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Written: 31/10/2021 | Updated: N/A

It was back at the fall edition of Ignite 2020 when I remember watching this particular breakout session on large meetings. And in that session it was hinted that Microsoft Teams Meetings and Live Events were going to merge at some point in the future. In fact, I was so excited about this that at the time I actually screenshotted it and threw it up on Twitter. Doing an advanced search this evening it’s right here and honestly I was kinda surprised that I didn’t hear more about it. The session was DB138: Scale and Customize Virtual Meetings and Events with Microsoft Teams. Now, I am of the personal opinion that even though today they are separate it makes a ton of sense to merge them at some point. Why? Because having one type of event which you can skin exactly how you want it to be is far simpler than two with two different ways of setting them up, two different sets of functionality and having to repeatedly explain the difference in terms of the event experience to users. Whether its many to many, one to many, few to many, big or small, a single event based upon a combination of event options, functionalities and apps would make life simpler. Let’s think about the the recent webinar functionality – webinars are simply a registration form over a standard meeting where the registration data is held in the Lists app and meeting options are configured in such a way to facilitate the format of the event. Hard mute is auto applied. The presenters set in the webinar setup define the presenter and attendee roles. But under the hood it’s still just a Teams Meeting right? Could we reach that point with a Teams Meeting and Live Event? As mentioned, hard mute dropped late in 2020 and we now have hard mute for video in addition to audio. We also have the ability to turn off chat and reactions in the meeting options both of which came out this year. Therefore, today the audience cannot should we wish interact with the presenters. What’s the other defining feature of a Live Event? That’s right. Q&A. When I think about it, Q&A has really been the backbone of the Live Event: questions raised and answers given by a moderator as the speaker is doing their talk

Well, now the Q&A app is in public preview – Ring 3.6. Barring the size of the event, maybe we can actually approximate a Live Event already. Given that we can spotlight speakers, we have recording and we have both dynamic mode and presenter modes like side by side, maybe the merger of Microsoft Teams Meetings and Live Events isn’t as far away as we would think

This blog will cover

  • Setting up Q&A for a meeting
  • Setting up Meeting Roles
  • Unmoderated Q&A
  • Moderated Q&A
  • Approximating Live Events
  • Getting more for your Business Licences and FAQ

Note this blog will have some abridged steps which will assume some experience with a Microsoft 365 environment

Prerequisites

  • Microsoft 365 Licence which includes Teams and Yammer enabled
  • At the time of writing, Public Preview Enabled in the Teams Admin Centre and assigned to the user creating the meeting

SETTING UP Q&A FOR A MEETING

1.) In the Teams Client select the Calendar App from the left App Rail

2.) Select New Meeting or click on a time slot in the calendar

3.) Add all the meeting information as usual (E.g., attendees, time) and then select Send

4.) Double click on the meeting once it is setup to open it

5.) Select + (Add)

6.) Search for an select Q&A

7.) Select Add

8.) Set how you want the Q&A experience to be including

  • Allowing attendees to ask questions
  • Allowing attendees to respond to conversations
  • Whether Q&A is managed or not (this cannot be turned off once turned on)

The third option is important as this will determine whether Q&A is unmanaged or managed but all define the Q&A experience

Once done select Save

9.) Q&A is now set up and ready to go. The Q&A session settings can be changed and questions or discussions can even be launched before the meeting which provides the opportunity for pre-canned questions and conversations leading into the meeting. Joining the meeting the Q&A app should show up on the control bar. The screenshot below shows unmanaged Q&A with attendees permitted to ask questions and respond to conversations

SETTING UP MEETING ROLES FOR MANAGED Q&A

In an unmoderated Q&A, anybody can answer questions assuming the box has been checked when setting it up. If not, only the meeting Organiser and those with the Presenter role can answer questions. Similarly, in a moderated Q&A attendee questions can only be answered and moderated by the Organiser or users with the Presenter role. Therefore, when you have setup Q&A remember to set rhe presenter and attendee roles via the meeting options via the meeting booking, in the meeting or via Outlook

UNMODERATED Q&A

Unmoderated Q&A is set in the setup where Allow organisers to moderatre attendee conversations is unchecked

