Saturday, May 22, 2021

Microsoft Teams Meetings on the Move

For the last year and a half Zoom has been my go-to video conferencing application. But some organisations prefer Microsoft Teams. The biggest problem I have found with Teams is security: it is too good. For those who use Teams with just one organisation that is fine, but I have difficulty moving from one Microsoft account to another. I log out of the Microsoft account at one organisation to log into another, but Microsoft logs me straight back into the same one. So far I have found no solution to this problem.

Something which does work well is Teams on a smart phone, but this takes a little more effort than Zoom. In Zoom, you can activate "Safe Driving Mode", which mutes the microphone and video, so you will not be distracted. This has the added benefit of greatly reducing the data use, as video is not transmitted to the phone. I haven't found a similar mode in Teams, but outgoing audio and video is muted by default (remember to provide a profile photo, to give people something to look at). There is also an option to turn off incoming video (something I have not found on Zoom).

Even with incoming video turned off, you will still see presentation slides in Teams. I found this reduces bandwidth use to about 90 kbps. But for driving you don't want this distraction. What I do is put the text chat on screen. That is usually less dynamic and after a minute my phone blanks the screen anyway, just leaving the audio. This also reduces the data use to about 7 kbps. It also helps to put the audio through the car speakers, so the sound is not coming from the phone.

It may seem odd, to want to attend a video conference with no video, no presentation visuals, and only one way audio, but it can be  liberating. Because you can't see anything and can't respond, you have to listen to what is being said. You have to make a mental note of anything to respond to later.

ps: Another option for an audio only conference is to dial in by phone. Zoom supports this, with the app able to dial your phone for you, and insert the meeting, access code, and password. Teams goes one further and will call you. However, those organizing the conference have to enable these features. The last Zoom conference I attended did not have the password included for dial-in and the last Teams meeting would not call Australian phone numbers.

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