How to use Whiteboard in Teams meetings efficiently II

When you need to collaborate in more visual way with your team members you want to take a look at Microsoft Whiteboard that automatically available with every Teams meeting. If your collaboration with your team is more text-based then I advice to use OneNote. For more visual needs, free form planning or just because you have used to use the physical whiteboard you should start using Microsoft Whiteboard. And what is also great that the Whiteboard app used in Surface Hub is the same than the Windows Desktop app.

What is often neglected to mention that the Whiteboard can be used by several people at the same time. It is a true teamwork collaboration tool just like OneNote, Word, Excel or PowerPoint (& others) in the Office 365 toolbox. Co-authoring is very important, since it allows multiple people to enter their ideas, votes and creations to the same canvas at the same time. And it is inclusive since everyone sees the changes every other person did.

I have written one blog post ”How to use Whiteboard in Teams meetings” earlier. It has recently gained a lots of interest so this one is a follow-up to that but also contains partially same content. If the use of Whiteboard is already familiar to you I encourage you to read the chapter ”Engage Whiteboard already in the meeting invite” to think how you can start utilizing it more.

Note: Whiteboard can be currently used within your organization only. You can not share it to others (for editing) unless you all use consumer Microsoft Accounts (not advised).

You can share Whiteboard as ”view only” to externals in meeting by sharing your screen (share desktop) and dragging Whiteboard App to that shared screen. Participants can then see what you are sketching or applying to the board and can give feedback in traditional ways: voice/chat. Whiteboard could be used instead of PowerPoint to present ideas and solutions to attendees and it doesn’t matter if they inside or outside of your organization.

Whiteboard is also a great meeting notes tool since you can write, ink and paste content to it. And if you are good at drawing or posses sketching skills the more I recommend using Whiteboard for meeting notes as well. Both Whiteboard and OneNote has it’s strengths and downfalls so it is good to understand which tool works for your team/project and why and in which scenarios. Formal meetings usually have meetings notes in OneNote (better structure, notes in one book) while Whiteboard is most often the virtual counterpart of physical whiteboard. However, I see there are also more use cases for Whiteboard than just being a digital paper. More about that in later blog posts.

Whiteboard app in Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/store/productId/9MSPC6MP8FM4

Whiteboard app in Apple Store:
https://apps.apple.com/us/app/microsoft-whiteboard/id1352499399

Engage Whiteboard already in the meeting invite

You can engage the whiteboard already when you do the meeting invitation. It is a good practice in advance to tell other attendees about the Whiteboard and do some preparation, if you have a change. This is also a good moment to bring to your attention that the Teams meeting scheduler has been updated as you can see in the picture below.

You can also include links to Whiteboard app in different stores and link perhaps this and my previous article for people to learn basics of the Whiteboard if it is a new tool for them. However on top of meeting agenda it is good to have a small checklist and a reminder that meetings notes will be in Whiteboard (or wherever they are).

Receipient/attendee can now RVSP directly and visually from Calendar invitation in Teams, without having to take a trip to Outlook.

And meeting organizer can see directly who had accepted or not. Note also that you can change meeting timezone also from within Teams meeting dialog! This is a great addition that enables me to keep Outlook closed for even longer times & letting me to worry about emails when it is their time. And before you worry: I do get my emails to my mobile phone so I will notice urgent messages most of the time – however it is easy to ignite non-urgent ones until I shift my focus to emails.

And as you can see in that picture I can now access meeting Whiteboard as well -without opening the meeting first. This enables me to prepare the whiteboard for the meeting.

Yes, Microsoft Teams Whiteboard view is rather limited. It has a few pens and an erasers. Even that is more than what is usually found in physical whiteboards – if you count in the pens that only work. However, we can take it to the next level by opening Microsoft Whiteboard app. Android and Web versions of the Whiteboard are the same as with Teams, iOS /Apple users should apps that are available.

When I open the Whiteboard Desktop app (no, I don’t have a Mac so I can’t show that experience) I can already see the whiteboard has appeared there. Once you have opened the Whiteboard in Teams it will automatically added to Whiteboard app list. If you have several new whiteboards there and you don’t know which is which then open the Whiteboard in Teams and draw X or something else there -> then you know for sure.

