To get the best out of the communications strength of Microsoft Teams, the savvy Assistant will make smart use of Channels.

Channels allow you to create and manage the most efficient and effective set up for helping teams to work together, share ideas and discuss projects.

Here is my quick guide to following best practices for communicating in Microsoft Teams Channels.

Why Assistants Should Follow Best Practices with Teams Channels

As an Assistant, you are going to be professional in every aspect of your job or client work. You understand the importance of following best practices.

Why should that be any different for how you use Microsoft Teams and its Channels feature for communications?

Setting up Channels in the right way will bring clarity to communications. Everyone in the team will know what communications options are available – and which is the best choice for each piece of communication.

It is partly about efficiency and maximising productivity with Microsoft Teams. But it is also about etiquette.

Who wants their already overloaded inbox filled with unnecessary ‘copied you in’ messages? Who wants to be distracted by irrelevant chat? Who wants to be kept out of the loop or miss important information or updates?

When Teams and Channels are set up sensibly, they will make everyone’s life easier. Clarity and consistency of communications. Time saved. Distractions avoided or reduced. No key messages missed.

A Quick Guide to Communications Best Practice in Teams Channels

To help you get the most out of Teams communications, here are some tips and pointers.

Check If You Need to Create a Team or Channel or is a Chat sufficient?

If there’s a topic requiring communication, consider whether it can be covered by a group chat or requires contributions from a dedicated team.

Group chats or 1-2-1 chats are perfect for gathering people together to talk about a one-off matter, or something unrelated to a particular project or topic. You don’t need to share with everyone if it only concerns certain people, such as a technical matter or design query.

Create a Team when there is a set project or a department matter that involves collaboration from many people. Then create a Channel for each  topic.

A Team is a better option than a group chat when there are more moving parts that need to be included such as – different topics or applications -that will make working on the project smoother.  Channels will allow segmentation of topics or project elements and will lead to more streamlined communication.

Naming Teams and Channels

Clarity and consistency are the watchwords when it comes to names.

Once you’ve selected a format, keep to it and share that naming convention so it is used consistently in Microsoft Teams. Keep names short and to the point. In an organisation, for example, there might be a All Company team and then a Channel created for each  department – such as Marketing, Sales, Finance, HR and IT. There is no right or wrong way to do things, you simply do what makes the most sense for your organisation.

Using Channels allows you to create specific areas that are relevant just to that topic or department. In a Channel you will have an area for general chat and each channel has its own document library where all files are stored and shared.

Create Teams to Tackle Complex Projects

Assistants may be involved in complex or ongoing projects, which means clear communications are more important than ever.

To avoid message sprawl or chaotic communications when using Teams for Project Management and Task Tracking , create new Teams and Channels so the right people are in the loop on the topic. This also avoids people with no direct involvement in that topic receiving irrelevant communications.

Organising Teams this way keeps communications lines clear and efficient. If a person is not a member of a Team they will not see any of the communications or have access to any of the files.

Make Good Choices of Communication Type

Microsoft Teams gives today’s Assistant a compelling set of different ways to communicate with others in a team or Channel. This includes Chat – which is more than just instant messaging – Conversations, email (in Outlook), voice call, video call and video conference calling (using Teams or alternatives like Zoom or Webex).

When ready to communicate with other people, consider which means of communication is the best choice for the purpose. Use Chat for quick messages or quick questions. Open a 1-2-1 call if there’s more to discuss. The same for Group Chat if only a few people need to be involved in the communication. For the whole team a Teams Meeting might be best or for the different parts of the project, use the Channel posts for communication and the  files area to store and access the documents stored in the Channel document library.

Keep Relevant Chat, Files and Documents in Your Microsoft Teams Channel

By having a specific Channel for each piece of work, campaign or project you can keep all your communications and information in one place. It makes collaborating on documents in Microsoft Teams so much easier.

This means you and everyone in the Channel can find the information easily and do not have to waste time searching for files, notes, recordings or comments. There is nothing more frustrating than getting ready to join a meeting, or screensharing, and discover the file you want is not where you want it to be.

When you have presentations uploaded to a Channel you can then add that presentation as a Tab. This means when you have a meeting everyone can see the presentation, in order to collaborate on it with ease.

Add Applications to the Microsoft Teams Channel

The savvy Assistant will add other applications to the Channel and share a plan where everyone can see which tasks have been assigned to them – and view progress with projects.

Microsoft Teams seamlessly integrates with Microsoft applications such as SharePoint, OneDrive, Project and Planner.

Microsoft Teams also offers integrations with third party applications, to improve workflow, project management, creativity, collaboration and more. Bring apps like Zoom, Webex, Trello, Adobe Creative Cloud, Lucidchart, Mural and MindMeister into play – all within Teams.

Some Simple Tips on Microsoft Teams Channels Etiquette

Sometimes it is the little things which matter. Demonstrating that, as an Assistant, you understand the value of people’s time and the importance of good communications, will stand you in good stead throughout your career.

Here are a few simple ways to demonstrate best practice.

Manage Notifications in Channels

For your own purposes, manage your notifications. Only turn on those that are most important to you. The rest you can check as and when. And remember to encourage others to do the same, to avoid notification fatigue.

Take Care with Tagging

The smart Assistant will use team @ tagging with care. Use this feature sparingly, especially for large groups in a Channel or team. If people start to see too many communications that don’t concern them, they will end up ignoring you. And that, as we all know, defeats the object.

Using Likes and Reactions

Good communication is about clarity and understanding. Emojis can help or hinder.

Use a ‘Like’ to indicate you’ve completed a task. Use Reactions to indicate agreement and endorsement.

Set Your Out of Office

If away, travelling or on holiday, it’s a helpful courtesy to let people know. As the Calendar you see in Teams is your Exchange Outlook Calendar, you can set Teams to ‘Out of Office, or ‘OOO’ as some people like to call it. This will set the Out of Office message for both Teams and Outlook.

Use Commonsense for Great Communications in Teams Channels

Following best practice for communicating in Channels in Microsoft Teams is largely a matter of commonsense. Think about what you are doing and how you want to communicate with others.

Creating Teams, Channels and clear lines of communication is part of the setting up and organising Teams for effective collaboration . As the savvy Assistant, you are in a strong position to lead the way and promote best practice.

Thought put into how to organise and structure teams and channels will pay dividends down the road for you – and those you work with – time and time again.

Shelley Fishel - The MS Office Maestro
Posted in TomorrowsVa, Teams

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