, you do not want to be disturbed by colleagues, family, pets, ambient noise or anything else. This will help your audience to focus on your story, and help you to concentrate as well. Yes, I have attended presentations where we all got distracted by a washing machine, a child running up or the cat walking over the keyboard. So take the necessary steps:

  • Pick a room that you have to yourself.
  • Arrange with your housemates or colleagues that they leave you in peace during the presentation.
  • Mute your phone.
  • Close the window, if there is a lot of noise outdoors.
  • When I present online from the office, I always book a small meeting room plenty of time in advance, because the open-plan office floor is unsuitable for such presentations.

Of course accidents may happen, as we saw with that BBC correspondent, whose children burst into his office while he was live on the News. But try anyway…

1a. Switch your status to ‘Do not disturb’ before you start

Make sure your status is ‘Do not disturb’ in chat & call tools like Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business, when you share your screen. This will tell your colleagues that you don’t want to be disturbed right now and at the same time block beeping pop-up messages, if somebody tries to chat to you in spite of your status. The tool should automatically switch to ‘Do not disturb’ or a similar status ‘Presenting’ when you start sharing. But check to make sure, and adjust where necessary.

Take care if you have different chat tools on your computer, like both the new Microsoft Teams and the old Skype for Business. I’ve heard many people complain about Skype chat pop-ups while they were sharing their desktop in Teams.

2.Make sure you know how the tool works and test it

Presenting online with tools like Microsoft Teams is not very difficult. But you should familiarize yourself with the tool beforehand, if you have never used it or if you haven’t used it for a long time. It may have changed, as these tools evolve continuously.

So test beforehand all the functionality that you want to use: microphone, webcam, screensharing, switching between speakers, playing a video, the Q&A or chat, et cetera. Also play around with some ‘what if’ scenarios: what if you accidentally leave the meeting for example (hint: just open the meeting again). The more important your presentation, the more carefully you’ll need to test everything.

Specifically, Live Events in Microsoft Teams tend to go wrong, if you don’t prepare them properly. Live Events are more formal and more complicated than regular Teams meetings. I have attended quite a few Live Events where the organizers had forgotten to switch on the Q&A functionality when they set up the event.
Please note: do not test a Live Event with the event itself, because when you close the Live Event after your test run, it is closed forever and you cannot re-open it for the actual event. So set up a separate test Live Event with the same settings as the real one.

3.Set up a good microphone

Use for the audio a headset or speakerphone, rather than the built-in microphone of your computer. These devices make it easier for the attendees to understand you. Microsoft is working on noise cancelation using Artificial Intelligence in Teams, but it is better to avoid ambient noise and use a device that focuses on your voice rather than trying to fix it afterwards.

Do a test before an important presentation, if you are not sure of your audio set-up: ask a colleague to listen in a test meeting and give you feedback.

4.Set up your webcam carefully

Sometimes presenters look like they are in a horror movie because of the placement of their webcam.

  • Put the light source (like a window or a lamp) in front of you, so that your face is lit. If the window or the lamp is behind you, you will show up as an anonymous silhouette.
  • Put your webcam at the right height and angle, so that you can look straight into the camera. Don’t film yourself from above or below, because that will make you look awful.

Do a test beforehand at the same time of the day as your important presentation: is it in the morning when the sun may shine into your window? Or in the evening when you have to depend on lamps? When you do a test session, you will see your own video as it is shown to the audience. And adjust where needed, like putting your laptop on a few big books or lowering your chair to get the required height and moving a lamp.

Use a good microphone, like a decent headset, and put your webcam at the right height and angle.

Use a good microphone, like a decent headset, and put your webcam at the right height and angle, in such a way that your face is lit: I am facing a big window.

Prepare your story

5.Keep it short

People find it more difficult to focus on a screen presentation than on a real-life presentation. So keep your story as short as possible. If you had a full hour to present on stage, could you do it in 30 minutes online? I recently heard some presentation gurus (Bob Bejan and David Scott at Microsoft Inspire) compare online presentations to television, while on stage presentations are like theatre: it is different. And they are Americans, so they added that the television audience is used to having a commercial break every 20 or at most 40 minutes…

Don’t make your presentation shorter by talking and flipping through the same number of slides faster, because then you’ll lose your audience within minutes. But try to focus more concisely on what’s important. And take advantage of the opportunities the new medium offers. For example, it is easier to follow a demo, because everyone is close to the screen. And you don’t have to explain at length where people can find more information; just put the link in the chat window.

