No Point in Keeping a Meeting Going with Just One Participant
Updated: 28 November 2022
Message center notification MC399073 (July 9, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 96710) announce that stale Teams meetings will soon terminate automatically. The new feature is due to start reaching tenants in early August 2022 with full deployment being completed in early September. In passing, it’s curious that Microsoft only added this feature to the roadmap a day before the message center notification. Perhaps marking meetings as stale is an example of new functionality introduced because someone suddenly realizing that this would be a good thing to do, followed by a further discovery that implementation is easy.
Update: Microsoft has paused plans to roll-out the terminate stale meetings feature to make changes. They will recommunicate when the necessary software updates are available and they’re ready to recommence the roll-out.
Identifying Stale Meetings
One definition of stale is something that is “no longer new or fresh, usually as a result of being kept for too long.” A stale Teams meeting is one that:
- Has a sole participant.
- Lasts ten minutes after the scheduled end time (so it’s been kept for too long!).
This definition only applies to scheduled meetings. Ad-hoc meetings don’t have an end time, so they can never meet the test of staleness.
Normally, once a meeting reaches a conclusion, the participants leave, and the meeting comes to a natural end. Teams meeting spaces are persistent, meaning that participants can join a meeting before its scheduled time or after the meeting finishes. As I wrote this text, I joined a meeting which took place on 10 June 2021 and was able to see the meeting chat and other artifacts. If any of the other participants had wanted to, they could have joined the meeting too.
It doesn’t cost anything much in terms of computer resources to maintain persistent meetings and reawaken them if necessary. However, some resources are needed to keep a meeting alive (like maintaining network connections), which is why it’s a good idea to auto-terminate stale Teams meetings.
A sole participant in a meeting past its scheduled end time might still be active. For instance, they might be reviewing the meeting notes, Q&A, and so on to write up formal minutes. However, if just one person is in a meeting ten minutes past its scheduled end time, Teams considers that the meeting is potentially stale and prompts the sole participant to continue (Figure 1).
The participant has three minutes to respond. If they don’t do anything, Teams terminates the meeting. If they select Don’t End, Teams takes the hint and leaves the meeting alone.
If multiple people are in a meeting, even if it is well past its scheduled end time, Teams won’t ever consider the meeting to be potentially stale. Meetings often run over, and even if the meeting continues with a reduced set of participants, it’s still active and worthwhile. It’s also a very different situation to where just one person finds themselves all alone in a virtual meeting space. Sure, some people might like this, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it happens because someone walked away to get a refreshment after the formal end of a meeting.
Auto-terminating stale Teams meetings is a sensible change. The first time I encountered the feature in action, I missed the prompt because I walked away from my desk for a few moments and returned to find the meeting gone. That’s fine because I was going to terminate the meeting anyway, but it illustrated the worth of meeting auto-termination perfectly.
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. I think this is a good example of a simple idea that adds real value, and like the recent change to disable chat for anonymous participants, it will improve how people use Teams meetings.
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