This August, Microsoft’s innovators had one thing in mind—online meeting fatigue. For a lot of people, virtual meetings have become the norm. But while they have made it possible for businesses to carry on, we all have moments when we wonder if we can pretend the wi-fi has dropped out. So Microsoft has announced a bunch of new features in Microsoft Teams to make your online meetings even more collaborative, even more seamless and save you time. Whether you’re still rocking your PJs at home, or you’re back behind your desk in the office.
Seamless collaboration, from wherever you are
Microsoft has improved the screen real estate to let you focus on what’s important. People who are sharing content or joining through video will be in the main part of the screen, with audio on the right. With added visual cues, such as a purple box around who’s speaking and a yellow box around someone who’s raised their hand, it’ll be much easier to focus your attention.
Teams is making it easy to bring content and people together, so you’re not just staring at a PowerPoint deck. When someone is presenting content, you’ll be able to see both the content and the meeting participants. And you can also focus on a particular person such as a translator or decision-maker.
The gallery view shows you up to 49 participants. It’s optimised for the most active people in the meeting and gives you better control over the meeting experience. Along with having up to 1000 meeting participants at one time, you can now have up to 20,000 additional people attending as viewers. This is great for town halls.
A new capability called Together Mode brings you and your team into a shared working space. At the moment, this is an auditorium setting and suits a brainstorming or teaching session. When someone raises their hand in the auditorium setting, the participants all appear to look at the speaker, making for a more natural experience. And with individual backgrounds removed, the brain finds it easier to focus on the people and catch non-verbal cues, like a smile or nod. This makes it easier to spot when someone wants to speak. And it leads to better human connection, which people often find is missing from their online meeting experience. Microsoft is also working on a classroom, conference room and café, coming soon.
Another feature to help you stay connected is Reflect. This is a messaging extension which team leaders and class instructors can use to check in on team members. Found in the Teams menu, it has inbuilt questions to choose from, or you can create your own. You can keep results private or show the group, and you can make a poll for your team members to vote in.
Virtual meeting pain points cured
Microsoft is working hard to address the little issues that people face online. Reading people’s reactions can be a challenge, so the raised hand feature makes it easier for team members to have their say. And if you’re running late, you don’t need to worry that your message got lost in the chat, it’ll pop up in a chat bubble for all to see.
Meetings now has a fun way to show that you love a comment, or that you want to celebrate a team member’s achievement. There are five ‘reactions’ you can send, adding a little more authentic emotion into a meeting. We love this!
Live captions help many of us follow the conversation in team meetings. But it’s been hard to see who’s speaking. Now, Live captions shows you what’s being shared and who’s sharing it. This is great if you don’t know all the meeting participants—you’ll see their names and feel more connected with the group. This is available in English at the moment, but more languages are coming.
Live transcription in Teams is new too. It makes a copy of the conversation and any comments made. And it tells people when they’re being transcribed, so there are no surprises. This is super handy if you catch yourself dozing off during a question that suddenly comes your way. The full transcription is also available after the meeting in files. So you can catch yourself up, get the full context of the meeting, and stay on top of any action items.
Make online meetings great again
Excitingly, these Microsoft Teams features will improve the flexibility, efficiency and experience of online meetings, however or wherever you find yourselves working. With more and more people choosing to take their face to face meetings online, it’s positive to see a greater focus on these collaboration tools. We look forward to the next round of innovations.