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Microsoft says this is how to improve your Teams meetings

New Microsoft research finds that keeping meetings short and with fewer participants helps make participants feel more included.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
A middle aged man in casual attire sat at his computer desk speaking to colleagues via a split-screen video chat application
Image: Getty

Does everyone on your organization's Teams meetings feel included and believe meetings are really an effective use of their time?

While video meetings became standard for many office workers during the past couple of years, they also quickly became an annoyance, leaving some people feeling excluded, ignored or feeling that precious time was being wasted on long meetings that didn't serve everyone well.

With video meetings set to remain a feature of hybrid work, Microsoft decided to find out what made online meetings more inclusive and effective via a recently run survey of its own employees and a select group of Teams customers. 

SEE: The hybrid work divide: Managers think tech is the answer - but staff disagree

Microsoft says this was the first "large-scale study" that it was aware of, conducted by a technology company, that attempted to determine what makes online meetings effective and inclusive. From there, it built a model to predict which meetings would be effective and why.  

Its findings could be helpful for organizations that regularly conduct online or video meetings using Teams or another platform like Zoom. 

Microsoft found that criteria including using a meeting agenda, active participation, having video turned on, keeping meeting sizes small, and sharing pre-meeting material all ranked high for driving inclusiveness and effectiveness.   

Microsoft's data analysis also showed strong connections between meeting participation and attendees' perceptions of inclusiveness, sense of comfort, and meeting effectiveness.

Some findings are intuitive but could still be helpful for Teams meeting organizers to consider when scheduling future meetings. For example, Microsoft found that "meetings with higher levels of participation were rated more inclusive". Or, put another way, people who spoke more in a meeting felt more included than those who just listened.

As Microsoft explains: "Participants who spoke often during the meeting gave a 98% inclusive rating, participants who spoke a few times gave an 89% inclusive rating, participants who spoke only once gave a 67% inclusive rating, and participants who only listened gave a 36% inclusive rating."

Another unsurprising finding was that "participants who felt their presence was necessary for the meeting felt more included".  

Microsoft also found that meetings of smaller sizes were rated by participants as more inclusive. 

"This is a decreasing trend where 2-person meetings were rated by all participants as inclusive, while meetings with more than 10 people were rated only 60% inclusive," Microsoft notes. 

The duration of a meeting also affected the sense of inclusiveness. Meetings of 30 minutes or less had the most positive impact on inclusiveness. 

Microsoft found some positive signs for hybrid work scenarios and the use of video. The meeting scenarios with a higher chance of benefiting from video usage were small meetings with fewer than eight participants where some people are in a meeting room, and the rest are joining remotely. 

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The benefit measured mostly came from participants in the meeting room being able to see remote participants' faces in a video, according to Microsoft.   

Citing other research, Microsoft notes that larger meetings may be more prone to so-called "Zoom fatigue" due to "prolonged eye gaze, an effect that's magnified when users are required to stare at numerous one-inch boxes of faces on their screens."

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