Outlook made some helpful suggestions in response – just one example of new AI functionality showing up by dint of subscription services.
Another case in point where software gets better on a regular basis, is a slew of new features that have appeared for some Teams users – namely, the ability to tweak your own camera image. If you don’t see them yet, try checking for updates from the … menu to the left of your own profile image in the main Teams window.
Mirroring your video makes it easier to interact with your own environment while you’re looking at the screen, though it doesn’t affect what others in the meeting see.
Lighting Correction is a one-setting tweak for fixing the contrast and brightness, which can be handy when it’s dark outside and your room lighting isn’t ideal.
Most entertaining though, is the facial retouching feature – YMMV depending on how much your fizzog need retouching in the first place, possibly. You can apply a dab of filler all the way up to full-blown Insta-influencer soft focus, by enabling the feature then moving the slider. Look under Device Settings from the ellipsis (…) menu when you’re in a call.
Check out the Teams blog, and look forward to lots more new features arriving later in the year.
Another tweak in managing your own video comes from users’ feedback, where they don’t want to see their own video window, thinking that it’s distracting when looking at a gallery of other attendees in a meeting.
You’ll be able to hide your own video by clicking on the … in the corner of your own preview, and can then selectively show or hide, or if you’re especially vain, you can pin your own tile to the meeting view so you show up as the same size as everyone else.
Perfect for checking out how the facial buffing has worked out.
When the pandemic first hit, many people realised that fast, reliable home broadband was an essential utility rather than a nice-to-have. With potentially more people in the house sharing the connection all day, streaming video and doing online meetings, contention in the domestic environment became something of an issue, where one user can hog the available bandwidth to the detriment of others.
The same issue occurs en masse at the broadband provider’s network, where their resources are shared between users on the assumption that they won’t see all of them demanding full speed at the same time: a contention ratio of 50:1 is pretty common, meaning if your neighbours are hammering their connection then it may affect you (assuming you’re on the same provider).
By now, we should all be used to the challenge of making your home network better – plugging into a wired network port to avoid poor WiFi signal, making sure other devices don’t do massive downloads during the working day. Check the speed of your network using one of the many tools available – like this one from Microsoft Research; if you search on Bing.com for just speed test then you’ll get a simple speedometer view.
If you’re using Teams or other realtime conferencing tools, it’s arguably more important to look at the latency (or “ping”) and the upload speed, than focussing on the headline download speed; if you have a device uploading lots of data, it might rob your bandwidth and ramp up the latency, which will be the enemy of any kind of synchronous comms. Check your latency over time with an online tool (like TestMy Latency) or download WinMTR to look for spikes in latency.
It’s worth making sure your PC isn’t causing issues itself, by running out of memory or pegging out the CPU and therefore giving a poor experience: the topic of looking for poor home network perf has been covered previously in ToW #533 amongst others.
Microsoft Teams has added some built-in monitoring and data collection capabilities, reported back to a central admin dashboard (Set up Call Quality Dashboard (CQD), and now semi-realtime data is visible in the Teams client itself.
When in a call, go to the … menu and look for Call health. Click on the various “view more… data >” buttons to see further detail, like the size and rate of the video you’re sending to the call you’re currently on. If your colleagues tell you that the quality of your video is poor, take a look in there to see what you’re actually sending.
As an end user, see here to understand how to interpret the various data. Hover over the little info icons to the side of each headline to see a bubble explaining in one-line what this is measuring. It’s quite interesting.
For admin guidance on what bandwidth and latency requirements you should have to perform acceptably, see here.
One thing we all miss about having physical team meetings, is the delight of trying to read an enthusiastic participant’s attempt at getting their thought process across by scribbling on a whiteboard. Often with pens that have too little ink left to be legible. Charts with arrows always point up and left and bullet-point, capitalized text that may just be readable, but can anyone remember what it meant by the end of the meeting? At least you can take a picture to decipher later.
Fortunately, there are digital equivalences – you could be in a Teams meeting and co-authoring a document, where multiple people are editing at the same time and marking up comments. You could be watching someone share their 4K screen so they can walk through only a few dozen PowerPoint slides, or you might even have had a play with the shared Whiteboard app that’s been around and been part of Teams for a while now.
