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· 7 min read
D Balaji

dhbalaji teams window

As a lead engineer on the enterprise design language team, I am responsible for evangelizing the work that we do as part of React components and EDL. We have strategic touch points through which we keep in touch with the developers who consume our library. They are

  1. Newsletters through email
  2. Broadcast on monitors across the office or even the display on the coffee machine
  3. MS teams meetings
    1. Training sessions through MS teams meetings
    2. Internal talks for niche audiences again through MS teams meetings
    3. Open office hours for actual developers through MS teams meetings
    4. Highlighting the EDL and its significance to the managers and above through MS teams meetings
    5. Syncing up the designers about the component variants and their usage
    6. Consulting with product teams when they need professional support

At least 60% of our activities outside of the code editor rely on the MS teams. To be successful at MS teams meetings, here are a few tips which I have learned from experience.

Here are the tips

  1. Schedule the meeting at an accessible & convenient time.
  2. Give presenter access to a select few on MS teams, the rest are the audience.
  3. Use the apps & tools in MS teams to boost interactivity and empower the introverted audience.
  4. Use a raised hand to unmute the audience to avoid distractions during meetings.
  5. Have a meeting plan in detail. This includes
    1. Pre-meeting plan
    2. Actual meeting plan
    3. Post-meeting follow-up plan

Tip #1: Schedule the meeting at an accessible & convenient time.

If you are leading with power, then you need not worry about the timing of the meeting. A Friday evening call would work fine but as a lead engineer on a little-known team, your options are limited. Here are things that I look for before scheduling a meeting across the org.

  1. Find out the other events falling on the same day at the organization level and avoid overlapping times or avoid the day. It could be
    1. Town halls for verticals
    2. HR events
    3. Employee engagements
    4. Standup meetings
    5. Coffee time and lunch breaks
  2. Find out if there is a holiday either on the before day or on the next day. People would be in a hurry to get work done from the previous day or leave for the holiday the following day.
  3. Find out if the presenters or organizing committee members are available for the day.

Once the hurdles are identified and inventory is prepared. We have to intimate the team which sends mass emails to the audience.

Tip #2: Give presenter access to a select few and the rest are audience on MS teams.

I have been in multiple meetings where the audience join the meeting with their mic and camera turned on. What a condescending distraction that could be. The cure to this problem is to know your controls on MS teams. I am sure, not everyone in the larger crowd shall be presenters or even willing to do so. Here is what we need to do

  1. While you schedule meetings, go to meeting options and preselect the presenters to organizers. The rest of them are audience by default.
  2. For the audience, the default settings are microphone muted, and camera disabled.

This would reduce the risk of someone joining with the camera or mic on.

Tip #3: Use the apps & tools in MS teams

There are a plethora of apps on MS teams but my favorite is the polls app. You have a bunch of options within polls that would enable you to conduct

  1. polls
  2. anonymous polls
  3. quiz
  4. word cloud

My next favorite is not an app but a setting on meeting options. Checking Q&A would enable you to show the question and answers tab. You can allow the audience to ask questions

  1. Ask questions anonymously
  2. Ask questions
  3. Ask questions but allow questions that go through moderation.

Moderation is a tricky tool. If there is a moderation delay, then the audience asking questions could be disappointed. You can allow/disallow the audience to react to the question. That would act like feedback to the questions.

Tip #4: Use the raise hand feature to interact with the audience

If more than one person is talking on the microphone at the same time. It could be a race-around condition and such things are to be avoided in a professional meeting. It's better to ask the audience to raise hands through teams and then we can ask a moderator to allow their microphone.

If a person is spamming with raised hands, we can put their hand down as well. Here is the workflow.

  1. Allow the audience to enter the meeting as attendees
  2. If an attendee wants to ask a question to the presenter, ask them to raise their hand on the teams
  3. Once a raised hand is spotted, the moderator can unmute their microphone for interaction
  4. If an attendee wants to present/share their screen, we can ask the moderator to promote them as presenters.
  5. Once the attendee has finished his interaction, the moderator needs to do some cleanup activity like disabling the microphone or revoking his presenter access.

Tip #5: Have a meeting plan

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Use your brain to avoid the pain

A bad plan is better than no plan

What wonderful quotes they are, I adore them. I wish I could write them on the office wall. But here is the summary of a bad plan. The meeting starts late and attendees are left in silence for a decent amount of time. When they are about to drop out, they are given some content with no key takeaways or context. The worst part is a bad meeting running late even after the end time.

But here is what you can do to avoid the shame of a bad meeting. Have a

  1. Pre-meeting plan
  2. meeting plan
  3. Post-meeting plan

Pre-meeting plan

The key parts of the pre-meeting plan are

  1. Identify the right date and time for the meeting
  2. Identify the topics of discussion
  3. Identify presenters and moderators
  4. Prepare an introduction for the panel or guests
  5. Plan for contingencies like power cuts or bad networks

Meeting plan

  1. Identify sections of the meeting along with the time
  2. Have games to play with the attendees to break the monotony
  3. Have preset questions to discuss in the Q&A part
  4. Prepare a closing speech
  5. Share notes and key takeaways

Post meeting plan

  1. Send the attendees detailed minutes of the meeting
  2. Send the attendees the solutions to unanswered questions after your research
  3. Ensure the attendees remember your brand/product
  4. Ask the attendees to join the appropriate team's channel
  5. Ask them for feedback and reward them

Summary

Running successful meetings can be hard. It's even harder when your audience never expected or does not have a pain that you can solve. My mantra is

Keep your attendee expectations low but keep your content quality high

Take away for you

  1. If you do a good job, there is a possibility of a repeat audience attending future meetings.
  2. MS team is a tool, as a meeting organizer, you are expected to know the tool in detail.
  3. Have a co-organizer moderate the meeting or contingency.
  4. Use the right mix of apps, content, and features to bring in interactivity.
  5. More than the tool/MS teams it's your energy, passion, and content that matters the most.