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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Dolder

Microsoft Teams: 4 Tips for hosting good meetings

For several weeks and months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to work more at home and hold our meetings via video telephony worldwide.

Microsoft has presented and released some innovations for Microsoft Teams during this time. In this blog post, I present 4 innovations and briefly explain how you can use them for a more efficient and structured meeting process.

We take a closer look at the following innovations:

  • Teams Backgrounds

  • Raise your hand

  • Manage Meeting Options

  • Attendance Reports

There are much more innovations already released or close to release. I will talk about them in a feature blog post.

Teams Backgrounds

We all know participants in video conferences in which the entire mess in the background is visible to all. It gets worse when suddenly half-naked people run through the picture.

For this it is possible to blur your background, so that only you are visible in the video call. Since a couple of weeks, it is now also possible to set some predefined pictures as your background, so it looks much more professional.

To get to this predefined backgrounds, you can tap on the three points and then go to "Show background effects".

At the rights side you will then see the predefined background pictures (about 24).

By click on one and then hit on "Apply" at the bottom, your background will be changed to the picture (sorry about the camera quality).

That's great isn't it? But what if you want your own or your company has some pictures with the corporate design?

Is it possible to use own background pictures?

Yes, it is possible and very easy to implement them (but not officially supported). Let me show you how and what you need to consider.

Where do they have to be saved?

The pictures need to be added tho the following directory on your computer (this can be done also by GPO [Group Policy Objects] by your Administrator).

On a Windows PC: %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads

On a Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads

What image size should they have to get the best possible quality?

I achieved in my tests the best result with the following image settings:

Image format: PNG

Image size (in DPI): 72dpi

image resolution: 1920 x 1080

You can find some Teams Background pictures on

Raise your hand

This feature allows you to show the organizer of the meeting that you want to speak. Of course in most meetings, speaking is encouraged but you may have joined as an attendee and your mic may have been muted or you may just be super polite and you don't want to interrupt a presenter when they are in full flow.

So in this meeting, Mike is a presenter and Adrian is an attendee, and Adrian wants to make a point so he moves his mouse over the meeting window and a hand icon labeled "raise your hand" is there in the meeting toolbar.

So he can press on the hand icon to show Mike that he wants to speak or interrupt and Mike will be alerted to this in a number of different ways.

So he'll see the hand icon in Adrian's video or photo on the meeting stage.

And he'll also see activity on the "show participants" button on the meeting toolbar - you can see that little red dot there.

And if he clicks on that and opens up the people pane on the rights hand side he'll also see the hand icon next to Adrian's name in the list of people in the meeting.

So Mike as the Organizer can unmute Adrian at a good time or just ask him to talk if he's not muted and he can also lower his hand anytime he likes as well.

And also Adrian can lower his hand by just pressing on the same button.

Manage Meeting Options

Until now you can only make these changes to a scheduled meeting before it started and there was no easy way to access the settings while the meeting was taking place. So if you chose "meet now" or turned a chat into a meeting then these settings weren't available at all, but now you can access the settings during the meeting.

You just go to the meeting toolbar and choose "show participants"...

...then that opens up the people pane on the right hand side, then you press the tick and the cross button in the top right hand corner.

That will open up a browser window and take you to a meeting options page and on that page you have these options.

"Who can bypass the lobby?"

The lobby is like a virtual waiting room in Teams and bypassing the lobby means that people can come straight into the meeting without having to wait to be admitted by the organizer or a presenter.

So you can choose to:

  • automatically admit everyone

  • just people in your organisation or in trusted organisations

  • just people in your organization

"Always let callers bypass the lobby"

This applies to people joining the meeting by phone and this setting is activated (so it can be changed) when you change the "Who can bypass the lobby" setting to something other than "Everyone".

It's useful to have this choice here, say if you are conducting interviews with more than one person and you'd want your caller to wait in the lobby until you were ready for them.

But if someone from your team is dialing in to a regular meeting from out on the road say, then you might want them to just come straight in.

"Announce when callers join or leave"

This is another setting for callers by phone, and it's an on/off setting.

So if you switch it on then you'll hear an announcement whenever a caller joins or leaves the meeting.

"Who can present?"

At the bottom you'll see this "Who can present" drop-down and the default setting is usually "Everyone".

This is useful if you want to turn everyone in the meeting from a presenter to an attendee. Because remember, presenters can share their screens and also mute and remove participants. So it's useful to stop people being muted or removed that you don't want to. You want to be in control of who does what.

You can drop that menu down and choose the people that you want to present.

The choices are:

  • Everyone - which is the default (that means everybody is a presenter)

  • People in your organisation - so guests will not be able to present in that situation

  • Specific people - name the people from your own organisation who you're going to allow to present

  • Only me - makes everyone else in the meeting an attendee

If you make a change on this page, be sure to choose the "Save" button at the bottom. Then you can return to Teams and the changes will have immediate effect.

Attendance Reports

This is useful if you want to see when attendees joined and left your meeting.

It's disabled by default and will need to be switched on by your administrator (find below how to do it).

Once it's been switched on, when you hit the "show participants" button in your meeting,you should see a downward pointing arrow icon at the top right hand corner of the people pane.

At the end of your meeting you can press this button and you can download a CSV file listing the attendee names with timestamps for when they joined and left.

You can only request this report during the meeting - so at the moment you can't go back in and get it later.

The file is then sent to the "Downloads" folder in Teams and once it's downloaded you go to the files app on the left-hand rail and choose downloads and then you can open the CSV file from there.

How to enable "Attendance Reports"

You need to have the Skype for Business Online PowerShell Module installed (you can download it here)

Run the following PowerShell to import the Skype for Business Online module:

Import-Module SkypeOnlineConnector

When the module has been imported, run the following command:

$SfBSession = New-CsOnlineSession -UserName <UPN of the Administrator ex.>

Enter your password when prompted. Click Sign in

MFA in this example is via SMS message. Enter the code, click Verify

Although a connection has been established to the Skype for Business Online, it's necessary to run the following command to download scripts, cmdlets, etc. to manage Skype for Business Online (and Teams)

Import-PSSession $SfBSession

To activate now the "Attendance Reports", run following command:

Set-CSTeamsMeetingPolicy -Identity Global -AllowEngagementReport "Enabled"

Don't forget to close the PowerShell session when you have finished. Closing the PowerShell windows will leave the remote connection to Skype for Business Online (and Teams) active for the next 15 minutes. It's good practice to end the session when you're done.

Remove-PSSession $SfBSession

That are the four tips for hosting good meetings. Thanks for reading and let me some comments.

#teams #microsoftteams #teamsmeetings #meetingtips #backgroundimages #teamsbackgrounds #meetingbackgrounds #raiseyourhand #raisehand #managemeetingoptoins #meetingoptions #attendancereports #reports

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