Presentation and code for Experts Live 2018

Today I had the honour to speak at Experts Live NL about deploying Microsoft’s cloud PBX. Experts Live is always a fun gig and the interaction between al nerds in the venue (during and after the sessions) are always something that really gives energy 🙂

I promised I would upload my slides and PowerShell code for this session, so here is a quick blogpost to let you know you can find them on GitHub.

For those of you that were at the venue, thanks for coming. For those of you that weren’t: see you next year! 😉

Office 365 E5 will bring PSTN calling to The Netherlands before this summer!

Some breaking news at the Office 365 Drumbeat event today! The Office 365 E5 plan has been available for a while, but in The Netherlands, there was no PSTN-calling. You can currently use the PSTN conferencing dial-in, but you can not use your Skype for Business as a cloud based PBX. This will change! Before this summer, PSTN-calling will be available in The Netherlands. This was disclosed at the O365 Drumbeat conference in Amsterdam today.

Liking that? Then maybe this is a good moment to register for the Microsoft Cloud Roadshow, to be held in several cities. The one in The Netherlands will be held on May 19th and 20th in World Forum in The Hague. You can register online.

Skype Meeting Broadcast is GA!

The preview period has ended, and Skype Meeting Broadcast is now general available!

I blogged about Skype Meeting Broadcast before and spoke at Experts Live 2015 about the features and functionality, and it’s nice to see that now all Office 365 costumers can start using this feature.

There are some steps you need to perform to get Skype Meeting Broadcast running for your organization. As always, Microsoft has documented this well. You can find all relevant documentation here.

Have a good meeting!

365 Dude at Experts Live 2015

On November 19th I’ll be at Experts Live 2015 in Ede. This year I will not only be there listening to the cool sessions on all new Microsoft technology and absorbing all the knowledge, but I’ll also present a session myself.

Early in the morning, at 07:45, i’ll be talking about Skype Meeting Broadcast. We’ll cover the technological architecture, when to use a broadcast in stead of a regular Skype for Business meeting and of course do some live demo on setting up and producing a broadcast, as well as the view you’ll have when attending such a broadcast.

If you’re at Experts Live this year, be sure to check this out! Want more information about the event or buy tickets? Check out the Experts Live website or watch the video in which some of the speakers are presented. See you there!

Redesigning your meeting room? Think Vytru.

One of the highest scoring devices when it comes to coolness, at least in my humble opinion, are Lync Room Systems.

These are ready-to-go devices to bring the Lync, or should I say Skype for Business, meeting experience to your meeting- or board room. The big downside of these however, is the price. Especially if you invested in, for example, a big TV-screen for your meeting room before, you might want to look in to something that allows you to build on those previous investments.

Vytru jumps into this gap with their Lync Room Video System, RVC for short.

The heart of the system is the ‘codec’. This is basically a NUC-based PC loaded with the Vytru software. You can attach all your existing devices to this base, be it TV-screens, USB webcams, audio devices, etcetera. This way, you can reuse your existing equipment in your new meeting room setup. The software can be used with a touchscreen device, but if you don’t have one of those you can control it using any keyboard and mouse.

You can attach any camera you want, as long as it is connected through USB. This way, you can adjust the set, and with that the price, according to your needs. Setting up a simple system for a small huddle room? Connect any HD monitor-mounted webcam and use a relatively small screen. Going all the way? Use 80″ screens and a full HD PTZ-camera like the Logitech CC3000e.

Vytru can be used with a single screen, or in a dual screen setup. When using the dual screen setup, one screen will be used for displaying the video streams, while the other will show the meeting content such as a powerpoint presentation.

And for the good news: while Vytru used to charge an extra licensing fee when using dual screen, they recently dropped that. Dual screens for everyone!

Vytru Lync Room Video System with dual screen setup

If you want to know more about these systems or want to figure out if it fills your meeting room needs and you live in the Netherlands, feel free to drop me an email and have a chat.

