Invite anyone into a Microsoft Teams meeting. No really. Anyone.

Invite anyone into a Microsoft Teams meeting.jpg

While joining the #CloudCoworking experiment this week in @LoryanStrant's tenant, I noticed a new icon in the Microsoft Teams meeting. I had opened up the participants pane to see who was online in the team that I could invite to join me in the call. At the top beside the search box was a link icon. Hovering over the icon, the alt text read "Copy Join Info." It looks like we have a way to invite anonymous meeting participants now. I tested it with @OwenAllen while in the Cloud Co-working space.


This link means that anyone who uses it can join the meeting. They will have a limited experience of the meeting as we will see later in this post. But a link that allows anyone to join, opens up a few possibilities. 

  1. A meeting can be made more publicly accessible.  Named invites don't need to be sent.
  2. Real time Collaboration is only a few clicks away. No sign-up and verification required.
  3. In our Cloud Co-working space, we can share the link to the meeting and anyone can join for that call. 

Not all meetings should allow anonymous meeting attendees. If the meeting is discussing sensitive content, attendees should be authenticated and invited by name. If the meeting is discussing content that could be said in public, then it's probably OK to allow anonymous meeting attendees. 

The participants pane is a good place to check who else is online from your team, so you can invite them into the meeting. The Copy join info link appears to provide the same link you would see in an email invite to a scheduled Teams meeting. 


I could paste this into an email, send it in an IM through any number of platforms. Clicking on the link opens in your default browser. I use Chrome as my default. But Edge is currently more functional. At the time of writing this post, Edge will use your webcam and mic. Chrome only uses your mic. Both don't support screen sharing yet. If you have Microsoft Teams application installed, it offers to open the meeting using it. I chose to Join on web.

Join on web will perform a check first, asking to use your webcam, mic and speakers. In my case, I'm already using my camera while I pretend to be the host. I chose Continue without it.


I entered the name I wished to be displayed, as a meeting guest. Then I joined. 


As an anonymous meeting attendee, I was placed in a lobby, and waited for an authenticated meeting participant to admit me into the meeting. This is best practice because it allows meeting organisers and facilitators to screen attendees before they join. In saying that, the decision is only based on what people type as their Guest name. 


Once I was admitted to the meeting, I saw the video of other participants. One of the first things I tried was sending an IM from an authenticated user in the meeting.

Anon meeting attendees can adjust their settings. I changed my mic and webcam. The theme can be changed too. 


Anon meeting participants only see the meeting. They don't see the app sidebar with Activity, Teams, Chat and Files etc. So they really are restricted to the meeting. Since they cant see Files, you can't share a file with an anon participant. It appears that at this stage, anonymous meeting participants don't have IM? I'm sure it's coming. An anon attendee will need IM to ask questions or signal to the speaker that they want to come off mute and ask a question. 

 Authenticated meeting participant, uploading a Word document to the meeting conversation.

Authenticated meeting participant, uploading a Word document to the meeting conversation.

 Anon meeting participant, no conversation panel. No Teams, Chat, Files, Activity...

Anon meeting participant, no conversation panel. No Teams, Chat, Files, Activity...

Anonymous meeting guests are new and the features are still under development. The current functionality is a safe first step, which at least allows meeting guests to see and hear meeting content, and participate. I look forward to seeing how Microsoft include a meeting guest in chat, without making them an authenticated guest team member. Or how they allow meeting guests to send and receive files in the meeting. These are two important collaboration experiences that even meeting guests should have. 

Access all your Microsoft Teams Plans from Planner web app


If you’re organisation is using Microsoft Teams and Planner, you would have experienced some frustration. Channels are a natural, logical way to focus conversation and content. Plans can be created within channels in a Team, to coordinate tasks within a channel. However, the Planner tab is limited to tasks and containers. Open the Planner web app and you could only see the single plan for the whole Microsoft Team. Your Planner tabs in channels didn’t surface in the Planner web app. 

Late last week, that began to change. Now Plans created in Microsoft Teams channels can be viewed in the Planner web app, to make full use of all the Planner tools and views. One view that will be useful is the assigned tasks view, showing the task assignment count. You can quickly identify who has less more tasks and is over-utilized. A team running a status update meeting can open the full view of a channel-based Plan and work their way through updates and assignments. 

Microsoft Teams also recently released the personal Planner app available in the desktop app and web browser.  It shows all the tasks assigned to you across all your plans. The Planner and Teams pairing is finally becoming more usable. Ultimately, individuals need to see all their tasks from their Plans together, so they can organise their time and focus. Channel based plans will soon be accessible from the Planner mobile app, and eventually integrated with MIcrosoft To-Do. That’s when people will be able to order their day based on tasks across Planner, Teams, Outlook Groups, Yammer, To-Do and potentially MSProject. 