The whole UI has been given an overhaul in line with the latest colourful design ethos, and there are lots of neat new features like the automatic shape recognition for mouse-driven drawing. Hold the Shift key down while you’re drawing with a mouse pointer or a Surface pen, and it’ll straighten lines for you.
It’s available in a variety of guises; there’s a web UI (app.whiteboard.microsoft.com) and it shows up in the menu on the top left of Office 365 web applications, such as subscribers would find by going to office.com and signing in with your ID. It’s on iOS and Android, though updates may flow through at different rates to other platforms.
Of course, it’s as a Microsoft Store app too; if you’re already a Windows 11 user, you may want to check out the new Store and look for the Library icon on the lower left, showing you what you’ve installed previously and also which apps have been most recently updated (and am Update button to kick off that process). Sadly, looking at an app’s page in the Store (still) doesn’t tell you what the current version is or when it was last updated.
You can pin whiteboards to Teams channels or chats too; just add a Tab, select Whiteboard from the app list, and the content will persist within that context rather than a point-in-time meeting.
Before The Event, you’ll probably recall being presented at in a stuffy airless room, mainlining caffeine to stave off the postprandial doldrums in attentiveness. “On this slide…”, the presenter might have said, before reading out all the text that’s now being shown on a slightly-too-small screen.
Some would apologize for the fact that the chart/table of data/timeline with 6pt text annotations etc, was too small for the audience to read. “I know this is an eye chart, but…”
So hurray when all such in-person meetings were banished to Teams or Zoom if you’re lucky, or if you’ve been a horrible person in a previous life, you may have inflicted upon you Webex, Amazon Chime or whatever Google calls Hangouts these days.
As an attendee, however, the Teams UI can get a bit busy if you want to follow online chat and see other attendees as well as the content being presented. You can make life a bit easier by going full-screen, from the view control in the top left.
As well as tweaking the layout, and hiding/showing components like chat or the participant list, you can zoom the Teams client in and out by using CTRL = and CTRL – (or CTRL + / – on your numeric keypad if you have one), or by holding CTRL and moving the mouse wheel up and down, if you have a suitably-equipped rodent connected. This method, however, just makes the Teams UI get bigger and smaller, so although it might increase the size of the pane being used to present content, it is a marginal gain.
Enter, a greatly useful tip espoused by Belgian usability maestro, Ingmar Boon – click on the content being shown in a meeting, then use CTRL+mousewheel (or if you have a Surface device and the touchpad is enabled then use the pinch in & out gesture on the touchpad). Teams will now let you zoom in & out and pan around the content being shared. C’est manifique!
When you create an appointment in Outlook and decide to turn it into a Teams meeting by clicking the icon on the Meeting tab, a bunch of custom fields are added to the meeting item in your calendar to define how it should be handled by the Outlook application, allowing such functionality as right-clicking on an item in your calendar and joining the meeting from there.
Then there’s the text that gets added to the end of any existing appointment text, which gives dial-in info and provides a link for users who like to click on URLs or who are running a calendaring client which doesn’t support Teams natively. Some degree of customization can be done to this auto-text, but it’s an admin task rather than an end-user one.
LinkedIn’s #1 fan, Brian Galicia, got in touch to draw attention to an option in Outlook which lets you make every meeting a Teams meeting (since the days of meeting people face to face now feel like a distant memory). Fortunately, it only adds the appendages to a calendar appointment when you start to invite people to it, so if you put stuff in your calendar to remind you to do things In Real Life, it won’t get in the way.
The option is accessed from the main Outlook window, under File | Options | Calendar, and is just above the groovy feature which lets you choose to shorten the default meeting time, so as to allow you and the attendees to get out of your chair once or twice in a working day.
From the ToW history files: When you create a thing in your calendar that’s just for you, that’s an Appointment. When you start to invite other people to your thing, then it becomes a Meeting. The Outlook UI changes when you’re dealing with Meetings vs Appointments (e.g., see tracking information on who accepted your meeting invitation, etc).
When the Teams integration to Outlook was first rolled out, the workflow to create a meeting was typically to put the time in your diary, invite your desired attendees, then click the Teams Meeting button to add all the extra stuff that anoints the meeting to become a Teams one.
That was a one-way process, though – if you clicked in error or decided to forego the online element, you either had to hack out the properties and text (since merely removing the “join” links in the text didn’t get rid of the Join Meeting UI in Outlook, as that was lit up by the contents of the various custom fields in the item) or, more likely, ditch the meeting and create a new one.
