Microsoft’s Teams app for work is about to get super powerful. At its Ignite conference today, the company announced a series of updates to its video chat tool to make it more useful and customizable. It also unveiled new speakers designed for teams with special features for transcriptions.
First, given that we’re clearly not going to be returning to large-scale in-person events anytime soon, Microsoft is making Teams a more powerful webinar platform. You can now accommodate up to a thousand participants per meeting, both inside and outside your organization. There will also be more tools like personalized registration, host controls to disable participant chat and video, as well as “rich presentation options”. You will also receive post-event reports to see how your webinar went.
If you need to reach even more people, Teams can switch to a read-only broadcast mode that will support up to 10,000 participants. By June 30, 2021, Microsoft is increasing that number to 20,000. It also integrates Dynamics 365 Marketing with Teams to make it easier to manage and review attendee information so you can better engage with them before, during, and after each. event.
The company is also launching Teams Connect, which will allow you to share channels with people outside your organization. In these shared workspaces, users can chat, meet and share documents, as well as collaborate on applications and co-author documents in real time. Teams Connect is available for private preview today, and Microsoft has said it “will be widely deployed later this calendar year.”
One of Microsoft’s most popular products is PowerPoint, and it’s getting better and better integrated into Teams. With the new PowerPoint Live, which is now available in Teams, presenters can advance their slides whenever they want, while viewers can go private or rewind at their own pace. Importantly, participants can also use the screen reader on their own to navigate the presentation at their own pace. Presenters will be able to see their content, notes, meeting participants, and chat on one screen.
Microsoft also wants to make it easier for you to see what you need in Teams. It adds a Presenter View allowing presenters to “customize the way their video feed and content appear to the audience.” There are three options here – Standout, Reporter, and Side by Side. Standout puts the speaker’s video feed in the foreground and center while Side-by-Side shows the presenter’s video alongside their slides. Finally, Reporter will display the content “as a visual aid over the speaker’s shoulder, like during a news segment.” This feature will launch with Standout mode this month, and Microsoft says Reporter and Side-by-side will be available soon.
If you can’t decide which mode to choose, you can also let Teams decide. Microsoft is officially introducing Dynamic View, which it kind of previewed in January. With this, the app will change and move speaker frames and windows as people talk, start presenting, or turn on their cameras. There’s also a new option to place the Attendee Gallery at the top of the meeting, closer to where your laptop’s webcam is located so you can “maintain a natural look,” Microsoft said. Dynamic View is coming later this month.
When we finally return to meetings in physical meeting rooms, teams will have new gallery views to make things easier to see. A new Ensemble mode and a large gallery will allow people to see everyone in a room. Additionally, if multiple screens are available or if people join the call remotely, they will all be able to see the same content.
Finally, in addition to all these updates to its software, Microsoft is also announcing new hardware. It unveiled new Teams smart speakers that look like previous Echo Dots with a pop-up control panel. Microsoft says its speakers can identify the voices of up to 10 people speaking in a Teams room for more precise attribution in meeting transcripts.
Video conferencing will clearly remain the primary way of working with our colleagues for a while, so it makes sense for Microsoft to continue to improve Teams. These integrations with Office apps and new tools could make Teams a more powerful service than competitors like Google’s Meet, Zoom, and Webex.