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

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!

 

June 30, 2020

Adapting to change: life in an intertidal zone

Filed under: Adoption — Tags: , , — frederique @ 21:04

Our organizations face changing circumstances: disruption of our markets, new regulations, the Corona virus forcing us to keep our distance and work from home. So our organizations, and we as the employees, have to change to stay competitive, compliant and safe. In nature, plants, animals and people also have to deal with changing circumstances. Sometimes we try to change what we find, sometimes we all just go with the flow. But in any case, we all – including plants, animals and people – have to do something to adapt.

Wadden Sea: ever changing

Recently, we went for a short holiday trip to the Wadden Sea in the north of The Netherlands. Yes, we are now allowed to get out of our houses, as long as we are careful, though our trip abroad was canceled… In that region, change is very visible. The Waddenzee or Wadden Sea is called a sea, but it is a large, shallow intertidal zone. So now you see the sea, and now you don’t, because a few hours later you get mudflats as far as the eye can see. The ferry boat to the island of Ameland has to wind its way and find a channel that is deep enough. And that channel tends to shift and silt up. So the captain has to pay attention and adapt, to be able to sail to the island, and the dredging companies have to work hard to keep the harbour and a route clear.

Wadden sea at low tide

View from the island of Ameland to the mainland. A few hours ago, this was sea. Now it is mostly mud. And if you don’t mind getting dirty and a bit wet, you can walk to thg mainland.

The birds adapt to the tides

The birds are very much aware of the tides. They have their long-term genetic adaption of specific types of bills that allow for specific types of feeding. And that has to be combined with the short-term adaption of finding the right place and time to suit their needs.

Low water is great for the waders, who can stalk the mudflats and eat the juicy insects and shellfish that burrow in the mud.

Avocet in shallow water

The pied avocets catch crustaceans and insects by sweeping their bill through the shallow water or picking them from the mud.

Turnstones on a mudflat

Turnstones can’t probe deeply for their food, with those shorts bills. They turn stones to find it, as their name indicates. Or they just pick it from the sand at low tide.

Spoonbills need shallow water, to “spoon” for aquatic creatures. We have seen them appear in shallow pool when the tide was right at that place & time.

Spoonbill eating a mussel

Spoonbills usually “spoon” small fish and shrimps, but shellfish like mussels are appreciated too.

Fishing birds like Terns have to fly to the right place to catch their fish. When the water is gone from the Wadden Sea, the Sandwich terns on the island of Texel fly to the other side, to the deeper North Sea. At high tide, they can find water and fish closer to their colony.

Sandwich tern with fish

This Sandwich tern has caught a nice fish. He has to fly to water deep enough to harbour fish.

High water allows swimming birds like Eiders to dive for molluscs near the coast, where we could see them.

Eider female fighting a gull

A lot of female Eiders were lounging and feeding in the water of the Wadden Sea, though sometimes they had to defend their catch from Gulls who tried to steal it.

Waders however, who prefer shallow water and mud, tend to get out of the way of all that water and find a refuge at high tide.

Flock of waders landing on a small beach

A flock of thousands of waders – mostly Knots but also some Bar-tailed Godwits – land on a high-water refuge. Unfortunately, today the water was higher than yesterday, so the little beach disappeared at high water and the flock has to leave early.

The plants adapt to salt water

The border between land and sea is not very clear cut in this region. At low water, the sea looks like land, with those extensive mudflat that you can walk on.  At high water, the sea floods the land and plants end up with their feet in the water. The salt marshes have special plants, that have adapted to handle the salt water.

Salt marsh at high water

The glasswort and sea-lavendar in the salt marshes of De Volharding on Texel don’t mind the salt water that floods them at high tide.

The people adapt the landscape and seascape

The people living on the islands in the Wadden Sea appreciate their natural environment, but there are limits. If they let nature take its course entirely, not only the ferry channels will shift, but the islands themselves too: in some places the sea erodes the dunes and beaches, in other places the sea deposits the silt. So they need to dredge the harbours, to keep the sea where they need it. But they also have to take measures to keep the land where they need it. In gale force winds, the sea can break through and flood the land. Unless you protect the land with some serious dikes.

Dike protecting the low-lying land from the sea

The dike protects the east side of the island of Texel. Now that we have the dike, we can also use it to provide cycling lanes and put some sheep out to graze.