If you have an informal presentation that encourages discussion, then you may take that full hour, to give the participants the opportunity to interact. Don’t wait until the end for that interaction, because your audience may have left or fallen asleep before they get a chance to ask anything.

5a.Plan a break in long sessions

Anything over an hour is tricky. If you have more to say, for example in an all day training session, give people at least a ten minute break after each hour. Five minutes turns out to be too short for people to grab a coffee, unless their machine is very fast…

6.Make it varied

Especially when your presentation is longer than 30 minutes, make sure it is not just one voice droning on, reading out loud a series of boring slides. That is never a good idea, but online it is even worse. Apparently people’s attention starts to drift after 10 minutes, so something has to happen to wake them up and keep them engaged within that time frame, like some interaction.

  • Put some fun & surprising stuff in your presentation. But don’t go crazy; you want people to understand your story.
  • Structure your story in several short chapters.
  • Switch several times between slides, demo and your video for example. Don’t make it to hyperactive: stick with each at least – say – five minutes.
  • Take questions after each chapter. You expect there won’t be many questions? Prepare some other interaction: ask the audience a question, include a poll.
  • Have two speakers instead of one: each does her or his chapter. Or one is the speaker and the other leads the discussion and handles the questions that come in via the chat. Some interaction between these speakers makes the presentation more lively.

7.Make it extra clear

Because you don’t see your audience in an online presentation, or at least not as well as in an on-stage presentation, it is harder to judge if they understand your story. So you need to make it even more clear proactively. For instance:

  • Include a summary slide with the key points at the end of each section. Just the essentials, no fluff that does not contribute to the story.
  • Make the slides available afterwards, in case they want to check something back.
  • Have a logical scenario in your demo, if you have one.
  • Explain what you are trying to achieve as the user in your demo, not just the details of where you are clicking for instance.

For important presentations, you can practice by yourself: record and re-watch your presentation. Or pull in a colleague for feedback from a different perspective.

8.Get a moderator

When I do an official online presentation, I always ask a colleague to act as moderator, so that I can focus on my story. The moderator keeps an eye on the questions and comments that come in via the chat or Q&A, answering the simple or practical ones and voicing the questions we should discuss in the presentation.

When we do (for now: did) our presentations in the office, my moderator sits in the same meeting room as me, so that we can communicate more easily. I would just look at her or him to see if there were questions. When we are collaborating online from different physical locations, the speaker needs to leave some room – or rather: time  – for the moderator to interrupt between sections of the story. And the moderator should be able to switch on her or his microphone.

When I had the role of moderator for some of my colleagues, they asked me explicitly to interrupt (at the right time of course) with questions. Questions from the chat or questions I came up with myself, anything. They just did not want to talk into a black hole without any interaction.

The moderator can also do take care of the practical stuff: give you a sign when your audio or video drops or when you are sharing the wrong screen, help people to get into the session, switch the recording on and off, et cetera.

At the start

9.Open the session early and test

Open the session plenty of time in advance, so that you can test if your audio, video and shared screen work well, as well as your connection to your demo environment or anything else that you want to include. Take at least 15 minutes, so that you have time to fix or ask others to fix any problems you may experience. More if you are not used to giving online presentations with your tool of choice.

  • Ask an online colleague to help you: can they hear you properly? Can they see your screen?
  • If it bothers you that your attendees can already enter your session and see your preparations, you can set up the invitation to have the attendees wait in the lobby before you let them into the session. At least, Microsoft Teams an Skype for Business have this option; I don’t know about the other tools.

9a. Keep an eye on who is already in the session

Regular attendees may turn up early as well in the session: people who want to be sure that won’t miss the start and who are not entirely sure if the tool is working for them. They are very welcome in my presentations, because it is a nice opportunity for inexperienced attendees to test their set-up. But you do need to be careful what you say and who is listening.

So assume that your microphone is open and people are listening, unless you have checked that your microphone is off. And keep an eye on the list of attendees who have joined, so that you can welcome new joiners and for example switch to English in an international presentation where you have been babbling in Dutch during the preparation.