Surface hub now available for purchase

For a while, Microsoft pushed the Lync Room System as the go-to product when designing your meeting room to use with Lync / Skype for Business. Those systems created an integrated experience to bring Lync or Skype for Business to the meeting room. Those room systems are not an actual Microsoft product, but were 3rd-party solutions based on the guidelines provided by Microsoft.

With the announcement of Windows 10, Microsoft anounced a new product to be used on the workfloor or in the meeting room: the Surface Hub.

The Surface hub is more than a huge Surface tablet: it’s a computer fit into a large touchscreen. There are two different sizes: a 55-inch display housing an Intel Core i5 and a 84-inch one built around an intel Core i7 and a special nVidia graphics chip.

The big screens enable user to colleborate more efficiently on project or have a remote meeting with colleagues or external participants.

The Surface hub wil play nice with your meeting room. Once you enter the room, all you have to do is activate the device and all participants can connect. In a session, you can simply set up a Skype for Business meeting, collaborate on Office documents or share images or 3D models. All files shared during a session using Office, OneNote or other Windows Universal apps are combined and sent to the participants after the meeting if you choose to do so.

The price for the Surface hub Is fairly high, but does beat most Lync Room Systems. The ‘small’ 55-inch version is sold for around 7869 euros, the large 84-inch one goes for 22.449. The Surface hub is available since July 1st.

You can check out Youtube if you want to see the Surface Hub in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRLDRQePY1o

Skype Meeting Broadcast checked out

As mentioned in an earlier blogpost, you can now start with testdriving the new Skype Meeting Broadcast functionality. So I did 🙂
We’ll walk through setting up the meeting and have a look at what the meeting looks like for attendees.

Setting up and running the broadcast

Once your tenant has been approved to use the preview, you can start scheduling your broadcasts on https://sched.services.skype.net. From the calender view, you can click the ‘new meeting’ button to… well, schedule a new meeting.
schedule
 Once the meeting has been created, just click the pencil icon to change its properties.
  pencil
 First of all, we can change the title and scheduling information for the meeting.
details
The next step is to add team members to the event. Team members help in producing the event, like switching video streams, managing incoming questions, etc.
addteam
Just click the blue bar and add people to your team. In this case, I choose to add colleague and Powershell-geek Robert to my broadcast team.
robert
After defining the team, we set who can attend our meeting. Currently there are two options: anonymous (where everyone who has the link to the meeting can join) or secure, where we define explicitly who can attend the meeting. The third option, where the meeting is open for all people from inside the organization, will come in the near future.
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The final step is to customize the event.
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We can set both a right or a left panel app, that we can use to interact with the audience.
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As an app to facilitate the interaction, there is a choice between Bing Pulse or a Yammer conversation.
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When, for example, a Yammer conversation is chosen, you supply the information for this conversation so it can be integrated into the meeting.
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For this test broadcast, I dont set any integration. As i’m a nerd, I don’t like interaction with people 😉
On the same page, we can set the ‘support’ information to either the default help-link or specify a specific link to, for example, the company intranet.
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As the last step, we can add a custom link that will be visible to attendees. For example, we can use this to supply a link to the company website.
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When done, we copy the event link for the event.
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The scheduler doesn’t create an invite or calendar item, so we need to do this ourself. Simply create an Outlook meeting invite, select your participants and paste the meeting link into the invite.
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When it’s time to start the meeting, the team members simply log on by follwing the link and choosing the ‘sign in as event team member’ option.
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 Team members will be redirected from the website to using the Skype for Business desktop client.
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Once started, we get the regular Skype for Business client with the normal controls.
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 Within the IM window, we can IM with other team members that are producing the event. Those IM’s are not visible to attendees, so it’s a good way to coordinate the broadcast in the team.
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As the presenter, i choose to upload and present a Powerpoint file, just like I would normaly do in an online meeting.
 onenote-55b009b4307705.53036105
 Next, i’ll start my video just like in a regular session.
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When there are multple presenters, the team members can choose the actual active video stream. This way, in a multi camera setup, one of the team members can take care of switching the actual camera’s.
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The last thing we do, is change the layout: only send the video stream, only send the active presentation content, or combine both. Ofcourse, this can be changed realtime during the event. Once done, we hit the start broadcast button to actualy start broadcasting.
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The team member in charge of switching the video streams and content can use the blue bar as a visualisation of what is actualy being broadcasted.
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Also, the presentation content can be managed. For example, we can choose if the presented PowerPoint file should be available for download and if so, who will be able to do this.
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Ofcourse, multiple PPT-files can be made available within the broadcast. During the event, we can switch between these files to choose the one that is actualy being presented.
 onenote-55b009bee06880.61242105
For the presenter, there is the ability to show the thumbnails for the presentation or the notes. These won’t be visible for the attendees, they only see the actual presentation itself.
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Once done broadcasting, we can click the ‘stop broadcast’ sign to stop broadcasting. Once the broadcast is stopped, it can’t be restarted.
onenote-55b009c27ea5a3.38767680

