As the organizer of the MS Excel Toronto Meetup group, I wanted to find a tool that would allow us to continue to host the meetup sessions online after the Covid-19 outbreak. The requirements for the tool were the following: to allow me to run a webinar-type session with one or more presenters and someone else helping to manage the attendees’ questions. I searched and inquired around and received a wide variety of tips from which two tools stood out: Microsoft Teams (Teams) and Zoom.

Zoom seems quite easy to use and has been trendy for the past few months until major security issues with this tool became known. After that, I am definitely not interested in considering Zoom anymore, but even before that, it would have implied a paid version to get the features to fit my event online requirements. I realized that if I already had Teams included on my Office 365 plan, then I would be better off taking advantage of that fact and all the other possibilities that Teams offer and that I was not using.

I set myself on a mission of discovering the options available with Teams to set up an online event. I set myself on a mission of discovering the options available with Teams to set up an online event. I am not an expert on Office 365 plans, and I had not used Teams until now. I thought that moving the meetup events to Teams would be a straightforward process, but it ended up becoming much more challenging than expected. And this already explains why Zoom has gained so much popularity. Not everyone would have had the same patience I did to navigate through Microsoft Teams’ puzzle of plans and ways of dealing with each functionality according to the Office 365 subscription in use. Still, I insisted on continuing my discovery journey, mostly because I did not expect it to be so complicated as it ended up being. In this article, I am sharing what I have learned.

For those walking the same path as me, my advice is for you to study all the information below. You may find that you need to set aside more time than expected to be able to deal with the technical aspects until all is finally ready for you to use Teams.

Options available on Microsoft Teams to host an online event

To set a scheduled online event on Teams, I am considering two options: Meeting or Live Event. If you are in the same quest as I was, the first question you need to answer is: Do you have an Office 365 license that is not a Home or Personal subscription? If your answer is not “Yes,” then Teams is not an option for you as an event host, unless you are ready to acquire a suitable Office 365 subscription. But if you check the price of each tool, you might find to be a better deal for you to switch to an Office 365 Business subscription than acquiring a Zoom license. As of today, a license of Office 365 Business Premium costs CAD 16.00 per user per month, and a Zoom Pro license costs CAD 20.00 per host per month. And Zoom is only Zoom… whilst Microsoft 365 Business Premium is Teams, Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Exchange, OneDrive, and SharePoint, besides many other things. Not to mention that a meeting on Teams holds up to 250 attendees, and a meeting on Zoom only accepts 100 people.

I think these are enough reasons to consider Microsoft Teams and move to a proper Office 365 license if you have to.

Before going into the requirements to be the host of a Meeting or Live Event on Teams, please know that anyone can join a Live Event or a meeting as a participant, without even having an Office 365 account.

To have access to the functionalities on Teams that allow you to schedule a Meeting or a Live Event, you need an Office 365 account with the appropriate Office 365 license plan. Otherwise, you can use Microsoft Teams Free with any other Office 365 account, but it does not give you access to set scheduled Meetings or Live Events. If you have an Office 365 Home or Personal subscription, only Microsoft Teams free is available for you.

I know it sounds complicated. And it is! Microsoft sure does have much room for improvements in Teams when it comes to making things easier for the user. I created a diagram that I hope helps you to understand what your options are as a host of an online event (Meeting or Live Event) on Teams. Further below, I help you with the more technical questions. Keep in mind that any changes that you need to make on your Microsoft 365 admin center may take several hours to become effective and available to you on Teams.

How to make Microsoft Teams a viable option to host online events

More Information:

Office 365 licensing for Microsoft Teams
Differences between Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Teams free
How do I get access to Microsoft Teams?
Join a meeting without a Teams account
Attend a live event in Teams

Meeting vs Live Event

If you have a Home or Personal Office 365 subscription, you only have access to Microsoft Teams Free that offers many cool features, but not the ability to schedule meetings and live events.

To access the app with scheduled meetings and live events features, you need one of the following Office 365 license plans: Business Essentials, Business Premium, Enterprise E1, E3, or E5, Enterprise E4 (for anyone who purchased this plan before its retirement.)

To be able to Schedule live events on Teams, you need to have one of the following Office 365 license types: Office 365 Enterprise E1, E3, or E5 or Office 365 A3 or A5.

More Information:

How do I get access to Microsoft Teams?
Plan for live events in Microsoft Teams

 

The main differences between the two features are the number of participants and the way that participants can interact during the event. A Teams Meeting holds up to 250 participants, and everyone can have the capability of turning their microphone on and share their screen. The Live Event holds up to 10,000 participants, but the only option for attendees to communicate with who is presenting is by typing their questions or comments into the Q&A pane if the organizer sets the event to have Q&A. In summary, the Meeting considers that everyone attending is there to participate and speak if they want to; the Live Event works more like a webinar or a lecture, where one or more people are presenting, and the attendees are not to interrupt the speakers.

However, the number of participants and the ability to communicate offered to the participants are not the only two factors limiting your choices as the event organizer when choosing which setting to choose for your online event. When running a Live Event, you need to consider that if you are bringing in guests from outside your organization to present or help you with managing the Q&A pane, you need to be able to add them to your tenant as guest users (I talk about this further down.)

