Crisis Communication with Microsoft Teams How To Use Microsoft Teams For Crisis Communication?

The CEO wants to announce important news. Department directors need to organize a Q&A session. There is a crisis (such as the latest COVID-19) and the board must focus on rapid communication. Whatever the case, an ordinary message on a forum or internal social media may not be enough. It won’t usually get much engagement and could even go unnoticed.

Whenever you need to address an important situation, a live session (or, as some would prefer, a webinar) comes in handy. In this article, I’ll show you how to address all the scenarios mentioned above (and more) using Microsoft Teams.

  1. How to quickly organize a live event for an entire organization? (step-by-step guide)
  2. How to act fast when crisis communication becomes an urgent must?
  3. What are the possibilities for development if you want to approach production more professionally?

This is a part of an article series we created to help you implement a remote-first work environment with the help of MS Teams and Azure. Here you’ll find valuable tips to keep your business secure and efficient. See the additional articles here:

  1. How to boost and measure remote work productivity?
  2. How to ensure your virtual meetings are productive?
  3. Azure AD WAP: How to set up secure remote access in two hours
  4. How to run a delivery team in the era of remote work?

Coronavirus vs Predica. Our crisis communication case study

As we all know, in March 2020 coronavirus hit Europe (and other parts of the world), and made a huge impact on a lot of companies. We wanted to react fast in response to the sudden change in the business environment. This includes letting all employees know what the next steps for the organization are going to be.

To make that happen, we carried out a few live sessions in Microsoft Teams.

We did it all in a hurry, but still, we managed to get around 150 attendees together (out of 250 total). As it is impossible to get everyone to attend live (due to calls with clients, etc.), those who couldn’t attend got access to a replay.

Producer view of MS Teams crisis communication live

Image 1. Producer view during a live session on coronavirus

So, let’s go over the steps you need to take to organize your own event in Microsoft Teams, from technical preparations to handling communication.

Microsoft Teams – what’s it all about?

If you haven’t come across Microsoft Teams yet, it is a multi-functional tool for collaboration. You can easily organize calls, share your files, create groups, or extend the functionalities by connecting it with other apps.

Microsoft keeps investing heavily in this service. In fact, this is the first place to go if you want to give your Skype for Business an upgrade.

And to be honest – I love it! The number of possibilities it offers and its ease of use are exactly the things I was missing in other tools of that kind.

If you want to read more about Microsoft Teams, you might want to check out these links:

MS Teams displayed on multiple devices

Image 2. Microsoft Teams is available on a range of devices (source)

If you don’t have O365 yet or you’re having some trouble accessing Microsoft Teams in your organization, get in touch with our experts. Contact us

Our object of interest – live sessions

Since we’ve gone through the basics, it’s time for our special guest. The live session!

You might be wondering, what is the difference between a regular call and a live meeting?

When creating a live meeting, you choose by email who is able to speak. Other people that join the broadcast will only be able to raise questions in the chat window.

In addition, as a producer, you decide who and whose screen are displayed to the viewers and when. This gives you more control over what is happening and you don’t have to worry about interruptions, e.g. with an unmuted microphone.

To effectively conduct a live meeting, you must take the following steps:

  1. Create a live event in Microsoft Teams
  2. Inform everyone about the event
  3. Carry out a rehearsal with presenters (you may skip this step if it’s crisis communication and you have to act fast)
  4. Publish a replay to make it easily accessible for everyone
  5. Congratulate yourself!

Now we have our to-do list, let’s go through each of these points.

Create an internal live event in Microsoft Teams

This step is very easy and basic configuration takes no longer than a few minutes at most. Here’s what you have to do.

  1. Go to the calendar and create a new Teams Live Event.
A gif showing creating a live event in calendar

Demo 1. Creating a live event via the calendar

  1. Set the date and title, and choose the presenters. Don’t fill the description for now. When it comes to presenters, you choose everyone who is going to speak during the broadcast.

A producer can present too, but this role serves a different purpose – they decide what is going to be displayed for viewers. This way, presenters can focus only on their message and don’t have to worry about anything else. Exactly like it happens on TV!

For that reason, if you’re presenting yourself, it is good practice to find somebody else to produce the event. Don’t worry, being a producer is not complicated.