Last year a new hybrid dike was constructed in the south-east, because the old dike could not guarantee the safety of the inhabitants, given the changing circumstances: sea levels are rising, the soil is compacting and getting lower and our rules are stricter. But our other requirements have also changed. Putting in a new traditional dike would take up a lot of agricultural space and damage the biodiversity. So they adapted and came up with a new solution: a “sand dike”, artificial dunes outside the dike. These can safely soak up the waves and provide a new habitat of dunes and salt marshes for wildlife.

Now we need the plants, the birds and the other animals to adopt the new dunes. The people have planted Marram grass to keep the sand in place. And they have transplanted  a piece of salt marsh that would disappear under the new dunes to a new location: turf with some rare plants. At this time, the whole thing looks rather sandy, but we’ll have to wait and see if the plants and wildlife can adopt it, make it their own, or if they need some more help and change management.

New artificial dunes

A new “sand dike, the Prins Hendrikzanddijk, consists of artificial dunes, with marram grass to keep the sand in place and fences to catch more sand.

The birds and people adapt to each other

Birds who liked to nest in the salt marshes got in trouble when people put up a big dike on the east side of the island of Texel. Because people like birds, they dug some shallow pools right behind the dike, to provide some space for birds like waders, terns and geese. This works very nicely, though the birds and the people are still getting used to each other and adapting.

There used to be a colony of Sandwich terns in the north section, but the birds left. The experts think that they were disturbed, maybe by people walking their dogs. Terns nest on the ground, their nests in a ground scrape. So they don’t like dogs. Fortunately the terns re-established the colony a few miles south in the area. Apparently there are no dogs or other disturbances there, because the birds have seriously adopted that pool and its islands: there are over 6.000 pairs of Sandwich terns nesting there!  We also saw plenty of avocets with chicks and oystercatchers with chicks.

A small part of the colony of Sandwich terns

The colony of Sandwich terns is a very busy place: noise, smelly and a feast for the eyes. This is only a very small section of it.

Sandwich terns and chicks

The Sandwich terns have adopted the artificial pool and island, to nest and rear their chicks

So that change went very well- sometimes it just works!

May 31, 2020

Developments I like in Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Digital Workplace — Tags: , — frederique @ 10:54

Microsoft is accelerating the development of Teams, to cater for our needs in remote meetings and conversations. Teams was already the go-to tool for online collaboration for the enthusiasts. But now that so many of us are working from home, it has become indispensable for a lot of people. So it is absolutely necessary that the tool works easily, seamlessly and robustly. After all, there are so many new users who are not particularly computer savvy and who just want to get their jobs done in these difficult circumstances. Well, Microsoft is working on it! There are quite a few new and newish developments. Let us discuss a few.

In Team meetings

1.Raise your hand

Large online meetings get very messy if everyone just activates their microphone and jumps in. What you need is a moderator who can give people the floor – or rather: the microphone – one by one, when they want to ask a question or contribute something.

Fortunately, we now have the option to raise our hand digitally: you use the hand icon and the label explictly says this is to raise your hand. Very classroom isn’t it? I would not be surprised if this option was asked for by the educational community. But it is also handy (sorry…) to be able to raise your hand in an enterprise meeting. I recently attended a Teams meeting where I did not have permission to use the chat, as I was not a member of the Team where the meeting was organised, but I was still able to ask my question by raising my hand and activating my microphone when the speaker addressed me.

Click the hand in the toolbar to raise your hand; clicking again lowers it. The presenter/moderator is prompted with a number on the people icon that somebody raised their hand, and sees who it is.

Click the hand in the toolbar to raise your hand; clicking again lowers it. The presenter/moderator is prompted with a number on the people icon that somebody raised their hand, and sees who it is.

2.Up to 9 video feeds in the main screen

When I am conducting a meeting, I often share my screen to allow the participants to see my presentation or my demo. But we also have “talk meetings”, where we just have a conversation without any slides or demo or anything. For example, the virtual coffee breaks that we are having regularly these days…

In Microsoft Teams, you could see up to four video feeds of participants, in a 2×2 format. Since two weeks, we get see up to nine video feeds in the main screen of the meeting: 3×3. And if there are less people, the video tiles are distributed neatly. Ok, if you have more people in your meeting than nine, the participants who do not talk are still only displayed as thumbnails at the bottom. But still, nine is better than four, and it is just matter of time before we get more…

3.Choose your own background in your video feed

I am working from home these days, and conducting my meetings online. I often switch on the camera, so that I can look my colleagues in the eye. After all, this is the only way we can see each other. But that does not mean that I want to show them my messy home office. Or the living room where I’ve also put my laundry out to dry.

Fortunately, showing my face does not imply I have to show my room. Earlier this year, we got the option to blur the background of our video feed. And a month or so ago Microsoft added the option to select a background image, to make your video feed more attractive.

