Run Effective Online Meetings With Microsoft Teams 

Over the last few months, the number of online meetings has skyrocketed! Images of people with funny hats or weird looking faces have gone viral. This has really been a welcome relief in the otherwise isolated and remote work experience. I mean who can keep from smiling when you read about a  boss getting stuck as a potato during a video meeting? Funny hats and potatoes aside, the question many people ask is, how do you run efficient meetings online? So I thought I would share 5 tips for an online meeting using Microsoft Teams.  

5 Tips For An Efficient Online Meeting 

1. Define the four W’s – Why, What, Who and When

As with any meeting (online or in-person meeting) you first have to define why you are meeting, what the outcome of the meeting should be, who should attend and when the meeting should be. The beauty of online meetings is that you can meet with people all over the world, so take time zones and workdays into account.  

When you are scheduling meetings within your own organization you can use the “Scheduling Assistant” in Outlook to see when others are available for a Teams meeting. If you are booking meetings with people outside your own organization, you can use the free plug-in from Microsoft called FindTime app to create a Meeting Poll.  There are also a number of great scheduling services you can use. We use Bookings in Microsoft 365 for more “official” meetings and Appointlet, to provide external people an easy way to book  a number of different types of meetings with me.  When you find the time that the meeting will take place, make sure to add a proper agendaIt’s important everyone knows why you are meeting and what the planned outcome is. 

2. Optimize the online experience

Technology is so advanced today that you can really have a rich meeting experience online. But there are a few things to consider for an optimized online meeting experience: 

Find a good spot – Ideally, you should sit or stand in a quiet place where you are not disturbed, with a good desk/chair or standing table and good lighting. Be creative. Who knows? The laundry room and the ironing board might work great! 

Switch on your camera– Research shows that as much as 60-65% of our communication is non-verbal. So, in order to understand each other properly, it’s important to see each other’s body language and facial expressionsIf your “quiet” spot is in fact the laundry room, and you don’t want to show your background, you can select one of the many available backgrounds in Microsoft Teams. 

 How to upload your own background 

  1. Click “Upload image” when you’re in a video call to upload a custom image background from your computer.
  2. Once you’ve uploaded an image, you will find it as one of the available backgrounds in Teams. 
  3. Upload a picture of your office (or your dream office) and use that. IKEA has created a few attractive custom backgrounds to use during your meetings, you can find them here.

How to use built-in filters in Teams  

What about a bad hair day, or if you ran late to the meeting and didn’t have time to shower after your workout? It happens! I feel people are a lot more “forgiving” these days and understand that you are not all “geared” up in your work suit for an online meeting. With that said, sometimes you really don’t feel like showing yourself. 

Unfortunately, there aren’t any built-in filters in Teams, but there are workarounds. For example, you can download an app called Snap Camera and use the filters there in your Teams meetings. Our marketing coordinator, Caroline, loves the “make-up” filter because she says it takes the stress off for early morning calls or impromptu video meetings with her manager.The Snap Camera is fun, but more appropriate for a team happy hour or casual conversation with colleagues. I wouldn’t recommend it if you (like me) are strained on time, because it doesn’t work seamlessly with Microsoft Teams – and you don’t want to get stuck as a potato for an important meeting.

Use a proper audio device – I have to admit that I was pretty late in understanding the importance of this. Until my colleague who sits in an open office switched to a Teams certified headset. The difference was crazy! It’s hard to focus when you can hear the background noise of other people talking, traffic outside, or even air conditioning. Everyone should have a good audio device to minimize annoying background noise. 

3. Moderate the meeting

You always need someone to “run” a meeting. Someone to make sure you stick to the agenda, that you “park” things you don’t have time for, that you gather everyone’s input and so on. As a moderator, make sure to call people by name, ask questions and ask for feedback. If there are many meeting participants, you can ask attendees to use the meeting chat to ask questions. There are so many apps you can use for online brainstorming and planning – Microsoft Whiteboard, Miro, FunRetro, Google Jamboard, Parabol, Retrotool, to name a few.

4. Take meeting notes

I know it sounds “old-school”, but meeting notes are a must! When you have a meeting in Microsoft Teams, there is an option to “Show meeting notes”. A Wiki-page opens where you can write down meeting notes. The notes are then forever linked to the meeting in the meeting chat. 

That’s one way.  We prefer to use OneNote for taking meeting notes. You can create a meeting notes page linked to any meeting you have booked.  After the meeting you can easily share your notes in OneNote with the other meeting participants.  If I have a meeting with people in my own organization, I just share the link to the page in our shared OneNote notebook. If I have meetings with external meeting participants I like to “clean up” my notes a bit and then share them via email. You can easily “Email a page” in OneNote and just send the page with your meeting notes to the ones who were in the meeting.

5.  Agree on how to follow up

Before you end your meeting, you need to agree on how to follow up. How do you track action item progress? Do you need to have a new meeting to align on status updates? How do you communicate with each other? When you have a meeting in Microsoft Teams the meeting chat remains even after the meeting. Is that to be used for a meeting follow up? 

My personal experience is that the meeting chat is mainly for when the meeting is happening or shortly after to share meeting notes or answer a follow-up question. After the meeting, it is usually better to revert to other communication channels since you don’t want to end up with too many chat groups. 

If you have meetings with team members and you want to track progress of action items, it is very beneficial to capture them in a tool.  We use Planner to make sure everyone knows what is expected of them. Assigned tasks can be synchronized with everyone’s To Do app so that you can have a one-stop-shop for all your tasks. 

What’s Next?

Could your organization benefit from some coaching? Then reach out to us! We work with companies of all sizes nationwide to help them work smarter using Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.

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