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Tool Tip #2: Microsoft Teams

MS Teams is an online chat platform for internal communication with a group of people.  You may already be familiar with more casual tools, such as Facebook Messenger, Messages (for Mac or iOS), or WhatsApp. While it is simple to use, MS Teams has an array of features and integrations that make it easy to communicate with groups across Northwestern.

Get Started with MS Teams

Download and install MS Teams:

Teams and Channels

Teams within MS Teams are made up of two types of channels — standard (available and visible to everyone in your team) and private (focused, private conversations with a specific audience). Each channel is built around a topic such as team events, a department name, or just for fun. Channels are where you hold meetings, have conversations, and work on files together.

A team must be created by Northwestern IT (NUIT). To request that a new team be created, go to the Collaboration Services Requests page. To determine which type of team best suits your goals, view Types of Teams. Note that the maximum number of channels per team is 200.

To create a channel, select “Teams” in the left menu and choose the team in which you need a new channel. Select the three dots (…) next to the team’s title and then “Add channel.” View the “Establish Best Practices for Creating and Removing Channels and Teams” section on this page to consider your options.

Chats or Conversations?

Chats are started from the “Chat” tab in the left menu and are for one-to-one or group chats.

image of starting a chat

Conversations, while similar to chats, provide some structure and allow for more collaboration. Conversations can be started via the “Teams” tab, within channels, in the left menu. The interface is similar to chat, but with a few subtle differences:

Video Chats, Voice Chats, and Screen Sharing
image of Teams icons

At the top of each chat are three icons indicating three options:


From within a team or channel (not within a Chat), select the small camera icon at the bottom of your window to meet instantly.

image of camera icon circled in red

If you integrate Zoom with MS Teams (see instructions below), you can schedule a meeting as you would in Outlook by selecting the second small camera icon that appears after you have successfully integrated the two platforms. Hover over an icon with your mouse to view text popups and make sure you are selecting the correct icon. View your calendar and meetings by selecting the “Calendars” tabs in the left menu.

Use Zoom for Meetings

MS Teams works with the videoconferencing tool Zoom to enable enhanced video collaboration and conversations within one platform. While you can use the built-in videoconferencing feature in MS Teams, the integrated Zoom app offers features with which you may already be familiar.

Schedule Meetings in the Calendar tab

Use “New Meeting” at the top right corner of the window to schedule a meeting in advance, or use “Meet Now” to start a meeting right away.

Schedule Meetings with External/Guest users

Just as you would schedule a regular meeting in Outlook, you can invite anyone with an email address to a meeting through MS Teams. The recipient will receive a calendar invitation with a link to the meeting and then join via MS Teams in their browser or their own MS Teams application on their device.

Record Meetings

Recordings capture audio, video, and any screen-sharing activities. The meeting is recorded in the cloud and saved to Stream, an option accessible via the three dots in the left menu. Manage, download, and share other video content in Stream.

How do you start a recording? Once in the meeting, select ‘…’ and choose “Start.” Recording is tracked in a message at the top of the meeting. Once finished, select “Stop” recording from the same banner at the top of your window.

Find more help as well as other prerequisites and considerations:

Other Useful Tips for MS Teams

Integrations with MS Teams

image of Apps icon

Many third-party solutions, such as Zoom and Jira, can be integrated directly into MS Teams to make them more useful. Microsoft also has its own products that can be integrated directly into MS Teams, such as GitHub. Select the “Apps” icon in the bottom of the left menu to browse available apps or to search for a particular app.

Zoom In and Zoom Out

It sounds simple, but sometimes the most basic tip is the one you were looking for. Teams now supports the ‘CTRL+’ zoom in and ‘CTRL-‘ zoom out functionality. For more details, view  Zoom in and out of Teams.

Microsoft Immersive Reader

You can access this learning and accessibility tool while on a message by choosing the three dots icon (…) and selecting “Immersive Reader” from the dropdown menu. Features of the reader include text-to-speech at different speeds, options for viewing text in a larger font size and with different colors and spacing, and options to display syllables, verbs, nouns, adjectives, and sub-clauses in different colors and with labels.

Background Blur (compatible only with certain PCs)

This is especially useful in MS Teams video meetings if you work from home or have confidential information on the walls of your office.

To activate background blur during meetings, select the three dots (…) on the call menu and select “Blur My Background.” You may need to log out and log back in for the functionality to be enabled.

Currently, the blur is compatible only with certain PCs. If it is not available in the menu, you may not be able to use the functionality. For more details, view the Microsoft support post: Background Blur.

Translation of MS Teams Messages

You can now translate messages to your base language in MS Teams. Select the three dots icon (…) and choose “Translate.” Return to the original language in the same menu.

Best Business Practices for Using MS Teams

 Use Naming Conventions

Naming conventions are critical when organizing teams, emails, and data. Since creating a team creates an email address for that team, it's important to stick to consistent naming conventions. For example, "Teams IT" and "Teams Finance" are clearly descriptive of each team's purpose. Users can easily scan their channels and understand the scope of each team. 

Establish and use consistent naming conventions from the start to avoid confusion later.

Establish Best Practices for Creating and Removing Channels and Teams

Follow Microsoft's best practices for creating new channels You don't want to create new teams and channels every time there is a new initiative. Teams should rarely overlap. Each team should have a specific purpose so that users aren't confused about which team they should be posting in.

While you are able to create a new channel yourself, you must contact NUIT to create a new team. Before contacting NUIT, you will need to get the new team approved internally. This can be as simple as asking your manager to approve the new team. A short checklist can help users decide whether creating a new team is necessary.

Next Tool Tip: Your University Phone

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