First thing to do is to fix the name. Click on … menu right of ”Whiteboard Meeting” text.

You can now type a new name when you choose the pen.

Now it is a lot easier to identify what this Whiteboard is. When you click the board open it will be a loading green for a few moments.

Other meeting participants need also to open the Whiteboard in Teams once to ”activate it” and after that it will be added to their available Whiteboards in the app. However, the name is personal and must be defined by every user individually. I see there are two improvement points for Microsoft Whiteboard team here:

  • Whiteboard should be named the as meeting title
  • It should be added automatically to Whiteboard app once anyone in the meeting activates it

Now these steps must be done manually by every attendee if they want to keep track of these whiteboard. It is also a good practice for meeting organizer to get the whiteboard web sharing link and add it to meeting invite/chat to users can open Whiteboard directly with it. Sharing link can be copied easily when you open Whiteboard in Teams and click on person+ icon left of the gear.

When you paste the link to the browser you get to choose how you open it:

Whiteboard tools

Instead of just a few pens we have now several pens and other tools like

  • marker / highlighter
  • eraser (remove any ink/drawing – doesn’t work to shapes)
  • ruler (draw straight lines)
  • lasso selection
  • Text (write text)
  • Notes (post-it notes)
  • Image menu (add from library, from Bing or take a picture using device camera)
  • List of tools
  • Undo
  • Redo

Compared to physical whiteboard we have just gone interstellar!

One really great additions is Templates, which are in preview currently. Templates enable you to structure you meeting more and they typically have some text and different note grids that allow you to add notes to different containers.

Since templates are shown in a vertical column you need to scroll it down and up to select the one you need. It is good to note that some features (Templates, List and Notegrid) are not visible in Teams/Web/Android version of the Whiteboard. If you need to display your Whiteboard in Teams share (not using desktop sharing of Whiteboard app) then stick to non-preview features.

You can also easily embed selected slides/pages of documents into the Whiteboard. This is very useful if you have a RFP or specifications that are not going to change (no need to update) often but are good to be visible during the planning.

Ruler is a great tool to show to people. You can draw straight lines and keep the ruler ”on the board” visible and easily usable until you toggle it off. You can move it around with just a one finger drag to move it it’s place (or away) and use intuitively two fingers to change it’s angle. And yes – you can draw straight lines using it’s both sides.

Settings

The Whiteboard menu is somewhat different if you have a active pen on or off. Select the one you like the most. Since I use most of the time pen with whiteboard it is active for me.

Ink to shape allows you to draw squares/triangles/ellipses and Whiteboard app corrects them to look better. This is very useful for me.. Also Ink to table is a great feature since it allows you to draw a table just by drawing a square and then start adding horizontal and vertical lines there to add more columns. If you in inside a cell it will automatically resize, however ink to shape is not active then. If you select the table you can also click on +/- to add/remove columns and rows.

You can also use Settings menu to post a link to Whiteboard to Teams channel. Just remember to add permissions too. Exporting Whiteboard allows you to export it as a image (png or svg).

Of course don’t forget the format background to make Whiteboard your own looking.

Be the example and lure your team in

Not everyone knows what Whiteboard is capable of. They see it’s limited version in Teams meeting and think it as a extremely limited tool that doesn’t have any use. They need to be shown where Whiteboard is at it’s best. And it will only get better – remember that it is one of the most important Surface Hub applications.

You need to be the Whiteboard Champion (yes, there should be a badge for this too!) to guide people how to use this tool the best way. There are still features that are ”work in progress” but it is extremely usable for teamwork collaboration online as it is now. Learn which capabilities work the best and in which situation to give your users as easy start as possible.

A huge number of meetings is done online instead of face to face these days. This was forced due to the disaster known as COVID-19 or Corona-virus. It is a good idea to learn how to use digital / virtual counterparts of these tools we have used so often in physical meeting rooms. Let’s make the best out of this unfortunate event in human history and learn how to use tools so we can work even better than we did before. Perhaps it will be a result of these tides that drives the change for us to work more online in the future as well.

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