Don’t Get Stuck in the Teams Meeting Lobby

Custom Teams Meeting Invite Helps to Avoid the Message of Doom

An interesting post by MVP Simon Hudson described a situation where you can create a Teams meeting that you can’t subsequently join. Simon refers to the message “When the meeting starts, we’ll let people know you’re waiting” as the “message of doom,” but while not being able to access a meeting that you created causes user angst, Teams is working as expected.

Teams Meeting Add-in

It all goes back to the way that the Teams meeting add-in for Outlook desktop works. The add-in loads automatically when Outlook starts if some requirements. It must be able to connect to the primary Exchange mailbox listed in the Outlook profile using modern authentication. Outlook add-ins always run in the context of the primary mailbox and Outlook can only create private Teams meetings (channel meetings aren’t supported), and Teams assumes that users schedule private meetings in their calendar.

Alas, assumptions can prove fatal. Actionable messages are another example where the assumption is that a user is connected to Teams in their home tenant. In this case, Simon explains that he created a meeting in another calendar. Outlook is quite flexible in terms of opening calendars and is happy to schedule a meeting in any calendar it can access, such as the calendar belonging to a Microsoft 365 group or shared mailbox. From Outlook’s perspective, all goes well, and Outlook sends the calendar invitation to invited participants as normal, complete with a Teams deeplink pointing to the online meeting space.

The flaw is that when you create a meeting in a calendar other than your own, the owner of the meeting is the account that the calendar belongs to. In other words, it’s the account that owns the shared mailbox or group mailbox, and that account becomes the meeting organizer. You are a participant, but you don’t have any rights to manage the meeting.

Stuck in Teams Meeting Lobby Hell

All is well if all participants can join the meeting automatically without waiting in the meeting lobby. However, if the lobby setting in the meeting options (set by policy or for the individual meeting) limits those who can join without waiting in the lobby (for instance, just the organizer), you can’t bypass the lobby and will see the infamous “When the meeting starts, we’ll let people know you’re waiting” message. At this point, you’re out of luck and stuck in the meeting lobby. Your account doesn’t have the right to update the meeting to allow participants to bypass the lobby join automatically. The usual resolution is to hastily create a new meeting in the right calendar and email everyone to inform them about the new meeting.

A similar situation occurs when you schedule a channel meeting using the Teams calendar app or channel calendar app. In this instance, the team is the meeting organizer. The difference is that your account receives the rights to manage the meeting on behalf of the team, meaning that you can update the meeting settings if necessary.

Add an Organization Logo to the Teams Meeting Invite

Simon suggests that it is helpful to add an organization logo to Teams meeting invitations. The hope here is that you can spot meetings created in another organization when the time comes to attend the meeting. Although it’s an excellent suggestion to add an organization logo as a visual clue, it won’t help if you schedule a meeting in the calendar belonging to a group or shared mailbox in the same organization if the meeting settings bar anyone but the meeting organizer from joining automatically.

In any case, to customize the email invitations generated for Teams meetings, open the Meetings section of the Teams admin center, and navigate to Meeting settings (Figure 1). You can now customize four components used by Teams when it generates the emails.

 Customize the settings for the Teams meeting invite
Figure 1: Customize the settings for the Teams meeting invitation
  • Logo URL points to a network-accessible JPEG or PNG file that Teams inserts into meeting details. Microsoft’s documentation recommends using an image that’s no more than 188 pixels wide by 30 pixels tall. I have used considerably larger images, but it’s best to stay somewhat close to the recommended size to avoid bloating Teams meeting invitations with unnecessary graphic content.
  • Legal URL points to a web page containing information users need to know about Teams meetings. For instance, the page might explain why Teams displays reminders when an organizer records a meeting.
  • Help URL points to a web page containing information about Teams meetings. For example, the page could explain that Teams meeting recordings are subject to an automatic expiration policy.
  • The footer is free-form text containing whatever words of wisdom seem appropriate.

After completing the meeting settings, you can test what the customized body of a Teams meeting invitation looks like by clicking the Preview invite button. Figure 2 shows the result for my tenant.

Previewing a customized Teams meeting invite
Figure 2: Previewing a customized Teams meeting invite

As the preview indicates, the view it presents is only an approximation of what users see. The actual format depends on the client in use. Figure 3 shows what the customized email invitation looks like in Outlook for Windows. As you can see, the image for the organization logo is much larger. In fact, it’s much too large and proves the point that a smaller logo image is better.

A customized Teams meeting invite in Outlook for Windows
Figure 3: A customized Teams meeting invite in Outlook for Windows

Interestingly, if you modify the details of a meeting, Teams doesn’t include the organization logo in the revised meeting invitation.

Notice that the meeting invitation contains all the normal information, including the meeting identifier and passcode that people can use to join a call (MC389614, Jun 6, 2022. Microsoft 365 roadmap item 80668, due for general availability in July 2022). Users can join a meeting by inputting the meeting identifier and passcode into an option in the Teams calendar or the webpage

Schedule in the Right Place

The moral of the story is to keep things simple as much as possible, especially when working with two interconnected software products. Exploring the edges of possibilities might be enjoyable, but in the case of Teams and Outlook, it’s important to schedule meetings in the right calendar. And do add an organization logo to your meeting invitations, if only to brighten up the request to join yet another meeting.

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