There’s currently a lot of excitement for the upcoming webinar functionality for Microsoft Teams meetings:
And so naturally this begs the question: what to use when (or which tool when, however you want to say it)?
We have already had this for some time with meetings in Microsoft Teams, as well as Live Events however this new functionality makes it even more important to understand.
What is the webinar functionality in Microsoft Teams?
In reality, the webinar functionality simply adds new capabilities to the existing Microsoft Teams meeting feature.
When in the calendar app you will now have an additional option to choose from on top of the existing meetings and live events:
When booking a webinar, there is literally no difference between pressing that option or the meeting option, other than in the webinar choice the requirement for registration is already enabled.
If you were to book a meeting, you can easily turn on the same functionality and turn it into a webinar.
Before diving into the ‘what to use when’ between a meeting, a “webinar”, and a live event, let’s be clear about what a webinar is.
Based on this description, this could be either a meeting or a live event.
Depending on the purpose of your webinar, you will want different features and capabilities. Some that exist in Microsoft Teams meetings, others that exist in live events.
The features that really make it a webinar
For those who currently run webinars using Microsoft Teams, regardless of whether you used a live event or a meeting – you still needed a registration page. Often people would turn to Eventbrite as it’s free and includes quite a variety of features, but having an integrated registration page built right into the platform takes away what is often an annoying part of the process. And because of this integration organisers will be able to download both the registration and attendee report from within the meeting itself.
So, if the upcoming event registration feature is not what makes a meeting a webinar, what are the features that turn a meeting into a webinar?
A number of new features slated for release in April and the following few months:
- Host up to 1,000 attendees in a meeting (currently limited to 300)
- Overflow attendees beyond the 1,000 limit join in view-only mode, up to 10,000 (currently 20,000 until end of 2021 due to COVID)
- Forms-powered polls in meetings will support guests
- Disable all attendee microphones (not just mute them, actually disable microphones), with the ability to enable/disable individually
- Disable all attendee cameras, with the ability to enable/disable individually
- Breakout room timers, room retention, and participant reassignment
- Configure breakout rooms before the meeting starts (currently can only be done once the meeting is under way)
- Ability to schedule and get reporting data from third-party apps
- Access to a dashboard that shows registration and attendance data (instead of having to download and compare reports)
- Show reactions to content as it happens (without having to use the chat)
- More accessible closed captions using external providers
- Allow participants to see (in real-time) if the problem with the meeting is on their end or somewhere else
- Ability to brand the lobby with your logo
- Improved listing of meeting participants
- Spotlight the video of up to 7 participants (currently limited to 1)
- Join the meeting by code (instead of requiring the full link)
- Prevent people joining the meeting after it has started
- Access apps in meetings (i.e. add more content than just slides, files, polls, chat, video)
- Reply to specific chat messages (you’ve been able to do this on mobile for a while, finally coming to desktop)
- Allow others to access organiser functionality such as the event dashboard & reports
- And a couple of other things that are not currently on the public roadmap
The option to disable chat for a meeting has been available from January, which enhances the organisers ability to control the conversation and attention of the attendees.
As you can see from the above list, with all these new features coming very soon – we can turn any meeting into a webinar-esque experience.
When should we use a meeting or a webinar?
This one is super simple: a webinar is a meeting. It is important for organisers to be deliberate in their selection of meeting options, whether scheduling a webinar or regular meeting. Choose how you want participants to engage – this is something you should already be doing. The new controls will provide more options for you, which will ultimately enhance the experience.
When should we use a meeting or a live event?
A live event is for broadcast purposes. It has no audience interaction capabilities beyond the Q&A functionality. It has none of the above-listed functionality, nor is it on the roadmap to get any of it.
A live event is a presentation of heavily curated content and strictly controlled. A meeting/webinar can be the same if you want it to be, but the choice is yours.
When I am asked this question, I tell clients not to think of a live event as a Microsoft Teams feature – because you can actually present them in Yammer and Stream. I explain that the integration point of Microsoft Teams and live events is simply to manage the content. I personally would love to see the branding change so there’s less confusion between live events in Microsoft Teams, Stream, and Yammer – because they’re technically all the same.
For those who are currently using Zoom, GoToWebinar or other purpose-built services for delivering webinars, they will always have some features that Microsoft Teams won’t. However, for many people they will have more than enough, and because of their integration into the rest of the Microsoft 365 platform using Microsoft Teams to deliver webinars will offer an easier, richer, and more secure experience.
And to recap for those who currently use competing products and are trying to convince their peers to use Microsoft Teams live events instead, ask them to wait a few weeks and try scheduling a meeting instead.
Also published on Medium.