So far, however, there is no button to upload your image, to make your video feed not only more attractive but also more personal. But you can “hack” the image collection and add your own photos via Windows Explorer: just put your pictures on your computer in C:\Users\[you]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads (please note, most people don’t see the Appdata folder, so go there by entering %AppData% in the address bar. I have resized and cropped my photos to the same size as the Microsoft images: 1920×1080 pixels, because otherwise the horizon was in the wrong place.

Teams-Meeting-MyBackground-app

Click the ellipsis (the …) to get the option to use background effects. There you can select an image.

Update June 2020: And now we also have a button to add our new photos from the Teams-meeting.

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

In the chat

4.Read receipts in the chat

I sometimes check if my colleague has read my chat message yet. Since January this year, I get a checkbox icon if the message has been delivered and an eye icon if my colleague has seen my message. Of course seeing does not automatically imply understanding or taking action or anything, but it is a first step towards confirmation.

Note: Only the latest message that has been seen gets an icon, to avoid clutter in your conversation.

Teams-Chat-ReadReceipt-ann

When your colleague has seen the message, you get the eye icon. If he or she has not seen it yet but the message has been sent, you get the check icon.

Also note: You only get these read receipts in the Chat section of Microsoft Teams. Not in a Team channel, where the posts are open to all team members. In a group chat with more than one colleague in the chat section, it looks like the message only counts as read if all participants have seen it.

Teams-ChatGroup-ReadReceipt-add

In a group chat with more than one person, everyone needs to see the message before it is labeled as ‘Seen’.

5.Pop-out a chat

I like multitasking while I am in an online meeting. I know, I have to pay attention to that meeting and I do! But it is efficient if I can ask another colleague for some details or prompt him to finish a related task in a 1-on-1 chat, while still having a full view of, for example, the shared screen in the Teams meeting. I usually have enough space on my monitor to do this. But up until now, the meeting was minimized when I opened a chat.

Fortunately, now I can pop out the chat window and position it next to my Teams window with the meeting. I had already read about it, but I literally saw it for the first time in my environment just now ;-) For now, we get this option in the desktop app; not in the online version or the mobile version of Teams yet. See also Microsoft’s support page Pop out a chat in Teams.

Teams-Chat-Popout-ann

Click the icon to pop out the chat in a separate window, that you can move and resize. If this functionality is available to you, you will see the icon at the top right of the conversation and in the overview when you hover your mouse over the item.

April 30, 2020

10 Practical tips for conversations in Microsoft Teams

Filed under: New world of work,Office365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 23:56

Do you want to ask a colleague a quick question or give them a heads-up? Even though you are far apart and unable to just bump into them at the coffee machine? Then use Microsoft Teams to connect and have a quick conversation. Always handy, but indispensable now that we have to keep our distance and work from home during the Corona crisis.

Microsoft Teams offers us two functions for conversations:

  • 1-on-1 chat like we have (or some people by now: had) in Skype for Business. Anyone who has Microsoft Teams at their disposal can use this chat for ad hoc conversations with one or more people.
  • A ‘team conversation’ within a separate Teams environment: our digital office that you can create or request (depending on your organization’s policies) for collaboration with your team.

Let’s take a look at ten tips for such conversations in Microsoft Teams (with some associated “sub-tips”).

Tip 1: Use the chat for 1-on-1 conversations

If you really want to have a 1-on-1 conversation, open the chat section in Teams. Yes, in a Team conversation you can specifically address a particular colleague (by @-mentioning her or him -see below). However, all the other team members can see your message as well, if they happen to take a look in the Team. And yes, I have talked to enough people who were confused by this.

Tip 1a: Add a colleague if 1-on-1 is not enough

You can have more people in an ad hoc chat conversation. If the two of you can’t solve you problem, ask another colleague to join the chat via the ‘Add people’ icon at the top right of your chat.

Ad hoc conversations in the chat: 1-on-1 and you can add people

Ad hoc conversations in the chat section of Microsoft Teams: 1-on-1 and you can add people

Tip 2: Add audio and video to your chat

When you are tired of typing to and fro with your colleague, turn your chat into an audio call or a video call using the phone button respectively the camera button at the top right of the chat.

Add audio or video to the chat to talk directly.

Add audio or video to the chat to talk directly.

Tip 3: Ask your colleague if audio is convenient right now

DO NOT just click on the phone or video button when you feel like it, but ask your colleague if she thinks it is a good idea to have a call right now.

