Microsoft Teams – 10 tips to start 2021!

At any one time I am usually engaging with multiple organisations across their Microsoft 365 journey, delivering Change Management Strategy, and at times putting on the trainer hat to help drive knowledge and adoption. Here are some key things I found recently many people do not know and ask about. Enjoy!

Removing the lobby from your meetings
Depending on your organisation wide IT setup, the default setting for your meetings can be for them to always have a lobby for participants to be held in until given access. It can be annoying at times to all be stuck in a lobby when it’s an informal internal meeting. Often staff are just waiting for the person who booked, or ‘owns’, the meeting invite. It is really important to extend staff knowledge beyond the basics of booking and joining meetings to the deeper options and controls.
Meeting options of removing the lobby, or having it exist only for external stakeholders, along with who can present or mute, are so valuable and handy for everyone to get across. I run a Mastering Meetings session to take people deeper for this reason. In any organisation, if we lift the bar of skills across all staff then organisation wide meetings are much more effective.

Saving a post to read later
I used to rely on going into the activity feed in Microsoft Teams and right click to mark an item as ‘unread’ so I would remember to go back later. At some point last year though I became much more fond of saving posts. Again, it is something either not addressed in training or not a priority for people to absorb (understandably!) and that small bite of knowledge gets lost.
The need to keep across information is increasing. We are inundated with chat messages, emails, posts in a channel etc so use the ‘save’ on a post to create your list of reading for later in your day when you have the time to focus and absorb.
To do this, hover on the post and select ‘save this message’.

When you are ready to review your saved messages, head to the top right of your Microsoft Teams app, click on your profile and head to ‘saved’.

Shutting out the world to focus on work
As I mentioned above, we have a lot of alerts and interruptions throughout the day. During 2020 I did some deeper dive work with business leaders and many asked “how do I stop all the noise!”.
The rate of change last year was amazing, but it was fast and shallow. There is a lot of work needed now to help people extend their knowledge and skills to drive value rather than how they took on what was urgent to cope and enable remote working.
Within this chaos was a lack of transforming ways of working. Often with a Microsoft Teams implementation over time you can see reduction in email as work shifts and changes. But right now many are finding email is still busy, and on top of that now are chat messages, posts and all kinds of alerts across Windows 10, Microsoft Teams and Outlook that many people don’t know how to take charge of. A quick solution in Microsoft Teams is to ensure staff know how to use ‘Do Not Disturb’ or even ‘Appear Away’ to get shut out the world to focus on their work for a bit. To extend on this, go to the Settings in the Teams app and adjust the notifications to reduce alerts and control how it will interrupt your day.

Muting or exiting the chat of a meeting you didn’t attend
Another way our day is interrupted is when you don’t attend a meeting and the chat lights up in your Microsoft Teams app.
Maybe you skip a meeting because you have an urgent deadline, and then the chat keeps alerting you. This can be super annoying especially if people don’t know how to silence it.
For this situation, hover on the chat, click and either mute, hide or leave.
Why would you just mute? Remember you might want to go back into the thread later to see any information, updates and also to access the recording.
Also, keep in mind if you ‘leave’ it will post in the thread you chose to exit which for some sessions may give a negative impression. So choose the best option for your meeting .

Setup your secondary ringer so you don’t miss calls
This is an old but valuable tip. It goes way back to my Skype for Business launch days. Often, when floor walking and supporting users through a go live either in the previous Skype work, and also now when staff move to Teams, there can be complain and confusion that people don’t hear their calls ringing.
You may not have noticed, but most likely when you receive a call in Microsoft Teams it rings in your headset. Take off your headset to get a coffee in your kitchen, or move around the open plan office for whatever reason and you don’t hear an incoming call.
Head to the Microsoft Teams ‘settings’ and to the ‘calls’ tab. Mid-way down in this area you will see ‘secondary ringer’. Here you are setting up a second ring through your speakers. The call will remain as normal through your headset, but you are setting just the incoming ring to be much more audible. If you are working remotely, perhaps with a spouse nearby, consider if this ring will irritate a person working close by and might not be suitable!

Pop-out chat
Such a quick think to do but packs a punch.
Want to keep a chat with a specific person easy to access and in front of you while you are in other areas of the Teams app, just pop it out.
In the Chat area of the app, click on the 3 dots next to a chat thread with a colleague and select ‘pop out chat’. Easy!

Setting quiet hours on your mobile device
People often forget that the Microsoft Teams app may be active on their mobile and then receive alerts that interrupt their time when off-work. I have a few times been woken up around 6am because a colleague is up early doing work and assumes I will reply when I am in work mode, probably assuming my phone is in DND.
It can feel like when we close or shut down out computer we are finished with work for hte day, but often Microsoft Teams is still active on your mobile and messages or alerts can interrupt your evening, or even sleep!
Go into the app on your mobile, select the button below to turn on ‘quiet hours’ and then set your time slot. Mine is about 6pm to 7am. Think about when you want the app to be quiet, and also set quiet days if you work part-time or even just the weekend. Don’t let work interrupt your life if not required.

 Reply with a meeting
This feature I think is under-utilised and could save back and forth at times.
Think about the emails you get that are steps in communication that could be reduced. Even the odd email that just says ‘thanks’.
Something I picked up from a Cal Newport book last year which was along the lines of replying to advance things and be effective rather than replying for the sake of it. His words may be to that effect or similar, but a key thing I took was instaed of replying with something like “are you free this week to discuss?”, or “would you like to catchup to review”, be more bold and just book something in by replying with a meeting and the person/ people can request a shift if need be. Safe some time.
What is the ‘how’ for this?
Have a look at the quick video to see how in Outlook you can easily reply with a meeting in response to email.


Working more easily across multiple tenants
Are you a guest in a Team for another organisation?
This is becoming more common. It is not something I would have suggested training on a year ago as I wasn’t seeing a need for people to understand the concept of tenant switching, working as a guest as many organisations were not ready for this detail yet. Now that 2020 drove so many organisations further into their use of Microsoft Teams, there has been a massive increase in collaboration across organisations. Many people are becoming comfortable with being a guest and switching to another environment as part of a project or to communicate.
If you have switched tenants, one thing you may have noticed is you are then no active in your organisation. Some people have had the odd slip up where, mid call or meeting, they have tenant switched to check something and disconnected from the call. They didn’t realise by tenant switching they are disconnecting from the work platform. It is something I have been asked a lot lately.
So a simple way to get people more comfortable with working across multiple tenants – keep the full client, or fully installed Microsoft Teams App always in their home tenant, or organisation platform. Then, log in to and open Microsoft Teams in the browser and tenant switch here back and forth as much as they like while still remaining in the company platform, on calls and remaining active.

Exiting a tenant when you no longer need to be a guest
As I mentioned earlier, there is an increase now in the number of staff who are ‘guests’ in other tenants. This works really well, but when the project or engagement is over, most organisations don’t have an ‘off-boarding’ process at times to remove you from that Team and tenant. I personally had about 15 tenants in my drop-down recently and was frustrated with the number of options. Just my inner control-freak I guess! Actually, it also was annoying because I would get notifications, go in and find the alerts are no longer relevant and wasted my time.
I wont dive into the instructions on how to exit a tenant, but will place the link here to the fabulous instructions I followed from Matt Wade to help remedy the situation. I find it much nicer to just have the 4 tenants in my drop-down rather than unnecessary access.

Follow the steps and keep in mind it might take time for this to activate – you’ll still see them for a period and it will eventually update and be finalised.

Enjoy these tips and more to come as I engage across organisations and share how I support people through their technology journey.

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