Microsoft released a number of updates to Teams in July including the anticipated 7×7 view. Among the many improvements rapidly being rolled in to Teams, “Together mode” was a little perplexing to me.
Why would I want to see cutouts of meeting participants in a fake auditorium? Why would I want to see myself in that view? How does this improve the meeting experience?
Just like when backgrounds came to Teams, my team were immediately engrossed in playing with the new toy. Of course! Testing and tweaking a new feature to its limits is normal (especially in a team of technology people). Further to that though, figuring out it’s purpose. Is it helfpul, or just hype.
All together now
Switching to Together mode allows meeting participants to switch their view to see everyone in the meeting in one view.
“all the participants on a video call together in a virtual space, such as an auditorium, meeting room or coffee bar, so they look like they’re in the same place together. The new feature ditches the traditional grid of boxes, creating an environment that users say has a profound impact on the feel of the video conference and provides”
Side note: Any other Aussies remember the 90s classic All Together Now?
When I first used it, I really could not see the value. It was off-putting that I could see myself in the view. My head was a weird size and cropped like a bodgy photoshop job. With only a few people in the call, it didn’t seem to be of any use at all except to try and do a virtual high-five.
Using it with my team, and more people it became more compelling, but also more messy. Different sizes, different lighting, weird cropping, overlapping… it didn’t look nice. And anyone not sharing video… not included.
One of my colleagues drew a comparison to The Muppet Show. Tongue-in-cheek, but visually comparable. Maybe we’ll be able to create our own backgrounds for Together Mode.
Bottom line, the whole experience just felt like a distraction. What value could it add?
The research which drove the development of this feature is very impressive, and actually makes sense. This is not a tool for every meeting situation, but it can facilitate an improved experience.
Removing the visual distractions from each persons background and bringing everyone in to the same space seems to have a focussing effect (thanks to our team manager Guy for pointing this out as something he liked).
I also think that it could facilitate a change in how people use their web cameras. It is easy to see when people are sitting too close, or too far away or when they have poor lighting. So, presumably, people will begin to adjust. Or maybe a future release will help with some of these things.
Putting aside my cynicism, and listening to the observations of my team mates, perhaps this is more than just a super-fancy background. Like many features, it’s value seems to be more situational and I look forward to being able to make more use of it to realise that value for myself.
There are a bunch of comprehensive posts from the Microsoft Team. The explanation of the research and intended purpose is pretty interesting, and hopefully will be realised.
- Reimagining virtual collaboration for the future of work and learning
- Video fatigue and a late-night host with no audience inspire a new way to help people feel together, remotely
- How to get the most from Together mode
- New calling experience with Microsoft Teams
Are you using Together mode in Teams? Let me know your experience in the comments below.