Guide to online meetings and live events

March 31, 2020

The fight against COVID-19 continues, and for many of us that means weeks or months of remote work ahead. From small stand-ups to convention-center-spanning conferences, meeting and event planners are scrambling to bring important work gatherings online. Earlier this month, I published an overview of our virtual teams and meetings capabilities to help our customers understand the available options. But many followed up to ask: “How do I choose the right virtual meeting platform for my particular meeting or event?” Also, because these capabilities typically support up to 10,000 attendees: “What do I do when I’m planning an event for 10,000-plus?

Here’s the short breakdown on the first question:

  1. Microsoft Teams meetings are great for bringing groups of people together to participate throughout. Think: staff meetings and brainstorms.
  2. Microsoft 365 live events, meanwhile, work best for “one-to-many” or “few-to-many” scenarios, like a keynote, a CEO town hall, or a moderated panel discussion.

To address that second customer question—the one about events larger than 10,000 attendees—I’m sharing an important announcement here: Through July 1, 2020, we will be temporarily enabling up to 100,000 attendees through the live events assistance program. Now, I’m sure you’ll want to hear more about both of these answers, so I’ll turn things over to Chris Pratley, Corporate Vice President of the Office Media Group at Microsoft, who has authored the below post with details on both. Over to you, Chris.

As organizations adapt to fewer in-person engagements, they’re taking their gatherings online. Here, I’d like to share simple guidance for online meetings and live events that will help you choose the best solution for your next online gathering.

Let’s begin by understanding the difference between online meetings and live events. While they might sound similar, there’s a key distinction. A meeting is the online equivalent of what happens in a conference room: people come together and everyone can participate, work together in real time, or brainstorm on a whiteboard. A live event is the online equivalent of what happens in an auditorium: one or a few people communicate to a large group, managing the full event experience and controlling the content that is shared. Attendees can watch the event, ask questions, and share in conversation with each other.

Let’s take a look.

Microsoft Teams meetings: communicate and collaborate together

Teams meetings enable interactive, collaborative meetings with people inside and outside your organization. Use Teams meetings for day-to-day activities including recurring project checkpoints, catch-ups with colleagues, conversations with customers, and brainstorming sessions. Companies and schools also use Teams meetings to support remote learning and training with both internal and external audiences.

Key features

  • Invite people from inside or outside the organization (up to 250 participants).
  • Talk with video and chat, and collaborate in real time.
  • Designate presenters and attendees and control your more formal meetings and classes.
  • Catch up on missed meetings with a video recording and searchable transcript.
  • Join the meeting from any browser or using the Teams app on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.
  • Join via phone number using audio conferencing when internet connectivity is poor.

Teams meetings work for you before, during, and after the meeting:

  • Before: Successful meetings require preparation: sharing agendas and setting context before people gather. Every Teams meeting has its own conversation. Participants can chat with each other and share content prior to the meeting. That conversation and content can be brought directly into the meeting.
  • During: Once the meeting begins, people can use a variety of features that help focus attention, drive engagement, and foster inclusion. These include high-fidelity audio and video, live captions, screen sharing, real-time collaboration on documents including coauthoring with Office 365 apps, and a digital whiteboard. Teams meetings can remove distractions by suppressing background noise, and allow participants to blur or customize their video background to preserve privacy (coming soon). Teams meetings also help you see physical whiteboards, even when people are standing in front of them.
  • After: After the meeting, all of the meeting’s assets are preserved in the meeting conversation, so participants can review, continue the discussion, and drive the work forward. You can come back to the meeting to find the searchable recording, chat, meeting notesdigital whiteboard, and shared files. Nothing gets lost in the cracks.

New to setting up meetings in Teams? Here are some helpful suggestions on how to use Teams meetings and take advantage of the integrated collaboration experience in Microsoft Teams.

Live events: reach and engage with your audience

Microsoft 365 live events enable you to deliver an immersive video broadcast to larger audiences with an interactive conversation, questions, and answers.

Key features include:

  • Up to 10,000 people* from inside and outside the organization can join the live broadcast, or connect your event to internet streaming or television broadcasts for unlimited reach.
  • Distinct roles empower producers, presenters, and attendees.
  • The production can be as simple or as customized as needed: from presenters sharing webcams and screens to a studio-quality production.
  • Host live events in Teams or Yammer, or create a customized event experience to support the largest-scale broadcasts.
  • Events are recorded and automatically transcribed, so you can search the recording for specific content.

*To help support our customers, through July 1, 2020, we are temporarily enabling larger private and public events through our live events assistance program. Up to 100,000 people from inside or outside your organization can watch the live broadcast through a custom-produced live event. Learn more.

Consider three common scenarios for live events:

  • An online event for a team, customers, partners, or the public: Enable attendees from inside and outside the organization to join a live event where presenters share webcams and screens. Moderated question-and-answer (Q&A) enables attendees to ask questions that the producers and presenters can then select to answer, via text or as part of the event itself. Learn more about creating an online event for a team, customers, partners or the public.
  • A company-wide event: Bring people together from across teams and across the organization for a “town hall” style meeting with open discussion and Q&A. Conversations can begin before the event, to solicit questions and spark engagement around your topics. Produce a broadcast—from simple to sophisticated—that reaches remote employees and share the recording for those who couldn’t attend in real time. Continue to foster sustained engagement between leaders and employees within the online community. Learn more about creating a company-wide event.
  • A custom experience for a large-scale live event or announcement: Host your broadcast on any web page for an experience customized to your organization, customers, or community. Attendees can also catch up from the beginning if they join late or view the on-demand recording later. Learn more about creating a custom experience for a live event or announcement.

Microsoft 365 live events empower you to deliver a wide range of broadcast scenarios. To get started:

  1. Read our guide to getting started with Microsoft 365 live events.
  2. Ensure a successful event by using the Microsoft live events assistance program to answer questions you might have, help you with setup, and assist with troubleshooting if necessary.