A gif showing setting up live event details

Demo 2. Defining the details of the event

  1. Choose the Org-wide option and configure the meeting as you want. By default, the Q&A is unchecked, so make sure that you select this feature, even if you don’t necessarily need it. You are going to be able to turn it off and on at any point during the broadcast.
A gif showing setting the event permissions in MS Teams

Demo 3. Setting live event permissions

  1. Click the schedule button, copy the link for attendees and save it for later. Once you schedule the session, an automatic invite (almost identical to a regular Outlook meeting invite) is sent to presenters. Leave the rest of the options as they are.
Getting the attendee link

Image 3. Getting the attendee link

A useful note

If you want to add more presenters, you can do it at any time and it won’t impact your guest URL.

A gif showing adding presenters to the live event

Demo 4. Adding presenters to the live event

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Inform everyone about the event

Letting everyone at your organization know that the meeting is taking place is very important. Otherwise, only a few people are going to watch the broadcast, and the rest will rely on a replay.

In other words, we can’t expect many people to join if we don’t invite them.

There are many ways and tools to help you share your message. With this in mind, I’ll show you what it looked like in our case.

We use several channels for communication (all included in the Office 365 package)

  • Microsoft Teams – when you need an answer relatively quickly (keeping in mind that we work asynchronously)
  • Yammer – an enterprise social media service which has a news feed and different groups
  • Outlook – for emails to clients. Normally, we only email our colleagues if it’s a non-urgent matter.

Now, for very important messages, like the latest COVID-19 crisis, we use Outlook meeting invitations instead of lengthy emails with updates.

A live event email invite

Image 4. Email message informing about the live session on coronavirus crisis

However, we don’t do it often – first of all, because it can generate spam, and secondly, because many such messages sent on a regular basis would no longer be considered important.

You can read more about communication good practices in this article.

In all other cases, we use Yammer. In addition to a Yammer post, you can also create a Google Calendar link or Outlook .ics file and attach them to the message to make sure that everyone interested adds the event to their calendar.

A live meeting Yammer invite

Image 5. Message about a live session on Yammer

You can also create Teams groups or a calendar dedicated only for announcing live events. Test out different options and see what works for you best.

Carry out a rehearsal with presenters

Unless you have a very experienced speaker or it’s a matter of crisis communication when you have to act very fast, it is very important to carry out a rehearsal. Trust me – there is something special in the ‘go live’ button that makes even a very confident person lose vigor and go blank.

To conduct a test session, create a live event in the same way as explained above but don’t send the attendee link to anyone (unless you want to try it out with some participants for feedback).

A photo from live meeting rehearsal

Image 6. Rehearsal in the studio

Publish a replay and make the session easily accessible for everyone

If you have Microsoft Teams, you should also have access to Microsoft Stream. Following the event, you can go to the calendar and download the replay.

A gif of downloading the replay of live session

Demo 5. Downloading live session replay in Microsoft Teams

Then you can upload it to your organization’s Stream channel.

A gif showing where to upload the recording to MS Stream

Demo 6. Where to upload a replay to Microsoft Stream

Once you’ve finished the upload, get the link and add it to your initial post on Yammer, and add a comment or post it on the Teams group.

Yammer post with the replay link added

Image 7. A Yammer post including the broadcast replay

Congratulate yourself!

Further development

If you want to make your live sessions look more professional (like per the screenshot of the rehearsal), Microsoft Teams allows you to connect an external app or device.

Adding an external device to produce the event

Image 8. Adding an external device to produce the event

In my case, I use the free OBS software together with a VR-1HD video mixer and Henyx Q1202 audio mixer. It takes a while to configure them properly but the live session looks much more attractive and you have way more control over what is happening on the screen.

Production hardware for live events

Image 9. Hardware dedicated for live sessions

Your broadcasts will look more professional, and you’ll be sure that everyone can be well heard and seen.

Photo from a live session produced with OBS

Image 10. Internal live meeting with the use of OBS

It’s time for your event!

And there you have it – all the steps to create and manage a live event using Microsoft Teams.

It may seem like a lot of instructions, but it’s quite simple in practice. And more importantly, it’s invaluable for crisis communication. With relatively little effort you can share crucial updates with all your employees at once and allow them to engage and ask questions at the same time.

Hopefully, you will find it useful in less difficult circumstances, but it’s something that’s definitely worth having in your toolkit.

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Key takeaways

  1. Apart from creating a live event in Microsoft Teams, it is equally important to promote it internally (via Microsoft Teams group, Yammer, email)
  2. Office 365 includes all the necessary apps to carry out a live broadcast within the organization (including transmission, communication, and replay)
  3. Crisis communication has to happen as fast as possible. Skip rehearsal if necessary. The message itself is more important.

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