Have you attended Lync meetings? Did you have to wait in the “virtual lobby” endlessly? Do you realize that you may be doing the same to your invitees?
Here is the solution to this common irritant …
Please note: I am not criticizing Lync.
The Lync meeting lobby
Most of us create a Lync meeting using Outlook calendar. Everything works fine. But the people who are invited – especially those who are from outside your organization have to see this lobby wait screen if they join the meeting few minutes earlier.
This is very irritating. In fact some customers may even take offense. It shows some amount of distrust in spite of the fact that you were “invited” for the meeting.
It is like being asked to wait outside the conference room because the presenter hasn’t yet arrived.
It becomes even more irritating if the meeting organizer is late – even a few minutes of delay feels like hours!
The best (or worst) part is that the meeting organizer is completely oblivious to the suffering you are going through. Even when they admit you into the meeting, the duration for which you waited for is not known. So it is a non-issue for the organizer whereas it is a demeaning and frustrating thing for the esteemed Lobby Inhabitants!
What is a Lobby?
Lobby is a place where invitees have to wait till allowed in (or admitted) by the Meeting Organizer. Organizer can see all the people who are waiting and choose to admit all or selectively. You can even remove some unwanted people from the lobby. Those waiting in the lobby see the boring message shown above.
Why is there a lobby?
Lync can be used for various type of meetings. Depending upon the type of meeting, it may or may not be desirable to allow external invitees to enter the meeting before the specified begin time.
For example, if it is a large webcast, it is desirable to keep people in the lobby till the formal presentation / demo / webinar begins.
However, in smaller meetings with few people from within the organization and few external people – who could be dealers, distributors, consultants, customers, etc. having the lobby does not make sense.
In practice, the creator of the meeting should take a call about whether a lobby is required or not.
Unfortunately, most meeting organizers are simply not aware of this issue – leave alone having the discretion to choose the right option.
Where is this option?
Here is how we typically create a Lync meeting.
Open calendar. Go to the desired day. Choose either Day or Week view so that actual time slices are visible. Select the time and right click to choose New Meeting Request.
The meeting request window opens and it has Lync Meeting button. Clicking that button automatically adds the meeting link (hyperlink or URL) and other details.
Usually, we just add the names of additional participants and send the meeting request. Job done. All ok.
Unfortunately, most of us do not notice that the menu changed after you clicked on Lync Meeting button. It now displays two options – Join Lync Meeting – which is same as clicking on the embedded hyperlink called Join the Meeting. The second button is very important. It allows you to set specific options BEFORE sending the meeting request to invitees.
Please create a test meeting and click on Meeting Options and understand each option shown there. It allows you to manage the lobby settings, presenter settings and other important parameters.
As most people are not clear about what lobby exactly means, Microsoft has added a helpful reference there “Why do I use this?”. A help page opens to explain the concept of Lobby and associated options.
For now, we are interested in the options for These people don’t have to wait in the lobby.
This dialog may differ depending upon your version of Lync. I am showing Lync 2013 dialog (Version 15.0.4631.1000)
When you open the dropdown, you will realize that these options are well though out and appropriate for various scenarios we may encounter.
By default, the option is Only me, the meeting organizer.
You need to think a little about the objective and confidentiality of the meeting and change this setting accordingly.
Which option to choose when?
Only Me is the safest option.
Why? Because this does not expose anyone other than the organizer to the meeting content. The organizer then has the power to choose which people to allow from the lobby.
This is a good option if you are conducting a sensitive meeting where you want to ensure only the desired people are in the meeting.
A more lenient option is People I invite from my company.
Here the assumption is that the invitees from your own company are allowed to see everything without restrictions.
Third option is a bit dangerous. It should be used for low confidentiality meetings where non-invited persons are also welcome – more attendance the better. Anyone from the organization even without having been explicitly invited can join if they have the hyperlink for joining the meeting.
The obvious question is, if these people were not invited, how will they get the hyperlink required for joining the meeting? The answer is simple: Office Politics!
(Think about it. I am not going to explain it in detail.)
The last option is the most liberal of all. Anyone (no restrictions) means any person with the invitation hyperlink can enter without waiting to be admitted by the organizer.
This is a good option if you have a meeting with few important external contacts like customers, distributors, auditors, statutory agencies, consultants, non-executive board members and so on.
In short, notice and choose the right lobby option.
Be sensitive and choose the option depending upon confidentiality and sensitivity of the meeting as well as number of attendees, the need for verifying the attendees and the business context.
Save the settings
If you want to save the modified settings as your default, use the button Remember Settings.
What if you are waiting in the lobby?
On the other side of the table, it is a frustrating wait. If you have been in this situation, you cannot keep staring at this dialog lifelong. Within few seconds or minutes your patience runs out and you go back to some other work.
The issue is, when you are eventually admitted to the meeting, you my not notice it at all. This way you will end up going into the meeting later than others – even though you were one of the early birds.
If you have configured headphones and you realized that you are in the lobby, typical reaction is to remove the headphones and go back to some other work.
This means the regular audio notification of the meeting having started is also missed by you.
To avoid this, Microsoft included a well know feature – but it was hardly ever discovered by those who need it the most – the lobby waiters! It is called Always On Top.
Now you can go back to your work and still notice that the Lobby wait is over and you have to choose the voice connection.
Also remember that all windows associated with Lync have the Always on Top option.
- Choose the appropriate lobby option every time you create a Lync meeting – especially if it includes external participants.
- For large webinars, it is good to have a lobby, but you can login earlier than usual and remove the lobby few minutes before the session starts.
- Make a small Presentation which shows some welcome message and keep it active while participants are connecting to the meeting.
This presentation can show a simple and reassuring message like “We are starting shortly”
- Notice that there is a
- If there is any collateral material it is a good idea to upload it and inform attendees that they can download it form the Attachments section. Even if you have sent the collateral material with the meeting request, it is a good idea to upload it to the Attachments section of Lync. Why? Because most people come unprepared and have not read the collaterals in advance.
- Explore other options in that dialog and use them as required. For example, for webinars it is important to have full control over the audience to prevent cross-talk. Therefore, Disable IM is a good option.
Conducting a webcast or a meeting using Lync may sound similar – because the underlying technology is same. But it is not so. The steps required for preparation, execution and follow up are entirely different. I will cover these scenarios in upcoming articles.