Maybe your colleague is at a very noise location or at a location where no sound is tolerated, so she has to move first. Or maybe she wants to grab a headset or a coffee first. Or she may already be in another call. And yes, I have been at the receiving end of such unannounced calls and they annoy me as much as a phone , that always interrupt at a bad time…

Tip 4: Conduct conversations relevant for the team in the Team

Do you have a question about the project for which you have a Team? Or about work for the department that collaborates in a Team? Conduct that conversation in the ‘Posts’ tab of that Team, so that the other – current or future – Team members can also see what is going on. Also, documents attached to this conversation are stored in the right place: in the Team where you collaborate.

Tip 5: @-mention your contact in a Team message

Do you want specific colleagues to see your message, because they may have the answer to your question or may need to know what you explain? Then make sure you @-mention them: type @, start typing their name and select the right person.

If the entire team should see your message, @-mention the Team name. Or @-mention the channel, if it is relevant for everyone who is interested in the channel.

@-mention the person or group (e.g. the channel) who should see the message and respond.

@-mention the person or group (e.g. the channel) who should see the message and respond.

Tip 6: Do not assume your Team message has been seen without an @-mention

Too often I see messages addressed to me like “Hey Frédérique, can you help me with this?”. Usually I see those at least a week late, when I visit the Team to help somebody who did address me properly with @Frederique…

If you do not @-mention a person or a group, then you cannot assume that anyone has seen your message. Especially if these persons do not frequently visit the Team because they are not used to the new tool (like the people I have bene training recently), or because they have way too many Teams to keep an eye on all of them (like me…)

Tip 7: Answer in the reply field, not as a new conversation

In the 1-on-1 chat you don’t have separate fields for responding or for starting a new conversation. But in a Team post, you should answer via the Reply field, so that the conversation remains in one piece. If you respond via the field that says “Start a new conversation”, your answer may get separated from the question, when the conversation continues.

Reply in the reply-field, not in the field for starting a new conversation

Reply in the reply-field, not in the field for starting a new conversation

Tip 8: Made a mistake? Edit or remove your message.

Don’t post an additional version of your message. Just fix the original one, if you made a mistake. Or delete it and start again, to keep the conversation clear and compact. Click the … ellipsis (next to ‘Like’) to get these options. Please note: you can only edit or delete your own message, not somebody else’s.

Click the .. ellipsis to get the option to Edit or Delete your message.

Click the .. ellipsis to get the option to Edit or Delete your message.

Tip 8a: Can’t edit your messages? Change the Team-settings

The option to edit or delete your own messages is governed by a setting at the level of the Team. They should be enabled. If they are not, get a Team Owner to change the settings via Manage Team > Settings > Member permissions > Give members the option to delete/edit their messages.

The Team Owner should configure the settings to allow members to edit and delete theor own messages.

The Team Owner should configure the settings to allow members to edit and delete theor own messages.

Tip 9: Format important messages to make them easy to read

A message in Teams is not meant to be a fancy news article. But if the message is a longer, structure it with for example a bulleted list and key terms highlighted in bold.

Click the Format icon (the ‘A’) below the message field to get the edit options. Otherwise your message gets posted as soon as you hit Enter.

Tip 9a: Give important conversations a title

A title helps users to see easily what the message and then the threaded conversion is about, so they can assess quickly if it is important for them. The title field is also conjured up by clicking the ‘A’ icon.

Click the 'A' icon below the message field to format the text and provide a title.

Click the ‘A’ icon below the message field to format the text and provide a title.

Tip 10: Post a link to the document that you talk about

If you ask for feedback on a document or encourage your colleagues to check out your great presentation, attach the file to your message via the paperclip > Browse teams and channels. This way, people don’t have to search for the file that you are talking about.

Tip 10a: Upload the document before you post your message.

There is an option to upload the document while you are writing the message. But then the document gets stored directly in the channel folder, while you may want to store it in a subfolder within the channel. So if the core of my message is about a file, I make sure I store the file in its proper place first, before I start talking about it.

It does seem like the link from the message to the attached document survives if you move the document into a subfolder, for example. But I am not sure if it always works. In the earlier days, the link used to break if you moved or renamed the file, In those days I learned to think about where I put the file first…

Teams-Post-DocumentLinl]k-ann

Link to the file you discuss via the paperclip, so that your colleagues can open it directly.

If you follow these guidelines, Microsoft Teams is a great tool for remote conversations. If you want to have a real meeting, instead of a chat, please check out the 12 Practical tips for online meetings using Microsoft Teams.

