Microsoft Teams 2021 Updates Improve Collaboration Experiences

From improved functionality and visual appearances in meetings to collaboration updates, May’s push of Microsoft updates have us all pretty excited. Check out the updates we are believe will yield the biggest benefits for our collaboration.

Improved Meeting Capabilities Meeting & Webinars.

Within the Teams meeting experience, Microsoft has rolled out a few major improvements to make meetings more visually appealing and easier to manage.

Teams Meetings

Right off the bat, when you log into a Microsoft Teams meeting, Microsoft automatically arranges the meeting elements for an optimal viewing experience. Attendees with video turned on will line up in equal sizes next to each other, while audio-only take up a smaller section of the screen. Shared content will still take up the center of the screen, but with attendee videos neatly organized at the top of the screen. This lessened the distance the eye travels between the speaker and the shared content.

We share screen content in almost every meeting, both in-house and with customers. Microsoft Teams has organized its screen sharing function, grouping windows together in a single bucket, minimizing time lost sifting through countless windows and screens.

Sharing content via Presenter mode

                                                Source – Microsoft

One update I’m looking forward to the most is Presenter mode. The first layout of presenter mode, Standout, is available now – this view puts the speakers video feed in front of their shared content. This experience does a much better jump mimicking in-person presentations and reconnects the user with their shared content.

Sharing content using Reporter mode and Side-by-Side

Microsoft also has two other layouts on the way, Reporter and Side-by-side. I provide website walkthroughs and training with our customers, and I can’t wait to try out each of the layouts to offer a more engaging training experience. Sometimes when sharing a screen, the personability in the presentation is lost. With these new layouts, our customers can feel more connected with me and the training, even through a screen.

Custom attendee registration

Microsoft Teams has proven its worth when it comes to hosting virtual events. Create unique experiences for your attendees right from the start with your event registration. With Microsoft, you can now add custom questions to learn about your attendees and images to promote your brand.

Breakout room timer

                                                Source – Microsoft

Throughout the pandemic, breakout rooms have become key when breaking teams into smaller groups for training or separating students in their virtual classrooms. Virtual breakout rooms allow for better management of larger groups and provide a way to facilitate productive discussions.
Microsoft have added a necessary functionality to breakout rooms – a customizable timer. When the timer ends, the rooms will automatically close and return participants to the main meeting room.

We see the immediate benefit for this in our virtual BrandLab workshops. Pre-pandemic we would run a 2-3 day in-person workshop with a customer to build an understanding of goals surrounding their organization. When we went through our first virtual BrandLab in June of last year, we had to find new ways to run it safely. Now, with the new breakout room timer, we can automatically pull people from their virtual rooms and reduce time lost.

Bringing new life to Microsoft collaboration abilities.

Chat with more external users

Microsoft has improved how group chats function with external users, expanding on the current collaboration functionality within Teams. You can now have up to 250 participants across multiple organizations in a single chat.

Build better habits in Viva Insights

With Viva Insights accessible from right within Teams, you can take steps to organize your day and connect with coworkers more mindfully. Viva Insights has also added a “virtual commute” that helps users to wrap up the day, plan for tomorrow, and a better transition to personal time when working from home.

Additional useful updates in Teams

Multiple choice poll

You can now create polls directly in Teams to evaluate meetings before, during, and afterward. This tool can help you conduct more engaging and productive meetings. With many organizations still remote (and planning on staying that way) settling on a productive virtual meeting strategy is critical.

In addition to creating a strategy, the multiple-choice poll can be used to gather feedback on topics covered within the meeting, and more quickly prioritize topics for the following meetings. Now you can do that – all in Microsoft Teams.

Teams Templates

                                                Source – Microsoft

Microsoft has released their Team Templates, which has both custom and pre-made templates to help you create a new team/channel with relevant tabs, links, and apps. This saves users time (we’ve been doing it for months using Powell Templates) and can save your organization hours of repeated work.

While this is a good start for Microsoft, they are not as robust or widely useful as the templates in Powell Teams. Powell Teams templates are purpose-built, more intuitive to use, and better structured for long-term governance and file organization. Learn more about using Teams better with Powell Software.

Impressive additions created specifically for educators

Microsoft has also added career-specific functionalities to improve experiences for educators.

Educators now have the access to “supervised chat” which acts as a way to mimic 1:1 follow-up with students. The supervised chats allow for designated educators to create chats with students while blocking students from creating their own chats. It also requires educators to stay within the chat, guaranteeing that students remained supervised.

Microsoft Teams continues to elevate its platform to improve collaboration.

We work in Teams every day and are excited to see continued improvements on the user experiences within the app. It continues to function as our collaboration hub, keeping us connected and productive.

Looking for ways your organization can use Teams better? Reach out anytime to our Digital Workplace experts with your questions and challenges, or use the chat button on the right.

Interested in an entire list of what’s new this month for Teams? Check it out here.