Attendee experience

So what does this look like from the attendee side? Let’s check it out 🙂
We follow the link in our invitation and click the ‘join broadcast’ button. As we are attendees, the broadcast will be played completely from within the browser. The Skype for Business desktop client, even when installed, won’t be used.
When we login, the broadcast team is still busy doing the final preparations, so we see a message telling us the broadcast hasn’t started yet.
onenote-55b009c421d519.16327116
Once the meeting starts, we see the screens that the production team select from within their client. In this case, it’s a combination of the video stream and the presentation.
 onenote-55b009c61f1d48.46661635
As you see, the custom link we added during the meeting setup, is displayed in the top right corner. With the time bar in the bottom, we can scroll through the meeting to actually skip back and forth. When hitting the ‘live’ button, we go back to the actual live view that’s running at that time.
When the production team switches to full video or full content view, our view changes respectively.
 onenote-55b009c8ac2e97.71586325
  onenote-55b009ccabed62.53816027
And ofcourse, when the production team switches to a new deck of slides, our view displays the new deck.
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As stated, the attendees watch the event straight from the browser. The above screenshots where taken using Google Chrome on Windows, but joining from a Mac using Safari works perfectly too.
 onenote-55b009d1df58a4.90377544
Finaly, we can ofcourse switch to full screen mode within the browser with just one click.
 onenote-55b009d4299ab1.89157793
Once the meeting is over and the team stops the broadcast, a message stating that the broadcast is over is displayed.
 onenote-55b009d75611f6.32314472
Ofcourse, we can still use the time bar to scroll back and rewatch certain parts of the broadcast if we like.

After the meeting

Switching back to the organizer, after the meeting we can log in to https://sched.services.skype.net again to check on the meeting data.
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By clicking the meeting the name, we can check a few things.
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Note that the event link still works. You can rewatch the entire meeting when following the link.
Second of all, we can download the meeting info as a CSV file. This will show all users in the meeting, with their join and leave time and the browser they used.
 onenote-55b009daa85090.92800320
So that’s it. Rounding up, the Skype 4 Business team did a pretty decent job on this one, especially considering it’s just preview. It. Just. Works. Both as a presenter or team member or as an attendee, everything speaks for itself and works without any hazzle.
I can see this function quickly gain momentum within the online meetings, be it a webinar of some sort or a way to update your employees around the globe on the lates news from within your organization!

Testdrive the new Skype for Business features

In case you missed it: it is possible to sign up for the preview of the new Skype for Business features that were recently announced.

To do this, simplye go to https://www.skypepreview.com/ and sign-up.

There are three feature to try out: The new Skype meeting broadcast feature, PSTN conferencing and the ‘cloud PBX with PSTN calling’ feature, that turns your Skype for Business environment into a full blown PBX. The meeting broadcast feature is available for trial globaly, the other two features are currently US only.