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Understanding Who Receives Invitations for Teams Meetings

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Personal and Channel Meetings

Microsoft refreshed the Teams Calendar app last year and introduced a new scheduling experience in early 2020. Both were good steps forward to giving Teams users the tools to manage Teams meetings effectively. At least, if you know what you’re scheduling and who can join a meeting, and who should receive the Teams meeting invitations.

Two kinds of scheduled Teams meetings exist and each behaves differently when generating meeting notifications.

  • An online Outlook meeting (personal meeting).
  • A Teams channel meeting.

Let’s discuss the differences between the two types.

Update May 15 2020: In Office 365 Notification MC213330, Microsoft announced that the attendee picker used by the Teams calendar app now includes Exchange Online distribution groups and Microsoft 365 Groups. In other words, you can add these recipients to meetings scheduled in Teams in the same way as you can in Outlook.

Personal Online Meetings

An personal (or private) Teams meeting is created by an individual user in Outlook or in the Teams meeting app. The person who creates the meeting is the organizer and the meeting is created in the calendar in their mailbox. Online meetings created in Outlook use an add-on (like the Teams Meeting add-in) to associate the meeting with a Teams online meeting space and populate several properties of the meeting with details of how participants connect to the online platform when the event happens.

Figure 1 shows how a Teams meeting is created in Outlook. You can see the link to the online meeting that’s inserted by the New Teams Meeting add-on in the body of the notification sent to meeting attendees.

Creating a Teams meeting in Outlook

Teams meeting invitations
Figure 1: Creating a Teams meeting in Outlook

Remember that Outlook only loads the add-on when you’re signed into your home Teams tenant when Outlook starts. If you’re signed in as a guest to another tenant, Outlook won’t load the add-in because it can’t create meetings in that tenant.

Notifications for an Outlook Meeting

Notifications for an online Outlook meeting go from the organizer’s mailbox to the email addresses of the participants added to the meeting. Usually, these are the only people who join a meeting. Of course, if someone forwards the meeting notification to another person, that person can attend too.

When you create a meeting the Teams calendar app and don’t specify the name of a channel to meet in, it’s the same as creating an online meeting in Outlook. Only the people specified as attendees receive notifications. Teams creates the meeting in the organizer’s mailbox and sends the notifications to attendees from there. It doesn’t matter whether you create an online meeting in Outlook or Teams: the outcome is identical.

In other words, online meetings in Outlook or Teams which are not associated with a channel are personal and no-one except the organizer and the attendees know about the meeting.

Team Channel Meetings

Teams channel meetings are scheduled using the Teams calendar app or the channel calendar app. When a meeting is scheduled in a channel, it’s no longer a personal meeting. Instead, the meeting “belongs” to the team hosting the channel and the meeting is created in the calendar in the group mailbox for the team and the team is the organizer. In effect, you’re not creating a meeting for nominated individuals to attend. Instead, you’re creating a location (the channel) and time for a meeting to occur and allowing any team member to attend.

Figure 2 shows the creation of a channel meeting. Note that two attendees are explicitly added to the meeting. We’ll come back to this later.

Figure 2: A channel meeting created in the Teams calendar app

The big difference between personal and channel meetings is who receives invitations to the meeting. A meeting created in the channel doesn’t have anyone to notify because the channel is not a person, nor does it have a mailbox or calendar. The meeting takes place in the channel at the appointed time. When the meeting is on, any team member can join it if they want. Figure 3 shows the visual signal for a channel where a meeting is happening. Team members who want to join open the channel and select Join.

Figure 3: How to join a Teams channel meeting

There’s nothing to stop team members creating appointments in their calendar to remind them when an important channel meeting is due. In fact, it’s a good idea to do so. As explained in this post, it’s possible to change the settings of the group to make sure that some or all of the team members receive meeting invitations. This isn’t something that a regular team owner will do as it requires some knowledge of PowerShell, but it’s easy enough for an administrator to do.

You can’t change the channel a meeting is created in after the meeting is sent. If you need to change location, the organizer must remove the original meeting and recreate it in the right channel.

Meet Now

Meet Now meetings are impromptu gatherings in a channel. These are channel meetings without being scheduled in the team calendar. No notifications are sent for Meet Now meetings.

People Who Receive Notifications for Channel Meetings

Remember from Figure 2 that two attendees are explicitly added as participants to the channel meeting? These are the only people who receive email notifications about the meeting. The notifications are like any other meeting notification and allow the recipient to decide if they will attend the meeting. If they accept the invitation to attend, the meeting is added to their calendar.

If distribution lists are added as meeting attendees (Figure 4), their membership is expanded to find the individual members and notifications are sent to those recipients to allow them to join the meeting. Remember that the membership of a distribution list can include other distribution lists, mail users, mail contacts, and even public folders. In other words, you might end up sending an invitation to many unexpected recipients.

Figure 4: Adding a distribution list to a Teams meeting

Microsoft 365 Groups only support mailboxes and guests as members, but some restrictions apply. First, the group must be visible in the Exchange Online GAL; second, members must receive calendar (event) updates from the group. (this post goes into the settings to allow members to receive calendar updates in more details). Yammer can use Microsoft 365 Groups to manage the membership of Yammer communities, and the members of those groups might not use email and never see the invitation.

The two golden rules are:

  • If you want to be sure that someone knows about a channel meeting, add them as a meeting participant. If you don’t, they still might attend the meeting, but only if they notice that the meeting is on in the channel when it’s in progress.
  • Make sure you know who’s included in a Microsoft 365 group or distribution list before you add these objects to meeting invitations.

It is possible to enable all team members to receive invitations for channel meetings. If you do this, be aware that a) Microsoft might change how things work in the future and b) while some people like receiving invitations to channel meetings, others consider these invitations to be a waste of time.

Teams Meetings and Office 365 Group Settings

We’ve covered the basics of personal and channel meetings here. Because Teams is built on top of Microsoft 365 Groups, some group settings affect notifications. For example, you can add someone to the subscriber list for a group and they’ll receive notifications for channel meetings because the meeting “belongs” to the team/group.

Although these group settings exist, it’s best to leave well alone and not change them. Teams hides the groups it uses from Exchange clients to stop people updating notification settings and make sure that things operate as planned. It’s not good to have too many moving parts in play when trying to figure out how things work.


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