 MeetingOnline Event
Maximum Number of Participants25010,000
Maximum durationExpires 60 days after starting4 hours
RolesOrganizer

Participants

Organizer

Producer

Presenter

Participants

Features available to participantsMic control

Screen Sharing

Q&A
Can be recordedYesYes
Other notesDelay of about 20 seconds between the moment the presenter speaks and the moment the participants hear it.

 

More Information:

Limits and specifications for Microsoft Teams
Meetings and calls

 

How to set up a Meeting on Teams

On Teams app go to Calendar on the left pane

Click anywhere on the calendar area or click the button New Meeting at the top right corner and choose Schedule Meeting.

You can also schedule the meeting directly from Outlook, in which case you have the ability to attach files to the meeting invitation. When scheduling, use the button Teams Meeting to have Outlook generating the access link to the meeting.

Add a title for the meeting, enter the email addresses of those you want to invite, set up the starting and ending date and time and any other details you need. Click Save.

You need to enter at least one email address (it can be only your email address) so that Teams generates a link to access the meeting in the body of the meeting invitation.

After saving the meeting, open it again. You can see the generated link for the meeting. You can right-click on Join Microsoft Teams Meeting, choose Copy Link, and then you can paste it wherever you want to share the access to the meeting with participants.

If you do not change any other settings, anyone entering the meeting has their microphones turned on by default, which can be disruptive when people join late through the meeting. To avoid this, I suggest you changing the meeting options so that participants enter the meeting as attendees by default, meaning they enter the meeting with their microphones muted. The attendees can share video and participate in the session chat area. You can change the role of any participant from Attendee to Presenter. Both the Organizer and the Presenters can share content and modify other users’ roles.

To change the meeting settings, click the link Meeting Options in the meeting invitation. Teams takes you to a web page where you can define who can enter the meeting immediately or wait at the lobby for the Organizer or a Presenter to let them in. More importantly, this is where you get to define who is assigned a Presenter role. Only those with this role can speak to the meeting participants and share content. I find this last setting is crucial to run the online event without unnecessary interruptions. If you choose that everyone can present, all the participants enter the meeting unmuted by default.

More information here:

Change participant settings for a Teams meetings
Roles in a Teams Meeting

 

How to set up a Live Event

Setting up a Live Event is reasonably simple and straight forward if all the people you want behind the scenes are only you, or only people from your organization, or federated organizations. (I am mentioning this, but I am not going to explain what it means at this point.)
The people behind the scenes besides you are the Presenters and the Producers, and I describe these roles below. If you need to bring people to these roles who are not in the same tenant as you (rule of thumb: their email does not have your company’s domain at the end,) then you need to add them to your tenant. I explain how you can do this in the section How to add your Live Event presenters and Producers as Users of Your Tenant.

On Teams app go to Calendar on the left pane

Then, on the top right corner select New Meeting > Live Event.

 

On the left side of the new dialog box fill in the Title of the session, location, start and end date and time and a description.

On the right side of the new dialogue box, fill the address of each person that you want or invite as presenter or event coordinator (type in and then click below.)

After the name of the guest is added to the list below the organizer, you can define the role for that person:

  • Producer – if this person is going to control what shows on the screen, deciding which pieces of content and video from the ones available are shown at each moment.
  • Presenter – if this person is going to talk to the audience and/or present content.

Both Producers and Presenters can interact with the participants throughout the Q&A panels.

You can also change your role.

Click Next on the bottom right side corner.

On the next dialogue box, make sure you scroll down to go through all the settings available.

Choose the Live Event permissions according to your preference.

If you want your event to be available for Public Access and that option shows grey/disabled, see the section below about How to enable Public Live Events in Microsoft Teams for selected users.

Set “How will you produce your live event?” as per your preference.

I recommend putting a checkmark at least on the following options:

  • Recording available to producers and presenters – a few hours after the event, a video recording file becomes available for you to download.
  • Attendee engagement report – a few hours after the event a CSV file becomes available for you to download, reporting who attended and some details about the type of activity of each user during the event.
  • Q&A – if you want to give attendees the possibility of interacting with the event producers through chat, you need to activate this option; otherwise, the participants cannot communicate with the event producers and. After the event, a CSV file becomes available for download with all the conversation posted on the Q&A panel.

When a participant posts a question in the Q&A section, the producer has the opportunity of responding to that question publicly for all the attendees to see, or just privately, where only the person posting the question sees the answer.

Click Schedule.

The option “Recording available to attendees” is also useful. It makes the recording becoming available to the attendees after the event is over.

The Captions option, showing disabled in the picture, can easily be enabled, and with that, you can make your event accessible to more people and more inclusive. See how to activate this option on the section How to enable Live Captioning on Teams. With this option enabled, you will be able to choose up to six languages for the live captioning during the event. Each user can activate and deactivate the captions on their end as they want.

On the next dialogue box, click Get attendee link – to copy the link that you need to send to the event attendees or where you advertise the event.

An important suggestion is not to publish the link you get from Teams directly. Instead, use a URL shortener like https://bitly.com/ so that you can make changes to the main link (for example, if you edit the event scheduling details) without having to resend or repost the link to the attendees.

Then, you can either click Close to leave the event window and come back when you are ready to start or click Join to join the event pre-live window immediately.

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