The Goodness or Otherwise of Live Reactions in Teams Meetings

Teams Meeting Reactions Mean Hearts and Thumbs-Up for All

Microsoft confirmed that the long-awaited (by some) live reactions in Teams meetings are now available worldwide. Originally announced in MC230680 on December 18 and scheduled for availability in late January for commercial and GCC tenants, the feature allows people to use the Teams desktop or mobile apps to react during meetings with emoticons showing their current state of mind, opinion about a meeting, or views about how good a job a presenter does. The relevant roadmap items are 65946 (commercial and GCC) and 68905 (GCC High and DoD).

Four New Teams Meeting Reactions to Choose From

Teams meeting users are probably accustomed to the virtual hands-up feature which allows them to indicate that they have a question or wish to comment. Reactions adds four emoticons to the available set: heart, applause, thumbs-up, and laugh (Figure 1). Microsoft says that these reactions “help promote inclusivity in meetings and keep things upbeat and interactive.”

The set of Teams meeting reactions
Figure 1: The set of Teams meeting reactions

Choosing an emoticon sends it to other attendees (but not those using the browser client yet) where the selected reaction is shown in your attendee card (where the video feed or initials appear) in the gallery and large gallery views. Obviously, if attendees aren’t visible in the gallery views, you won’t be able to see if they send a reaction.

Things get more interesting when someone is sharing content during a meeting, like a PowerPoint deck. Attendee cards are largely hidden at this point, so Teams exposes the reactions by allowing them to float up from the bottom of the screen for a few seconds before disappearing (Figure 2).

A swarm of meeting reactions floats from the bottom of the screen
Figure 2: A swarm of meeting reactions floats from the bottom of the screen (image credit: Microsoft)

Clearly, the chosen set represents sufficient granularity for the reactions people might wish to convey during meetings. I find it a pity that emoticons are not available for boring, awful, and I’m going to sleep, all reactions that I experience regularly during online calls. The choice to avoid negative emotions is Microsoft at their uplifting best.

Reactions are only available in regular meetings. They’re not supported in breakout rooms.

A Good Use of Teams Meeting Reactions

Although I am not a huge fan of reactions in meetings or messaging, one good use of this feature is to respond to the all-too-common presenter questions such as “can everyone see my screen/hear me?” Instead of people creating a babble of noise as they respond by voice or cluttering up the meeting chat with yes and no, they can simply send a thumbs-up, which should be enough for even the densest presenter to know if their content is visible and they’re audible.

Others will enjoy being able to send hearts, applause, and laughs. It’s all goodness if it gets things done, but maybe not for me.

Controlling Meeting Reactions

Meeting reactions are controlled by the Teams meeting policy assigned to the meeting organizer. By default, the feature is enabled. To disable reactions, you must update the Teams meeting policy to set AllowMeetingReactions to False. This can only be done with PowerShell for now. Here’s how to connect to the Teams module to update the default meeting policy:

$SB = New-CsOnlineSession
Import-PSSession $SB
Set-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy -Identity "Global" -AllowMeetingReactions $False

Update March 6, 2021: Microsoft has updated the Teams PowerShell module to V2.0. In general, it’s best to use the latest version of a module but test it first! This version doesn’t require using New-CsOnlineSession to connect to the management end point.

Microsoft notes that meeting organizers can override a policy restriction for an individual meeting by updating the meeting settings to allow reactions (Figure 3).

Updating meeting settings to allow reactions
Figure 3: Updating meeting settings to allow reactions

I can’t imagine why organizations will want to disable reactions. It’s not as if they do much harm, and if people misuse them, they’ll look silly in the eyes of the other meeting attendees.

The Microsoft support article for this topic is available for more background and information.

The devil is in the detail, especially the details of Teams meeting policies and other settings. Stay informed and know how best to manage Office 365 tenants by subscribing to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook.

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