Global Online Conference using Teams

Microsoft is conducting a global, online conference using Teams as I am writing this article. It is a great way to learn how to not just work remotely, but deliver 100’s of sessions to 1000’s of people across the world remotely. Here is what I learnt – and what YOU can use to do the same!

Online Conference using Teams poster

Requirements for an Online Conference using Teams

Any online conference requires the following things.
Please note that I am only talking about the actual conference delivery. Not the preparation, invitations, travel arrangements and so on.

  1. Conference spanning many days
  2. Thousands of attendees and hundreds of presenters globally
  3. Multiple key topics, subjects or tracks
  4. Multiple sessions at the same time in the same track
  5. Multi-party video calls with live demos and presentations
  6. Full interaction using 2-way Chat, Audio, Video
  7. Video recording of all sessions with automatic transcript
  8. Live support for attendees and speakers
  9. Ability to join multiple meetings at the same time
  10. Ability to switch multiple meetings – Meeting Hopping
  11. Social interaction for comments / chat – likes, emojis, sharing
  12. Confidentiality and Privacy
  13. High performance and Resilience
  14. Leadership Keynote – which thousands will attend
  15. This is a very challenging set of requirements. Surprisingly, all this is implemented using a single product – Microsoft Teams.

COVID is irrelevant. Use this method.

All the content covered during this event is confidential. So I cannot cover anything. But I can surely provide you with the best practices which you can use to meetings and events of all levels of complexity for your business.

Online Conference using Teams: The Process

I want to keep this article brief. The assumption is that you already know Office 365 and Teams. I will map each of the above requirements to Teams.

  1. Conference spanning many days
    A separate Team was created. All attendees were added as guests. Microsoft staff was added as Owners. Maximum capacity for members is 5000, as of today (Mar 2020).

  2. Thousands of attendees and hundreds of presenters globally
    All attendees, as Guests, get an Azure AD account created which centrally manages their single-sign-on and other security options. All attendees could join the sessions using Teams app on mobile, browser or desktop.
    They do NOT need to purchase any license. Any user ID, including personal IDs like Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook is permitted, provided the attendee is already registered with Microsoft as an invitee for the event.

  3. Multiple key topics, subjects or tracks
    Each track was a separate Channel. Each channel has a Tab for open discussion, agenda, collateral files , feedback forms and so on

  4. Multiple sessions at the same time in the same track
    Each Channel starts a Channel meeting at the scheduled time. Attendees are NOT bombarded with hundreds of meeting requests. They just join the meeting they want by going to the correct Channel and Meeting.
    Each channel shows all the ongoing meetings. Any invitee can join any meeting. Attendees cannot post in the Channel. But can respond to existing posts by Channel owners.
    Community channel is open to all, but with moderation by Owners.
    If required, channels can be restricted to a subset of invitees, based upon business requirements. These are called private channels.

  5. Multi-party video calls with live demos and presentations
    Each session is a presentation conducted by multiple presenters physically sitting at different locations / countries. All they need is a good internet connection and a laptop. Technically, if it is only a presentation with speaking, even a mobile phone is adequate.
    Presenters can share their screen and show live demos. All people except the presenters are automatically muted. However, participants can unmute anytime to ask questions.
    If required, any presenter can Mute All except self to avoid audio disturbance.

  6. Full interaction using 2-way Chat, Audio, Video
    During the presentation, participants can chat, talk, share video, share screen, like or share stuff or upload files. Usually for every presenter, there is another person monitoring chat. Chat is another place where people ask questions or post comments – why so? Because they do not want the presenter to be interrupted during a presentation. The person monitoring then prioritizes the questions and feeds them to the presenter.
    In many cases there is an open discussion / debate about specific topics or issues.
    All meetings, including the interactions are recorded. The video recording is made available to MS people using Stream. For Guests videos are posted on a protected Yammer group. (Why so? Because, by design, Stream videos cannot be shared outside the primary domain – Microsoft – in this case.)

  7. Video recording of all sessions with automatic transcript
    Participants can add the video to their own Stream service and get automatic transcript. Of course, all the content is controlled using a strict Non-Disclosure Agreement which is signed before a person is invited to attend the event.
    Even after the actual session, the discussion continues as a Channel discussion. Presenters as well as participants get notifications about their posts which were liked, replied to and shared.

  8. Live support for attendees and speakers
    A separate channel is required for live support. In fact two channels are better. One for attendees and one for speakers. Dedicated support team answers queries and resolves issues as soon as possible and in near – real time. In some cases, they can even ask the participant to share their screen to troubleshoot issues.
    Frequently encountered problem list is maintained and updated live. This helps repeat problems to be handled faster.

    Many presenters as well as attendees were not familiar with Teams. In spite of that most sessions went on smoothly. Audio, video quality was amazing. Screen sharing was rock solid and social interaction was flawless.

  9. Ability to join multiple meetings at the same time
    I was an attendee. As an attendee, I have been joining the in-person version of this event for many years in past. This time, due to the virus issue, in-person conference was cancelled and online Teams version was arranged in just 2 weeks.

    The benefit of all sessions being online is that I can join multiple meetings at the same time. Why is this required? Because I am interested in two (or more) sessions which are being delivered exactly at the same time.

    This is obviously impossible in an in-person conference. 

  10. Ability to switch multiple meetings – Meeting Hopping
    When you join multiple meetings, one meeting is live and others are on hold. I can see a list of all meetings at a glance and in one click I can switch between meetings.

    The benefit is that in the same amount of time, I can learn about multiple topics.

  11. Social interaction – likes, emojis, sharing and more …
    Everyone can be on video. This was like a true global conference. Someone is in their bedroom, someone in a lobby, someone in a bar… all kinds of options are possible. Everyone is on mute by default. Unmute only when required. Everyone understood the etiquette quickly and the execution was amazingly smooth.

    Lively chat while the presentation is going on delivers live feedback and interaction amongst participants. As all participants are experts in the topic, it takes the social interaction to a new level.

  12. Confidentiality and Privacy
    All this has to be done while respecting confidentiality and privacy. That is not a problem because the entire platform is already geared for this. Technically this was done using Azure AD B2C functionality and Teams (with Office and Stream) full audit trail, and compliance. Classic example of how the Microsoft 365 platform delivers value without additional headaches and manual integration overheads.

  13. High performance and Resilience
    As everyone is working from home, performance of internet has gone down globally. In spite of this there was no interruption or outage except for few glitches which were quickly handled. This is another feature of Microsoft platform we usually don’t pause to think about – implicit integration + scalability. Surely, even Microsoft had not planned for a global shutdown of work! Still everything scaled very well and worked commendably well.

  14. Leadership Keynote as live streaming
    The sessions by the leadership team cannot be arranged as a meeting due to the 250 limit – when you have thousands of attendees. So it was done as a Teams Live Broadcast. With a limit of 1000 and amazing audio video quality, attendees did not miss not being present in person. In fact, the moderator could pool questions across the audience, prioritize them and address them more efficiently. In all, a win-win situation.

  15. How to get the in-person feel
    This was done using many innovative contests which included live sound bytes, impromptu demos, photo contests and so on.
    People enjoyed thoroughly and learnt a great deal.

  16. Entire Online Conference using ONE tool – Teams
    This is a very challenging set of requirements. Surprisingly, all this is implemented using a single product – Microsoft Teams.

    This is the best part. Just one Product – Teams. Show me another platform where all this can be done using ONE tool.

    Try out Teams and get amazed. Cheers!

Teams logo

Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Comments? Suggestions? Wish list?