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It allows all attendee questions to be immediately posted to the Q&A feed and answered by the meeting organiser, attendees with the presenter roles, and other attendees (Screenshot 1). This is ideal for events such as a training session with multiple SME’s to support

In terms of the attendee experience this is solely dependent on the Q&A options when it is setup. If allowed to post questions and respond to conversations they will have full experience. When responding to conversations is off they cannot respond to questions or discussions. When posting is off all they cannot post a question. When both is off they can still use emojis if they are enabled (Screenshot 2)

Q&A can be accessed through the app tab within the meeting booking and followed (Screenshot3)

MODERATED Q&A

Moderated Q&A is set in the setup where Allow organisers to moderate attendee conversations is checked. Whilst it cannot be turned off, there is still the ability to modify whether attendees can post questions or respond to conversations

In the moderated experience – which is the default experience for Live Events, attendee questions are not immediately posted to the Q&A feed and go into review. From an attendee experience they do not appear immediately (Screenshot 1) They are reviewed by the meeting organiser or someone with the presenter role (Screenshot 2) who decide whether to publish to approve. This example will select approve (Screenshot 3). Attendees can now respond to the conversation should this setting be enabled in the Q&A app on setup

The organiser or the presenter can also start conversations or add questions which are immediately published

APPROXIMATING A LIVE EVENT

So given this new functionality, can we approximate a Live Event? I personally think so.

1.) Set up the meeting as normal. Even call it Live Event if you want to. In this Scenario, Megan Bowen is going to be the moderator for this Live Event

2.) Add Moderated Q&A

3.) Set up the Meeting Options as follows

  • Lobby: Invite
  • Bypass: Off
  • Announce: Off
  • Who can present: Specific People
  • Presenters: Megan Bowen (The moderator)
  • Allow Mic: Off
  • Allow Video: Off
  • Record Automatically: Your choice
  • Allow Meeting Chat: Disabled
  • Allow Meeting Reaction: Off, but optional (this will also determine Raise Hand)

This should set things up how I want. Presenter and Attendee Roles are set. Attendees cannot interact and only Megan can control the moderated Q&A.

4.) This is what it looks like for a Presenter using PowerPoint Live

5.) Here is the view for an attendee on the web experience (Screenshot 1) and in the desktop experience (Screenshot 2).

We can approximate the Live Meeting.

  • Attendees cannot speak
  • Attendees cannot show their video.
  • Attendees cannot chat.
  • Attendees can interact with the Q&A.
  • The organiser and presenters can review, publish or reject questions.
  • The presenter who is helping the organiser can spotlight the speaker
  • You can move between multiple presenters and multiple spotlights
  • The presenter can end the meeting for everyone
  • The organiser can set to start recording at the start or organiser and presenter record during

There are some limitations

  • Microsoft Teams Meetings still have limits and cannot scale to Live Events
  • Raise Hand cannot be disabled currently
  • You can see others via the people roster which cannot be hidden or anonymized for attendees currently

Yet whilst there are some limitations, it isn’t too far away. Now with the webinar functionality we could even market it as a Live event and get sign ups online. Perhaps we’ll see something in the way of broadcasting in the future too

GETTING MORE FOR YOUR BUSINESS LICENCE AND FAQ

This configuration is able to be done on Microsoft 365 Business licensing which means if you run live events below the limits – and most I know do by a considerable number, it could be an effective way to mock a Live event without having to invest in enterprise licences.

In terms of some FAQ

Can the Q&A app be disabled?

Yes, in the Teams Admin Centre. It can be disabled via Manage Apps or restricted via an App Permission Policy

How to export Q&A content?

Q&A content is currently stored in the Microsoft 365 compliance center and accessed through eDiscovery. Future iterations will include a meeting highlights report and export functionality for meeting organizers. 

Where is the data stored?

Q&A Data will be stored in North America or EU by default (depending on the customer’s Yammer network location). It doesn’t currently support multi-geo

How to enable Q&A for all meetings and webinars? What about recurring meetings?

Currently, the Q&A app must be added to each meeting by the meeting organizer. Future iterations will include the ability of adding Q&A at meeting creation in Outlook and Teams and meeting delegate support. Currently the Q&A app supports one Q&A feed for all recurring meetings. Future iterations will include the ability for organizers to create new Q&A feeds for each recurring meeting. 

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