March 31, 2020

12 Practical tips for online meetings using Microsoft Teams

Filed under: New world of work,Office365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 22:40

Now that many of us work from home, to avoid spreading the coronavirus and catching Covid-19, we are fortunate to have options to conduct out meetings online. We can talk with each other with the audio functionality, see each other with the video functionality and see our work with the screen sharing functionality of Microsoft Teams. Let us take a look at 12 tips based on our recent experiences, with some associated bonus tips. They are geared towards Teams-meetings, but most of them also apply to Skype-meetings or other online meetings.

1.Use Teams-meetings to meet online

In the organization where I work, we have both Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams at our disposal. Skype-meetings are more familiar to many users, but we stimulate the use of Teams-meetings. The main reason right now is that Teams-meetings are more robust and stable, especially in these times of overloaded networks and systems. Microsoft Teams does sometimes “wobble” at bit: video gets stuck, presentations don’t load properly. But Teams still works better than in Skype. Some people are using free internet tools like Zoom, but those are banned within the company, because you pay for these “free” tools with your data…

2.Use a headset or other audio device to talk

To get good audio experience, you should use a headset instead of shouting at the standard microphone incorporated in your computer. You can hear better what the speaker says, but most of all: the other participants can hear you better when you contribute. Without a headset, you also tend to get strange echoes. Many of my colleagues use the ear plugs that came with their mobile phones, so try those if you don’t have an “official” headset.

Back in the day when I could be in a meeting room with some colleagues, I often used a speakerphone to have a conference call with the rest of the team; that device picks up the other speakers as well. Right now, I am working at home by myself, so no other speakers to pick up. Nevertheless, I sometimes switch to this device, when my ears get tired of the headset: it has a smart microphone that focuses on my voice.

2a. Check your device seetings if your audio is troublesome

Did you plug in a headset but it doesn’t give you sound? Check the device settings and switch if necessary.

Check your device settings and select the correct audio device and camera.

Check your device settings and select the correct audio device and camera.

3.Mute your microphone

Make sure to mute your microphone when you are not talking, if you are in a noisy environment or if you don’t use a headset. This is particularly important if you are in a large meeting with many participants. The meeting will get very messy, when you hear the washing machines, children, neighbours with power drills or even just coughing from ten participants…

3a.Don’t forget to unmute when you want to talk!

It is easy to forget that you have muted your microphone or to “mis-click”. I am not the only one who has made some very intelligent remarks (well…) only to myself, because I had not unmuted my microphone properly. So unmute and check that you have unmuted before you tell your story.

4.Help each other

We’re in this together, so let’s help each other. Especially now that many people are forced by the coronavirus to conduct online meetings and use tools that they are unfamiliar with. For example, if you think colleagues may be talking to themselves because their microphone is still on mute, please remind them to unmute.

You can check whose microphone is muted in the Teams-meeting via the Participants button: the mute icon is displayed for participants with muted phone.

Mute and unmute your own microphone. And help your colleagues, if you suspect they are accidentally muted: check their microphone status via the Participants button.

5.Use the chat in the meeting

If you cannot talk, use the chat within the Teams-meeting to ask your questions or place your comments. The chat is the way to go, for example, if your microphone does not work, if the ambient noise is bad or if you are in a large meeting where things would get chaotic if everyone just spoke up via audio.

Microsoft Teams meeting chat

Microsoft Teams meeting chat

 

6.Don’t talk at the same time

The larger the meeting, the more you have to pay attention to “speaker management”. In a real life meeting, it is impolite and tricky to talk at the same time instead of waiting for the other participant to finish his or her sentence. In an online meeting, it is worse: the meeting becomes incomprehensible.

Use the chat to ask questions and give short comments. If the meeting is large and important, you should arrange for someone to moderate: keep an eye on the chat and pinpoint the items that need to be addressed via the audio, by the presenter or by the participant. The moderator can then give the floor (i.e. permission to unmute the microphone) to the right person.

6a.Mute all

Weird noises in your meeting from unmuted microphones? You can mute them all from the People pane. This option only appears if there are enough microphones open and there is something to be muted. Please note: everybody in the meeting who has the presenter role (the default for colleagues in your organisation) can use this ‘Mute all’ option.

Teams-Vergadering-Personen-Allen dempen-crop

7.Use video to support non-verbal communication

It is helpful if you can see each other, when you are talking. Especially if you are stuck by yourself, quarantined in your home, you don’t see anybody in real life and you are getting lonely. Switch on the video-option in the Teams-meeting and make sure your webcam is uncovered.

