We all know the feeling. You load up your laptop after the long commute from the living room, check your calendar for the day and are greeted with a wall of meetings, perhaps leaving 15 minutes to grab a slice of toast. Remote working has led to an influx in diary invites – Microsoft reported a 1000% increase in Teams calls in the first month of lockdown. In the days of ‘the office’, we would never diarise every face-to-face conversation. Now, spontaneous over-desk catch-ups have become planned 30-minute meetings – every conversation is scheduled and visualised in a calendar. The day can feel overwhelming before it’s even begun.
Are more meetings an attempt to fill the void of real human contact? Or is there a fear that balls will be dropped and plates will stop spinning without regular check-ins? Whatever the reason, it’s important to make sure that teams are equipped to have productive, collaborative meetings that accomplish more than just holding a diary place. Microsoft Teams is a great way to bring your team together, and can help you make the most of your meetings at every stage.
What happens before a meeting is just as important as what happens during or after; the process of collaboration begins way before the meeting starts. When preparing for any meeting, every participant should know what the meeting goals are, what work needs to happen beforehand and what to expect in the meeting itself. Teams allows you to meet where you work, which means all your meeting prep happens in one place and can be easily accessed by every attendee. Unlike some conferencing tools, Teams opens the meeting chat as soon as the invite is sent allowing you to share agendas, pre-read content or any other useful files. This helps all participants come to your meeting fully prepared and ready to contribute, and saves time on sending multiple emails back and forth with updates or additional information.
Teams also allows you to customise your meeting set-up depending on your audience or context. When creating your meeting, you’ll have options to choose who can enter the call, which participants can unmute, and who has presentation capabilities. Whether you’re having a friendly team catch-up, or presenting a client pitch, these pre-meeting customisation options help calls run more smoothly, without any unwanted interruptions. You can also adjust your default meeting length via Outlook – scheduling shorter meetings helps keep diaries clear, reducing back-to-back sessions and allowing more time to take a break.
Your meeting has started, the participants have read through the documents you shared in advance, and now it’s down to business. One of the most important aspects of meetings, especially in the virtual world, is being able to see and engage with the people you’re working with. In Teams, you can choose how you view other participants to suit your personal preferences. If you’re missing the traditional meeting environment, try using Together Mode, or if you’re meeting with large groups Large Dynamic Mode lets you see up to 49 people at once. Being able to see your colleagues helps with body language and other non-verbal cues – plus it’s sometimes nice just to see some friendly faces.
As well as seeing people, being able to understand what’s being discussed is also, clearly, very important. Being able to listen in to a call doesn’t work for everyone, whether that’s down to noisy home working conditions or hearing difficulties. Live captioning with Teams makes sure nothing is missed and every attendee can follow the conversation.
Meetings aren’t just about seeing and hearing each other – collaboration is what makes a successful meeting. Microsoft have recently announced the addition of new apps to meetings. No more flicking between multiple tabs or screens – now you can add tasks to your Asana board or conduct Slido polls without leaving your meeting. The act of doing helps keep attendees alert. We’ve all experienced meeting fatigue – sitting talking to a computer screen all day can be physically and mentally draining. Keeping your participants involved and productive can lead to all round better engagement. Being able to tick actions off during the meeting reduces the number of follow up items, and helps meetings become more than just catching up. Attendees will leave the meeting feeling like they’ve accomplished something, rather than just adding more tasks to the to-do list.
If you’re facing a busy calendar with multiple meetings each day, it can be tricky to remember exactly what was discussed in each and which follow up actions you’re responsible for. It can be equally difficult to attend every meeting you’re invited to; with back-to-backs and overlaps it’s okay to sometimes just say no. Teams allows you to record and transcribe meetings for easy catch up, so whether you just need a refresher or you need to revisit the whole meeting, you can watch or read the meeting back at a time that’s convenient for you. Knowing these options are available can take the pressure off employees feeling they have to take notes of every detail, or even be present for every meeting. This is particularly useful if you have employees operating in different time-zones – rather than holding early morning or late night get togethers, recording gives you and your team flexibility.
As well as recordings and transcripts, Teams also stores all your other meeting activity such as chats and files. Plus, you can add additional content once the meeting is finished. With everything else to remember, there’s always that one pesky question you forget to ask. Rather than sending an email, or starting a new thread, just add your question to the end of the chat. This means that all your meeting content, from before, during and after, is available and accessible to all participants at any time.