Happily, Outlook now lets you do the removal from within its UI. You’ll find that under Settings on the Meeting tab, where you can also control some other functions, like whether external attendees need to be held in the lobby or whether you let them straight in.
The bypass feature is meeting-specific, so if you are scheduling 1:1s with customers or partners, you might want to let the striaght through, but if hosting a larger meeting then having a lobby could let you get your internal team straight before bringing in your guests.
Back in the mid/late 20th century, the mainstream car market in developed countries was quite localized, where certain brands were seen as the default. Italians drove Fiats and Lancias; even until fairly recently, pretty much all you’d see in French towns were Citroëns and Renaults. The biggest blue-collar rivalry for Brits, Aussies and many Americans was undoubtedly… are you a Ford family, or a GM family?
In the UK’s 1970s, Ford had the Fiesta (small), Escort (mid), Cortina (large), Capri (sporty) and Granada (executive). GM operated in mainland Europe as Opel (Kadett/Rekord/Monza/Senator etc) and in the UK, as Vauxhall (Chevette/Cavalier/Carlton etc). Brits of a certain age may fondly? remember the Escort-sized, everyman family car: the Vauxhall Viva. The announcement of the employee wellbeing platform, Microsoft Viva thus brought a misty-eyed moment of reflection for some…
Since the unveiling in February 2021, Viva functionality has been gradually added to a variety of Office 365 experiences from Topics (based on what was called Project Cortex), Learning (highlighting online learning materials from a selection of company-curated sources, including stuff from LinkedIn Learning), Connections (a modern take on the company intranet) and the first module which was available, Insights, which is accessed via an app in Teams.
The Insights-defined “Virtual Commute” and calendar-blocking Focus Time has been mentioned previously in ToW #577, but it’s had a new shot in the arm as well as announcements about forthcoming improvements, such as the ability for Teams to quieten notifications when you’re in a focus period, and quiet time when Teams and Outlook will shush pinging you outside of working hours.
Now rolling out to Viva Insights is a set of mindfulness and meditation exercises curated from Headspace, who produce a load of online video as well as Netflix series and in-flight channels. See more about Headspace in Viva Insights, here.
Fans of the fathers of elektronische music will get the reference to the seminal track Autobahn, written to mimic the repetitive noises of driving along the motorway. Since most of us have not being doing much of that for a while (and nobody misses being stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 on a Friday evening), a new addition to Microsoft Teams from the previously announced Microsoft Viva could be a welcome distraction.
Start by looking for the “…” menu on the left-side icons bar in the Teams client, and you’ll see additional apps that can be added to the menu (and once there, you can right-click on them to pin in place); a previous update to Teams lets you drag the icons’ placement to your own preference too.
You can jump between the apps in Teams by pressing CTRL+n, where n is the corresponding location on the bar (ie CTRL+1 for the top app, CTRL+2 for next down etc).
Open the Insights app to see the first-released Viva application, which has also been recently updated.
Viva Insights lets you send praise to colleagues, do some quick & mindful breathing exercises, check on actions you may have mentioned in email (eg “I’ll get back to you on Monday…”) and block out time that’s currently free in your schedule to give you a chance to focus on work you’re supposed to do, rather than meeting with people to talk about it.
Newly added, is the Virtual Commute – go to the Protect Time tab, or look in the top-right settings menu “…”, to set up the time to finish your work day.
You can now have Teams remind you that it’s time to go home, even if you’re home already.
Jared Spataro wrote recently about the need to give yourself breaks between meetings and to transition from “work” to “home” modes.
If you’d like to jazz up your Teams background image rather than showing your real backdrop, check out the Viva backgrounds now available in the custom backgrounds gallery for Microsoft Teams.
Remember when presenting to a room full of people was a thing? At some point, we may get back to needing to do that, but in the meantime we’re probably presenting to smaller groups of people using Teams or some other form of video meeting.
It’s still worth tailoring your presentation style, especially so when you can’t necessarily see the audience – that guy who’d be dozing off in the front row of the presentation room? He’s now doing that on mute and with camera switched off. Creating compelling content is another huge topic which is even more important than the means by which you present it.