Please note: at the moment a Teams-meeting displays at most four video feeds: the person who is talking and the people who talked most recently. Microsoft is working on showing us more participants (see Uservoice). If you don’t want to see the current and recent speakers, you can also pin specific video image to your canvas, as a participant – this selection is only visible for you.

Update May 2020: Now we see up to nine video feeds, instead of four, in the main screen. You will some more as small thumbnails at the bottom of the screen.

7a.Check your video image

You will see your video image at the bottom of the Teams-meeting, on the right. So you can tweak things like the angle of the camera, your hair and the lighting: avoid sitting with your back to the window or other light source, or you will only show up as a silhouette. And of course this video image will make it clear if you have forgotten to slide back the privacy cover your webcam.

7b.Switch off your video for discretion

Turn off the video, before you do something embarrassing (pick your nose extensively, put your underwear on the clothesline or in extreme cases go to the bathroom bringing your laptop with you… no, I refuse to link to the YouTube video of the conference where that happened…). Just click on the video button again and check that your video image is no longer visible at the bottom of the screen.

8.Blur your background – update: or use a background picture

In a Teams-meeting you have the option to blur your video background (this option is not available in Skype-meetings). This minimizes the distraction for the meeting participants, and it hides the mess you in your room or the sensitive pictures on your wall that you don’t want to show your colleagues. You will find this option under the … menu > ‘Blur my background’. If you want to show something, you unblur it again with another click.

Teams-Vergadering-Videocall -Achtergrond vervaagd-a

Switch your video on and off with the video button. Blur your background for focus; only unblur it if you want to show something.

Update: Since April 14th, Now I also get the option to use a background picture instead of blurring my own home office. Microsoft offers a set of photos and paintings, so I can choose a nice and tidy office or a beach or the galaxy for example. At the moment, there is no button to upload my own images. But you can do that if you navigate to this folder on your computer: C:\Users\[you]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads (please note, most people don’t see the Appdata folder, so go there by entering %AppData% in the address bar). And I have cropped and resized my photos to fit the 1920 x 1080 px that the standard images had, because on my first test the horizon ended up in a strange place.

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

Update June: And now we also have a button to add new images to our backgrounds.

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

 

9. Share your screen

If you want to talk people through a presentation, report or demo: share your screen so everyone in the meeting can see what you are talking about. In a standard Teams-meeting or Skype, all colleagues from your organisation have the role of ‘presenter’ and the option to share their screens, but external participants can’t. Just click on the screen icon in the meeting toolbar and select the screen you want to share.

In informal meetings, I prefer to share my desktop as a whole, because then I can switch between applications and the participants can see everything I show.

9a.Share only a specific screen if you work with sensitive information

If you work with sensitive information, be careful of the screen you share. Especially if you share with a large group and/or external participants. In this case, it is not safe to share your entire desktop, because you may inadvertently show a confidential document or a sensitive email message may land in your mailbox in full view. So share a selected screen, like your PowerPoint presentation or your report.

Share your entire desktop or a specific window or presentation

Share your entire desktop or a specific window or presentation

10.For larger meetings, separate presenters from attendees

In a regular meeting, everyone can take over screen sharing and everyone can mute all. If your organise a meeting with many and/or unruly colleagues, invite them as attendees with only selected presenters. See the overview of the roles in a Teams meeting. You will find the options for these settings via the link ‘Meeting options’ in the body. Then you can determine who can present: everyone, only you or specific people. You can only select colleagues from your organisation, you have already added to the invitation.

Please note: at the moment, these options are different from the Skype-meeting options that you will find in the ribbon of a Skype- invitation. In Teams you cannot switch off the microphones and video cameras of all attendees beforehand. I you need to keep your attendees more in check, you should set up a Live Event.

Select the presenters via the link 'Meeting options' in the invitation

Select the presenters via the link ‘Meeting options’ in the invitation

11.Lighten the load for your computer and network

Especially video in online meetings does ask a lot from your system. Even more so in Skype than in Teams. So connect carefully, especially when you have to present something in an important meeting: restart your computer if you haven’t done that in a while, connect the network cable (instead of wifi – and negotiate with your house mates that they don’t overload the network just now) and close all windows and activities that you don’t need in your meeting. If the meeting still falters, switch off the video, especially if you are sharing your screen and your face is therefore less important at that time.

12.Look business-like in video conferences

Some of us don’t make as much of an effort to look nice when we work from home. However, if you use the video, you should try to look presentable. Comb your hair, put on a somewhat business-like top (nobody will see your pyjama bottoms…). And be understanding if things turn out a bit less business-like for a colleague, like in this BBC News interview.