9b. Start on time

Because you have set everything up and tested it early, you can start on time. Hopefully your audience has also connected early, to troubleshoot where needed, but you cannot be entirely sure they managed to do so.

Start on time anyway, but if there are a lot of people still entering the session, you can spend a bit more time on a general introductory welcome. You’ll want that introduction anyway, instead of diving deeply into the specialist content right from the first minute.

10.Record the session

There are always people who would like to attend your presentation but who are unavailable at that time. And people who would like to watch some or all of it again at a later date. For that purpose, tools like Microsoft Teams have the option to record the session. Such a recording captures all of the audio, video and screen sharing that the attendees in the live presentation heard and saw; the chat is captured separately.

A recording is quite handy, but for privacy reasons, you do have to warn the attendees that you are recording the session. If they don’t want to be recorded, they can keep their video off and keep quiet and ask their questions in another way.

11.Explain the rules of engagement

Even in a real-life presentation, you may want to talk briefly about the housekeeping rules. It is even more important when you have an online presentation for an audience that is unfamiliar with online presentations in general and your tool in particular.

So explain everything carefully, so that they feel comfortable and are able to fully appreciate your presentation.

  • How can the attendees enter the online presentation, for example by clicking a link in the invitation.
  • How can they ask a question, for example in the chat windows and/or by raising their hand, because all of their microphones are be muted.
  • Announce that you are recording the session and tell them that the presentation slides will become available, if that is the case.

For important presentations with an inexperienced audience, I provide such details in the invitation (with a link to additional information on how to use the tool). And then I put up a welcome slide with the title of the presentation, a warning about the recording and a screenshot showing how they can ask their question in the chat window.

I put up this welcome slide early: as soon as we’ve finished testing, so maybe 15 minutes before we kick off the actual session. We also usually have some small talk, mentioning when we will start the actual session and how they should use the chat. This helps the attendees feel welcome, sure that they have found the right place and that everything works as it should for them, both audio and video.

Webinar welcome slide in MS Teams

Start slide of a webinar presentation, explaining how to ask a question via the chat and that the session will be recorded.

12.Mute the attendees

Do you have a large audience of online attendees? Make sure their microphones are on mute. In small, informal presentations, the attendees can mute their own microphone, to allow for flexibility: they can unmute to ask a question or add a comment. But in larger, more formal presentations, set up the meeting with muted attendees.

Make sure your own microphone is unmuted when you start talking! Especially if you have more than one speaker and only the current speaker has activated her or his microphone. Yes, we all know we should unmute ourselves before we speak, but it happens to everyone that they forget it once in a while. One more reason to have a moderator, who can give you the hint to unmute.

During your presentation: Audio

In an online presentation, your audience cannot see you as well as when you are on stage. So your voice becomes more important. You need to set up your microphone carefully, as we already discussed, but also pay attention to how you sound during your presentation.

13.Be clear

Make sure you talk into the microphone, don’t speak too fast and don’t mumble. Ask your moderator or anyone else to give you a hint when you are hard to understand, so that you can tweak your voice when needed. We are in this together!

Also leave some pauses, to allow your audience to think of what you said and come up with a question. This will also allow your moderator to step in with questions that were asked in the chat.

14.Be natural

Avoid reading out loud a written text, because then you don’t sound natural and it will be hard for your audience to stay engaged. Talk to them, like you are in a real-life conversation. You are a real human being, aren’t you, and so are they. So it is also ok to include personal experience and mention how you felt about what happened in your project.

During your presentation: Screen sharing

15. Share what you want to share and nothing else

Determine what you want to show your audience: a slide deck? A demo involving multiple tools? And then select how you want to share it.

In Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business for example, you can share a PowerPoint presentation directly, share a specific tool (like a browser window) or share your desktop: the audience sees everything that you see on your computer. I usually share my entire desktop, because I tend to present a mix of slides and a demo in various Microsoft 365 tools. Then I don’t have to worry about switching what I share.

But if you share your entire desktop, please make sure that you close anything that should not be visible, like private documents and sites with confidential information. If you often get sensitive email, close your mail programme, or share a second screen (if you have it) where you don’t get pop-ups about the mail messages you receive.

