While March was a particularly hectic month for Microsoft engineers working on certain products, the last couple months have seen a lot of exciting new features added to the Microsoft Teams platform. At Microsoft Ignite, which was held virtually this year, there were over 100 presentations on Microsoft Teams alone.
Individual improvements across the platform have made the overall Teams experience more intuitive and accessible to users. Recent changes have made Microsoft Teams more friendly to non-native English speakers, individuals with vision or hearing impairments, employees who juggle a family schedule, and others.
Read on for some of our favorite new features to the Teams Meetings experience and the impacts they will have on collaboration.
Improved Interface with PowerPoint Live
After a full year of remote-first work, certain “workarounds” have sprung up to suit the needs of group meetings and webinars. Microsoft took those workarounds as guidance for improving the Microsoft Teams platform, making them built-in features.
The most relevant example is the addition of PowerPoint Live. Using PowerPoint Live in your meeting creates a more fluid experience by eradicating the need for a meeting host to share their screen to present slides. Instead, there is now a built-in tool for attendees to follow along. The powerful new interface allows for the presenter to view their slides, their notes, the audience chat, and all the active participants in a single window. Now, presenters are able to respond promptly to the reactions of their audience, make needed clarifications on the spot, and more.
Attendees of these new slides-based meetings now have the flexibility to navigate the shared slides at their own pace or use a screen reader to consume the content, an invaluable improvement for those with vision or information processing differences. Attendees can also use an emoji to react during a meeting via a feature dubbed as “Live Reactions.” These reactions promote inclusivity in meetings and keep things interactive. Live Reactions also provide a better way to mimic an in-person meeting by allowing the host and attendees to interact in a nonverbal way. For example, presenters typically use body language and visual cues to make sure attendees are following along, but virtual meetings make this difficult. Now, presenters can give attendees a set time to respond to a prompt or complete a worksheet, and then instruct the attendees to apply a “thumbs up” live reaction when they have completed their task. These features can be especially valuable for teachers and students in an educational meeting.
Another feature announced for Teams is a dedicated Presenter Mode, which helps step up the production value of presentations, allowing the user to customize how the video feed and content appear to the audience. Presenter Mode will be launching soon with three views: Standout, Reporter, and Side by Side.
Enhanced Accessibility with Live Transcriptions and Meeting Recap
Live transcription enables attendees to follow and review conversations alongside the meeting video or audio in real time. This feature also enables attendees to catch up on content by reviewing what they’ve missed. In turn, non-native English speakers and those who have processing or hearing difficulties can take the time they need to comprehend what has been said. In addition, if a participant joins late or misses a meeting, they can catch up quickly by reading the transcript with speaker attribution.
Meeting recap is a new interface that users can revisit after the meeting. This new interface organizes and presents the recording, transcripts, chat, files, and any action items for the project in one place for review. Those who missed the meeting, joined late, or simply want to revisit the discussion will have a single platform to get up to speed.
For employees who cannot split their focus between an active chat and a live meeting simultaneously, this recap interface offers the security of knowing that the chat isn’t a fleeting resource. The dialogue will be saved to preserve any useful links or info shared so that attendees can revisit at any time.
Empowering Meeting Hosts With ‘Meet Now’ Links and New Controls
Users on Windows-based machines can now start instant Teams meetings from the Calendar tab of Outlook using the Meet Now feature. Once created, the host can copy the created meeting link and share it with others on any platform without initiating the meeting.
For instance, in the channel conversation for a certain project, your team has agreed to meet for an informal, virtual “happy hour toast” on Friday, sometime between 5 and 5:30 p.m. If the project leader wants to be the first one in the meeting, but isn’t ready at exactly 5 p.m., they wouldn’t want to share a meeting link before they were ready to be on the call. At 5:11 p.m., the organizer can create the Meet Now link, drop it in the channel conversation, and people can hop on using the link when they’re available.
Later this month, a new meeting option called “invite only” will roll out. This setting serves as a smart docent for the digital lobby, admitting users who were explicitly given invites. Users who have the link but were not invited directly can queue in the lobby for host review.
Before the end of the year, users will also see a new feature allowing meeting hosts to disable the video feed of individuals or all attendees. Being able to disable video can help organizers and educators manage undesired disruptions or distractions. In a similar function to hard mute, attendees are disabled from overriding the organizer’s block.
Of course, blocking features offer significant benefits to educational institutions, teachers, and even community organizers who are still faced with difficulty controlling outbursts and disruptive behavior from attendees or Zoombombing trolls.
Your Partner in Advanced Collaboration
Microsoft Teams continues to evolve month after month to meet the challenges of an ever-changing workplace. Windows Management Experts stays on top of all the new features and licenses to serve as your go-to source for everything IT. WME is here to power your entire organization through stronger, accessible IT solutions in the hybrid work world.