Update: Troubleshooting tip to unfreeze Teams

Update April 28th: Teams froze on me a few times recently. But full disclosure: I was using my webcam with a background … on a Windows 7 laptop. Is Teams frozen solid in your meeting and you can’t get any response? Then quit the application from your taskbar: right-click the icon and then select ‘Quit’. Don’t just close the window, because then Teams will still be frozen when you restart it.

Quit Teams from the taskbar in Windows 7 (Dutch version) and Windows 10, to unfreeze the application

Quit Teams from the taskbar in Windows 7 (Dutch version) and Windows 10, to unfreeze the application

If you follow these guidelines, Microsoft Teams is a great tool for online meetings. If you want to just have a chat, instead of a real meeting, please check out the 10 Practical tips for conversations in Microsoft Teams.

February 29, 2020

Online meetings organized in a Microsoft Teams channel: 7 gotchas

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 19:48

For the knowledge sharing sessions I help organise, we are using Microsoft Teams to allow colleagues to join online. These series are set up as Teams-meetings from Microsoft Teams itself, in a channel of the relevant Team. In this article, let us look at 7 things that struck me when we started with this approach.

1.Meeting series? Meet in a separate channel

In our Microsoft Teams where we host the knowledge sessions, we also share other information. To avoid a messy tangle between the knowledge sessions and the rest, we created a channel called ‘Webinars’ to host the online meetings and to store the associated chat.

We schedule the Teams-meeting from the Teams agenda as a series of recurring events, and select the channel where we want to meet.

Scheduling a new teams-meeting from the agenda in Teams: invite the Webinars channel of my Team.

Scheduling a new teams-meeting from the agenda in Teams: invite the Webinars channel of my Team.

2.Lost the meeting title and channel selection? Scroll up!

When I was setting up an invitation with a long description of the webinar agenda, I thought I had lost the meeting title and the option to select the channel where I wanted to host the meeting. As it turned out, I had scrolled down to reach the end of the description. And scrolling down, I had lost the top of meeting meeting form. Unfortunately, that was not very clear: you only see the scroll bar when you put your cursor on the right hand side of the window. So if you have lost some detail fields in your meeting form, check if you have to scroll up!

You may need to scroll up to see the fields displayed at the top of the meeting form

You may need to scroll up to see the fields displayed at the top of the meeting form

 

3.All Team members are automatically invited. But other can participate too

Everybody who is in the Team is automatically welcome in the Teams-meeting hosted in that Team. So we don’t have to worry that we forget to include someone in the invitations.

But people who are not a member of the Team can attend the meeting as well, if they get the link to participate. So if a team member forwards the invitation to someone else or if you publish the link on Yammer for instance, others can participate as well. I had not expected that: I thought a meeting organised inside a Team would only be accessible to people in that Team. But so far the link is working for non-Team members as well.

4.The meeting chat becomes a conversion thread: ongoing for recurring meetings

In our knowledge sessions, the chat in the Teams-meeting plays an important role, because not all participants can talk via their microphone. These chat messages can be consulted afterwards in the Team-channel: they are displayed as reactions in the conversion thread of the meeting.

For a recurring meeting, you have one ongoing conversion thread. The latest 15 posts are displayed, the rest is collapsed and need to be expanded (in batches).

5.The invitation does not always appear in everyone’s agenda. But there is a button

Unfortunately, we see that the invitation set up in Teams does not always become visible in Outlook for all members invited: some people do not get the invitation in their email and it does not show up in their Outlook agenda either, Not nice, because most people work from their Outlook calendars.

We have seen this happen for new Team members, who have joined the Team after the invitation has been sent. But recently we also saw this for colleagues who had been added to the Team beforehand. Or rather: they did not see anything appear in their Outlook.

Fortunately, if you do not see the invitation in your Outlook, you can add it to your agenda yourself. Open the invitation in Teams, from the channel itself. If the meeting is not in our Outlook calendar yet, you see a button Add to your calendar. If the event is already included in your Outlook calendar, this button is not visible.

Add the meeting to your calendar in Outlook

Add the meeting to your calendar in Outlook

6.You can specify who has to wait in the lobby and who can present

At least, up to a point. Once you have scheduled the meeting, you can edit it to tweak the meeting options. Note: I have not found a button for the meeting options in the form where you enter the details of the new meeting, so save it first and then edit to set the meeting options.

In a scheduled Teams-meeting, you can edit the meeting options.