When you have more than one screen, like your laptop screen and an additional monitor, share the correct one and remember which screen you are sharing. If you get confused and risk talking about things that are displayed on the wrong screen, just reduce it to one screen by duplicating the original one or simply unplugging the additional screen.

Share your entire desktop or a specific window or presentation.

Share your entire desktop or a specific window or presentation; an example in Microsoft Teams.

15a.Hide technical pop-ups

Your audience should be able to focus on your story and on what you are showing them. So no technical windows or pop-ups.

In Microsoft Teams for example, you tend to see a small pop-up about the meeting itself on top of the presentation you want to show. Minimize the pop-up, so that your audience can see the presentation properly; this won’t cancel your meeting or anything.

Hide technical pop-ups, like the meeting pop-up in a Teams meeting: minimize it.

Hide technical pop-ups, like the meeting pop-up in a Teams meeting: minimize it.

16. Be aware that your audience may not see exactly what you see

If the network or system is overloaded, there may be a delay in what the audience sees. Usually audio can keep up, but video and screen sharing may be lagging behind a bit. So take care:

  • Move your cursor slowly in demos and wait a second before you click.
  • Don’t move your cursor around too hectically anyway, because that may leave a strange trail of ghost cursors for the audience.
  • If you know this problem may appear (as we did in a training series at a multinational), ask a colleague to participate and check if you aren’t moving too fast.
  • And don’t include crazy animations that may not clunky or downright confusing for your audience if the connection is slow.

16a.Sharing a video requires extra care

You can play a video in your presentation. But be careful. Often the video does not play smoothly for the audience. And in Microsoft Teams, the audience will only hear the video’s sound if you check the checkbox ‘Include system audio’ in your sharing options. Make sure you test it, if you want to play a video.

During your presentation: Webcam for video

Switch on the webcam, so that the audience can see you. This makes your presentation more personal and engaging. You are not a robot or some disembodied voice after all. But you need to set up your webcam carefully, as we already discussed, and pay attention to the camera during your presentation as well.

17.Look at the camera to make eye contact

Most of us tend to look at the screen where we see the video feeds of other people. But if you want to make eye contact with your audience as the speaker, you need to look into the camera instead of the screen. Well, one-way eye contact: they look into your eyes, while usually in a big presentation you cannot see them.

This eye contact is very important, even if it is one-sided: people are a lot more engaged when the speaker is looking right at them. This is especially important when you are just talking to them, video only. When you are showing your slides or your demo on the big screen, and your video is only a small thumbnail in the corner, then you can afford to look at what you are presenting sometimes.

18.Aim for a quiet video image

  • Don’t wear psychedelic stripes or patterns or too much bling bling, because it will interfere. On the other hand, don’t wear the same colour as the background, because you will blend in too much and end up as a ghost.
  • Don’t move too much, because it makes the participants uneasy and it can decrease the video quality.
  • Make sure you have a quiet background, without people walking in it. Blur your background or pick a neutral background in Microsoft Teams. Or if your tool does not have that option, pick a neutral wall in your room. It is fine to show something personal, like a painting or bookshelves in the distance. But the more formal the presentation, the less distracting your background should be. In any case, you don’t want your audience to see your laundry.
Blur the background of my home office or choose a picture as my background

Blur the background of my home office or choose a picture as my background

19.Don’t forget your camera is on

When you share your screen with your presentation or demo, your video is still visible as a small thumbnail, in Microsoft Teams for example. You may feel unwatched, when you are by yourself in a room, but your audience can still see you. Don’t forget that and do anything that you wouldn’t do in public…

If you fear you will forget your camera and your story is focused on what you share on your screen anyway, just turn off your camera. I also turn off my camera when I am one of many attendees in a large group in an official presentation, where my face is not important. That might save me embarrassment and a messy video feed when I lean away from the camera.

And…

20.Go for it!

It may seem bit daunting, giving an online presentation. But when you prepare your presentation properly and when you get some assistance to help you out before and during the session, you will very probably be fine. If you have obviously made an effort, your audience will be quite willing to forgive any imperfections and improvisations.

In online presentations, you can connect with people with whom you would not have connected in the physical world, because travel would have been too expensive, too time consuming or too impossible in general. You see, on the one hand we are locked down, but on the other hand our world is opened even wider via online presentations.

So just go for it!

 

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