Tenant switching between Teams ‘aint fun

Microsoft Teams guest access is really useful. I can bring together a team or belong to a team of people inside and outside my organisation. All our conversations are available to catch up on. Files and other info is all together and being discussed. However, as I message a team that consists mostly of members using guest access, I find myself wondering when people will read and respond to my message. Microsoft Teams is pitched as a chat-based hub of collaboration. It’s instant, realtime nature of communication and collaboration works really, really well within an organisation.

But switching tenants to check on different teams I belong to just ‘aint fun. 

We know that Microsoft are working furiously to give us a better experience with guest access in Teams. Ideally, we want to be logged in once and receive notifications from whatever team we are currently in, be it within our organisation or as a guest user in another tenant. There are various work-arounds. The most popular being to log into different tenants using Chrome browsers different profiles. Or using a private browser session if we only need to be in two tenants. But to benefit from the calling and online meeting capabilities, we need to be logged into the full client. That is gradually changing as online meetings become more capable and voice/video/shared content becomes supported in a browser. I’m still left wondering when my team members will read and respond to my messages. 

I find myself using other platforms on mobile, to contact people and bring them into the conversation in Teams. Facebook Messenger is my default because the people I work with are using it. But it could easily be WhatsApp, Twitter DM, Snap or any number of platforms. The difference with these is you there isn’t the concept of a tenant. When I ping someone, I’m contacting their account. We are all in one big tenant on most of these platforms. Communication and collaboration are a mesh of nodes in a network of contacts. However, to ring-fence our collaboration at work, it needs to happen in a tenant. The tenant is within an organisation’s control. It can be configured to meet policies that may differ across tenants. One org may subscribe to premium services and have Azure Information Protection configured. Another org may be using only the services available with E1 licenses. Tenants are important. They contain the list of accounts and guest users we have approved access for. This construct must remain in place. It’s just so darn annoying though when it comes to guest access and Microsoft Teams. 

What is the answer? We know what we want. We want to be logged into our tenant and concurrently be connected to the teams where we are guests. We want to be connected to multiple chat-based hub of collaboration, with no switching required to work and no work-arounds. I hope it’s not too far away before we have that. I know it’s a priority for the Microsoft Teams product group. I’m keeping a watchful eye out for announcements when it arrives. I expect it will be delivered in stages. Notifications will probably be delivered to which ever team and tenant you are logged into. Maybe from that notification, I’ll be able to click “read more” and be switched to the tenant where the notification was generated from. I think that would be a good first stage to deliver. At least then, I’d know if my messages are being read and responded to. Email notifications don’t really do it for me. They are empty and don’t say a lot. 

Hey Microsoft Teamsie smurf. Are we there yet? Not much further my little smurfs.  With the pace of development in Microsoft Teams, I'm sure it won't be too long before we will see this experience improved.

Teamsie Smurf.jpg

Are you talking to me?

Using @mentions in conversation has become a norm in lots of communication platforms. Even Outlook has found a way to use @mentions, adding the mentioned person to the To: line and highlighting the person’s name in the conversation. @mentions have featured in social media platforms and chat-based collaboration like Microsoft Teams, Slack or Yammer. Those of us who are new to communicating this way aren’t using @mentions enough because they don’t understand why you would use them. When you add to that the concept of communicating in channels or private chats, it is yet another thing to understand.

 Photo by  on  Unsplash

Here’s a simple way to think of using @mentions, channels and private chats. It’s no different entering a room to talk with individuals and groups of people. Channels are rooms. Private chats are small meeting rooms. @mentions are used to direct our communication towards individuals, a few individuals mentioned by name, groups of people or everyone. @mentions will send a notification to the intended audience, getting their attention and in most cases, the notification is delivered to the recipient’s activity feed or Inbox.

Look towards me

When you talk with someone, in a lot of cultures, it’s polite to turn your head towards the person you’re talking to. You look at the person, (though I understand as a sign of respect in some cultures, you don’t look a person in the eyes.) The point is, you are facing the person you want to talk with. You are directing your voice towards them. This gives the best chance for your voice to be heard clearly.

So when you @mention someone as you start a new conversation or respond, you are in a sense turning your head to face them and saying their name.  

Imagine you walk into a hall with everyone from your organisation. You turn and face a corner, looking away from everyone and speak. Probably no one will  respond. Who was your communication directed to? Well, you did enter the room they are in. So surely that means you are talking to someone. 