In a scheduled Teams-meeting, you can edit the meeting options.

In the meeting options, you can determine who can bypass the lobby. By default people in my organisation can join the meeting directly, without waiting in the lobby. If often people from outside your organisation join and you are tired of admitting them from the lobby, you can set this option to ‘People from my organisation and trusted organisations’ or even ‘Everyone’.

You can also determine who can present, as opposed to attending only without permission to present a desktop for example. The standard option is that everyone can present, including people outside your organisation. You can limit this to only people inside your organisation or only yourself.

You cannot make specific people, other than yourself, presenters yet. At least, not directly. If you invite individual colleagues, you can specify who is a presenter and who is only an attendee. However, that does not work if you invite everybody implicitly, as a member of the Team. So if you want selected presenters, you need to invite these people as individuals. See also the Roles in  a Teams meeting.

The meeting options of a Teams-meeting

The meeting options of a Teams-meeting

7.Room invitations may get lost when you edit the meeting series

So now everything was arranged nicely for the online participants of our sessions, but we hit a snag in our arrangements for the on-site participants. We had booked a meeting room at headquarters, by inviting it in Outlook and verifying that the request had been accepted. But when we modified the first occurrence in the ‘save the date’ meeting series, to specify the topic of that meeting, we found that we had lost the meeting room after we updated it. Because we caught this issue in time, we could re-invite the meeting room fortunately, but it is still annoying. I am not sure where this is coming from, but I am sure that I will doublecheck the room bookings for these Teams channel meetings!

January 31, 2020

3 things that work well in Office 365 training sessions

Filed under: Adoption,Office365 — frederique @ 22:15

Currently, I am involved in an adoption programme to help our users make Office 365 their own, so that they can take advantage of the toolkit and make their work more effective, more efficient and easier. We offer class room training sessions, in addition to things like information pages and webinars. Let us look at three aspects of this training that work well in our organization.

1.Training based on user scenarios

We don’t just teach our users to push the buttons in the Office 365 applications, what options there are and how they work. Our approach is to teach our users how they can perform their jobs better using Office 365. For example: to collaborate safely in construction projects, discuss plans, manage their team tasks, meet online to save traveling time, share their notes

And yes, this implies that we teach them how to use tools like SharePoint, Teams, Planner, OneNote and Yammer. But this way, the user can see what’s in it for them, and apply what they learn to improve their actual work.

2.Practical exercises in playgrounds

In these sessions, we have small theoretical part explaining about our business challenges and the cloud. We show in a demo how you can perform the user scenarios. But the main part of the sessions consists of practical exercises guiding the participants through the scenarios.

To facilitate these scenarios, we create for each session a playground Site / Team / Plan et cetera with sample content. Here, the training participants can do the exercises and explore, without risk. The playgrounds remain at their disposal.

3.Sessions per business unit

We are trying to improve the collaboration within the organization, so we want colleagues to learn together and to discuss how they can improve their particular processes. After all, our business units have different specialties and they have different challenges. And the people in that business unit know better than the IT guys from head quarters what is important for them.

We not only organize our training sessions per business unit, but we also tailor our sessions to the needs of those units. The basics of many scenarios may be similar, but the priorities are different as are the specifics.

December 31, 2019

Best wishes for 2020

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 17:24

I wish you all the very best for the new year. Personal health and hapiness of course. But also all the best on your journey in the cloud and on your journey to help our innocent users improve their lives by adopting the new tools and taking advantage of the new possibilities.

The year 2020 is famous: many organisations had 20|20 visions and plans for this year. Then we were trying to see forward clearly. And we keep looking forward and moving forwards. With Microsoft’s continuing development of Microsoft 365 we are even accelerating. And at my client, we are also making progress with the adoption of the new toolkit by the users.

For example, we aim to achieve & explain:

  • A series of on-site training sessions for the local Office 365 champions.
  • The transition from Windows 10 to Windows 7. We already know that this will be quite a hassle, so I have high hopes for the new Edge browser, which could give our pour Windows 7 users a modern browser soon.
  • The transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. We are experiencing some hiccups in Teams: our videoconferencing tools don’t work with Teams yet, we need to configure the tenant properly and provide the required guidance. But in our experience, online meetings are more stable in Teams, so we will transition as soon as possible.
  • New templates in Modern SharePoint to facilitate formal projects. Standard Microsoft Teams is a nice application, but in these construction projects, we need sophisticated permissions, metadata and views, which requires a SharePoint template.

Happy holidays and best wishes for 2020

So we don’t have to get bored yet! On to the next year :-)

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