Running the Glasgow Azure User Group Virtually

Running the Glasgow Azure User Group as a virtual event

Running the Glasgow Azure User Group Virtually

Since founding the Glasgow Azure User Group back in 2017 we've held 17 meetups in person, however with the current COVID-19 lockdown situation hosting the April 2020 event in person wasn't feasible. So rather than cancel the event altogether I went with the plan of hosting the event online via Microsoft Teams.

I've been using Microsoft Teams for 2 years now for nearly 99% of my work meetings, so it's a platform that I am very familiar with and very comfortable with. So picking a platform to use to host the virtual meeting.

Back when I set up the Glasgow Azure User Group, I made the conscious decision to set up a Office 365 tenant for the group, I wanted a place that was separate from my work or personal environments. At the time Microsoft were offering free licenses, so we made use of that. However, as the programme expired at the start of 2020 we had to look at alternatives. I chosen to stick with Office 365 and go for E1 licenses to keep running the group. I'm glad to have went with the E1 licenses as it allows us, if we want to look at running Microsoft Teams Live Events. You don't need to go for the E1 license if you want to run a Office 365 tenant for your user group though, you can choice to go for something like Business Basic or Business Premium.

Setting up Teams

After deciding I wanted to hosted the meetup via a Microsoft Teams meeting one of the things I wanted to make sure of was that it was easy for people to join and that the tenant was set up to allow easy access for those that weren't part of the tenant. I think I achieved that to be honest, one person had an issue initially but after a quick email exchange we were able to get them logged in.

There were a few settings that tweaked within the Microsoft Teams Admin Centre. Now I am not a Teams expert, so I might have missed things or done things wrong but this is what I've set up, so please feel free to comment and make suggestions/improvements.

I ensured that annoymous users could join Teams Meetings.

Microsoft Teams Annoymous join

I turned off the lobby and set it so that everyone could join the meeting without being approved.

Microsoft Teams Lobby Off

Creating the meeting

We had over 100 people sign up to attend our event and I didn't want to have to invite each of those people to a meeting, it would have been a bit of a nightmare to manage and also would potentially be a risk with everyone seeing each others email addresses. So I set up the meeting, invited Gregor and our speaker to ensure they both had presenting rights and any control rights to manage anything within the meeting. And then I just took the meeting invite URL that teams had created and shared that with others.

Again this method seemed to work without an issue, people were able to join from their end and choose whether they wanted to use the client, a web browser, and even choose which account they could join under, work, personal or annoymous.

Quiz time

For as long as I can remember we've ran a quiz at the end of our in person meetings and I wanted to ensure we still did that with our virtual event. We even had a sponsor that was willing to pay for the prize, so I wanted to make sure I executed the quiz just right.

I use an app/platform called [Kahoot][] to run the quizzes normally and know it's popular with a lot of groups. I wanted to make sure I could operate the quiz without any issue, so I did extensive testing and even recorded it, so others could do the same for their events.

From the feedback and response the quiz went down well. 👍

Room for improvement

One thing I need to look into further is ensuring attendees join as participants and not as presenters. At the meeting everyone joined as a presenter, which gives them control to mute everyone, present, or remove others from the meeting. Now you can manually change this within the meeting, by right click on the user, and saying change to participant, but with large meetings that's a large job. I'll need to dig into this more, as ideally I'd only want me, Gregor and the speakers to be listed a participants.

At the meetup I didn't record the session, rightly or wrongly I thought it wasn't wise to record without everyone's permission and unfortunately I hadn't collected that properly. Which I know some people are disappointed by. Our next meetup is scheduled for June and I'm not sure if we will be in person or virtual then, it will all depend on the advice from the Scottish Government, but when people sign up for tickets I am asking for their consent to record the session.

Our tenant has yet to receive the "Raise your hand" feature the Teams PG are working on or the 3x3 video view, but I know both are in the pipeline, again hopefully if we are to run a virtual event both will be available to us.

Final Thoughts

It was nice being able to include people who aren't based in Glasgow and also bring together the "usual" attendees that we see at our meetups. The virtual meetup is a nice alternative to in person events at the moment but I am looking forward to the time when we can all meet in person again, swap stories, share pizza and stickers.

As I said earlier our next meetup is scheduled for the 24th June, I'm working on confirming the speakers. If you would like to join us you can sign up for a ticket.