There aren’t really any corners in a conversation channel. When you start a new conversation and don’t @mention anyone, it’s posted in the thread for everyone in the channel to read. But it’s not directed at any individual or group, or even everyone. The first post is just there for anyone to read. It doesn’t become a conversation till someone responds. 

Hello Everyone

When you’re talking in the direction of everyone in the room, usually from the front of the room, and you want to address them all, you say “Hello Everyone. Can I have your attention please?”  

This is when you @mention the name of the whole team or group. You would also choose the right place to address everyone; where everyone will hear you. In a Microsoft Team and in Slack thats the General channel. In Yammer it’s the All Company/Network group.  

Everyone from the York Street office

When you are talking to a room full of people and only want to address a smaller group of people in the room, you say “Hello everyone involved with the Wynyard project.” Or “everyone from the York St office.”  

If you want to have everyone from the York St office focus on the conversation, you would be best to move the conversation to another room. Or better still, visit the York St office.  

There are two things to understand here. @mentioning a group of people from where you are; or visit where the people are and @mentioning them.

  1. You can @mention a group of people. Everyone from the York St office may have a channel or group for their conversations. From the General channel, I can @mention York St and members of the channel will receive a notification. “I’m talking to you York St.” The conversation is directed at people from York St, but it’s held in a public place that everyone has access to and can join in. 
  2. Or you can visit York St (the York St channel or group) and @mention them from there. The conversation is more focused. If the York Street channel or group is public, everyone in the organisation can visit and join the conversation. But the point is they need to visit to read the conversation. 

Yammer has exceptions to these two scenarios. You are unable to @mention a group within the conversation, and you can only add one group to the participants. But Yammer does use conversation feeds that show conversations from public groups together in one feed. You can see a current conversation being held at York St in the feed. Opening the conversation will take you straight to York St, where you can participate in the conversation. 

Can I talk with you for a minute?

If you’re talking to just one or two people, you mention them by name. Maybe you’re talking with them in the large hall, so others can join the conversation or listen. Maybe you’re visiting the York St office and you want to speak with one or two people while you’re there in the lobby. Or you find a small meeting room and invite the one or two people you want to speak with. In each situation, you address them by name. 

Similar to metioning York St, when I want to talk with one or two people, I @mention them. They receive a notification and engage in the conversation. I can hold that conversation in the general channel / group, or in the York St channel. In both places, others can join the conversation. However, if I want to have a private conversation, I use private chat or private messages. That’s the “small meeting room.”

Let’s talk - @audience and location

We have seen how to use @mentions when you want to talk with everyone, a group of people or a few individuals. We have also seen that it matters where you choose to hold that conversation, to limit how widely it is shared. When you think about it, it’s not too different a verbal conversation. You address the person or people you are talking to, in the location appropriate to the nature of the conversation. Things are so much easier to understand when you put real-world scenarios before explaining features, don’t you agree?

Moving to less choice

This is the second post in a series discussing being overwhelmed by Microsoft’s many choices in productivity tools. The series began with a statement about having too many choices. This next post begins to pull apart that statement. Is the answer to move to a platform with less choices?

Microsoft are giving us too many choices. We’re going to move our organisation to a competing technology that offers less choices. We know the platform we move to will have it’s short comings. But we can choose from a number of different third-party services to fill the gaps and integrate with the new non-Microsoft platform.

We will evaluate each third-party service and after we have narrowed down the choices, we can put together a modern workplace that is as good as Microsoft’s offerings. Maybe better. 

...we can choose from a number of different third-party services to fill the gaps...

We have already established that choices are everywhere and not just in the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft is creating more an more choices for us. Some that overlap. Many of them integrate, at a minimum using the same authentication service. Moving outside of the Microsoft ecosystem does not mean you have “less choice”.  

Your productivity requirements haven’t changed. The new platform might meet half of the requirements. That may be satisfactory, for now. But soon, there will be questions from people asking how they do the things they used to be able to do. There are still choices to be made, particularly when selecting third-party services to fill the gaps in functionality of the core service.

There will still be an evaluation process for the additional third-party services. Each one will be evaluated based on:

  • Meeting a requirements list.
  • Ease of use.
  • Depth of integration with the core platform.
  • Maintenance effort when services are updated - change management and communication of changes to end users.
  • Cost of the service, on top of the core platform. 

Once the third-party services have been chosen to fill the gaps, you’ll have choices to make about the data you bring across to the new platform. Should everything be migrated? Should it be left on the existing platform, and your organisation start using the new platform for communication, collaboration, coordination and connection scenarios? The next post in this series discusses these questions. The choices that are made will potentially create more choices for end-users to understand and make.

If you find yourself stirred up to agree, disagree, correct me or offer a different viewpoint, I welcome the discussion.