Firstly, when it’s time to present your slides in a Team meeting, please don’t just share your screen. Most of the time, the PowerPoint sharing experience that is built into Teams is good enough.
If you have a specific reason to share the screen or app then please at least “Present” in PowerPoint, since simply showing a PPT window is a massive waste of screen real estate and your attendees won’t be able to read it.
If you’re wary of presenting in a multiple-monitor setup (in case your slides end up on the screen you’re not sharing, and the non-existent speaker notes gets displayed to the meeting attendees), then go into Set Up Show on the Slide Show tab in PowerPoint and choose which monitor you want the slide presentation to appear on (and share that one in Teams). Worst case, just disable Presenter View in that same dialog, and then PowerPoint will only use one monitor.
The simplest way to present slides on Teams is to use the PowerPoint Live feature from within the Share icon – it will show you a list of recently opened PowerPoint decks, or let you browse your machine for one if it’s not visible.
This view will let you share content in a more efficient manner, and also gives the option of letting other presenters easily manage the transition from slide-to-slide, rather than having to rely on trying to take control of the presenter’s PC in order to advance them, and avoiding the “Next Slide Please” request. Attendees can privately move around your deck if you allow it.
You can also start the sharing from within PowerPoint, as long as the source slide deck is saved to OneDrive or Sharepoint, as the content is rendered as a web view. Go to the Slide Show tab and you’ll see a Present in Teams icon; click on that when you’re in a meeting, and it will automate the whole sharing process to start presenting your current slide deck.
Assuming you’ve managed to create slides which are not a mess and are comfortable about how you’re going to present them, the next step might be to polish your own performance.
You could use Rehearse Timings to do a dry run of your presentation, and it will record the time it takes to cover each slide (and will also save that timing so you could auto-matically advance the slides during a future presentation).
If you’d like an unbiased assessment of your presentation style, try out the new Rehearse with Coach feature – as well as getting some real-time tips during the rehearsal, you’ll get a report when completed, praising for a job well done or admonishing you for speaking too fast, just reading the slides out loud, using, errm, non-inclusive language etc – all of which might be used to help improve your delivery for the next time.
Have a play with the Presenter Coach – presuming it’s an automated service rather than a real human listening in, it’s fun to try and see how the recommendations given – see how many profanities you can get it to recognise?
As many of us have spent the last year meeting people through Teams instead of in person, our methods and behaviours may have altered. Most people stopped getting dressed up as if they were going to work, though some found that after months of wearing jogging pants and hoodies, actually getting smartened up helped them get into “Work Mode”. There’s even the idea of having a virtual commute to separate work life from home life.
To avoid back-to-back meetings all the time, some organizations mandate that meetings start at 5 or 10 minutes past the hour. A quick way to achieve this goal is to use the option in Outlook to either start late or finish early, maybe adopting the idea of a 22-minute meeting in place of a default half hour.
One of the many small but neat features that has been added to Teams during its unprecedented rise in use over the last year, is the 5-minute warning. Maybe the next improvement could be a countdown timer for the last 2 minutes, and the meeting organizer have the option to boot everyone out at the allotted end time, so there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind about when to shut up and close the meeting down.
If you’re running a meeting, you could manually start a countdown – rather than using the iconic sequence from the popular British tea-time quiz or the puppetry launch, try showing a timer from the built-in Windows Alarms & Clock application, as featured previously.
When you create a Timer, give it a name and the starting point of the countdown, and when you set the timer running, it will show the time left, the end time, and it will also display a moving indicator to illustrate the remaining duration.
Clicking the double-arrow on the top right will make the timer fill the whole Alarms & Clock app, and you could even make that app full screen if need be.
It’s possible to have multiple timers running simultaneously – you could set one for the duration of the meeting, then line up timers for each point on the agenda, though you do need to start them manually.
If you wanted to be particularly passive aggressive, you could share the application within the Teams meeting (rather than sharing your whole desktop, just share that single window), then every attendee would see it in place of any other shared content – which could be useful in helping to close things down.
A more gentle use of this technique would be if you’re going to allow attendees a couple of minutes to join before getting started – so you’d start and share the timer and then people will know that it’ll get underway at 2 minutes past the hour. If you’re hosting a long meeting with breaks scheduled, the same could be used to indicate when proceedings are going to resume.