The new Microsoft Teams Premium add-on will provide greater benefits and functionality for webinars, virtual appointments and one-on-one video chats. It provides dozens of extras, such as the ability to choose the right meeting experience with the new “meeting guides” feature. Because these guides can be easily customized, users can select from various options, such as client call, brainstorm meeting or Help Desk support, and they’ll have all the necessary in-meeting options set up and ready to go.
Users will also have the ability to brand their meeting experience with custom logos and backgrounds for the Teams lobby, in addition to custom scenes for the Together mode.
In addition to the personalization, Teams Premium users will benefit from a more intelligent experience too, with a kind of virtual assistant for every meeting. There’ll be an intelligent recap with personalized highlights from each Teams meeting, a feature that’s designed to help users quickly highlight the most important things that were discussed. Artificial intelligence-generated tasks can also be assigned automatically based on the outcome of each meeting, so action items are not missed.
Other features include intelligent playback of Teams meetings, personalized insights into meeting recordings that call out the most important moments. Intelligent search will make it easier to search through transcripts of each meeting, and live translations will support AI-powered, real-time transaction in more than 40 spoken languages.
Microsoft stressed that Teams Premium will also be more secure. The advanced meeting protection feature will provide extra security for board meetings, financial discussions and other confidential meetings. There’ll be new options, such as watermarking of documents to deter leaks and limitations on who can record.
To ensure more engagement, Teams Premium gets advanced webinar options that assist users in deepening their connections and engagement with internal and external audiences. In addition to the basic webinar functionality available in Office 365 and Microsoft 365, advanced webinars in Teams Premium will include a registration waitlist and manual approvals, automated reminder emails, a virtual green room for hosts and presenters and the ability to manage what attendees see.
The Teams Premium experience will become available in preview in December, with general availability set for February 2023.
New look and feel
The premium experience is just one of a number of new updates in Teams. One of the more interesting new features is mesh avatars, which give users more flexibility and choice around how they appear in a Teams meeting, with the ability to create a customized, animated version of themselves without switching on the camera.
It will be available through the Avatars app within the Microsoft Teams Store, and users will be able to create up to three unique avatars, with hundreds of customization options. Once created, the avatar can be used in any Teams meeting through the Effects and Avatars menu, prior to joining the meeting.
Teams is also getting a bunch of new features that aim to improve interactivity and engagement, with the introduction of Cameo, a new PowerPoint experience that integrates the camera feed within the presentation. Excel Live meanwhile makes it possible to collaboratively edit Excel Workbooks during meetings. And the new Together mode is designed to make meeting participants feel as if they’re in the same room during a virtual meeting. For instance, organizers will be able to assign seats to meeting participants, or select Together mode for everyone to ensure all participants have the same view.
Chat and collaboration features
The updates continue with the introduction of new chat and collaboration features, starting with “video clips,” which are short, lightweight but rich video clips that add a more personal touch and strengthen connections. Users can simply record a video clip, send, view and reply, instead of sending a message. The expanded reactions relate to more creative emojis, and the suggested replies function will rely on machine learning to generate a response, so users don’t have to type out a more routine response to incoming messages.
A further innovation comes with schedule send, which is similar to the delayed email delivery feature available in Outlook. Users can schedule the future date and time they’d like to send a chat message. As for “delete chat,” this allows users to quickly and easily remove themselves from a one-on-one or group conversation without affecting other participants in the conversation.
An entirely new workplace application within Teams, Microsoft Places is all about optimizing spaces for hybrid work, the company said. As decision makers consider redesigning physical workspaces to better cater to hybrid workers, technology will be needed to bridge the two historically different worlds of in-person and remote work. That’s where Microsoft Places will come in handy, using AI to optimize where work takes place in hybrid work, connecting virtual spaces with physical ones to drive more engagement and productivity.
In particular, Microsoft Places will provide a dashboard view showing which days people on a specific team will be present in the office, along with a presence indicator that shows the person’s physical location — in-office, remote or mobile. It will also show the workspaces that other users have booked, so a team member can book one that’s nearby.
Other capabilities include insights and guidance on commuting times and passing time, wayfinding and navigation to help users find their way to the office location, modernized conference room booking and technology, insights and guidance on sentiment related to hybrid policies and space usage, so managers can better implement best practices for hybrid work.