How Microsoft uses live events in Microsoft 365 to run large virtual meetings

Sep 26, 2019   |  

Microsoft has 144,000 employees working in several hundred different roles in offices that are spread across 120 subsidiaries around the world.

Getting everyone together in one place? The company is just too big for that.

That makes the technology the company uses to bring its people together in town halls, all hands, and other large meetings super important, says Dan Benedict, a senior program manager in Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO).

“We have major events where division leads need to be able to reach several thousand people, global meetings with people reporting in from several time zones, and regular team meetings with people reporting in from home or from multiple buildings,” Benedict says. “You name it, and we need to support it.”

[Learn how Microsoft utilizes live events internally and externally, how Microsoft uses the live events platform to run its meetings, and how CSEO used live events to run a recent 18-hour virtual team meeting.]

The CSEO team gets a lot of questions from customers about the technology the company uses to support these types of events.

The answer?

The company uses a solution available to all customers called “live events,”—officially known as “live events in Microsoft 365,” Benedict says. The platform is an integrated solution connecting three core Microsoft technologies— Microsoft Stream, Microsoft Teams, and Yammer.

How does it work?

Stream is the company’s internal video streaming and video recording service. It provides automatic transcription, closed captioning, and rich video search, among other capabilities—all of which are designed to give audiences a rich viewing experience. It can stand alone but also integrates well with Teams and Yammer.

In Yammer, employees can engage in discussions and socialize before, during, and after a live event in an online community setting. Teams is an event bridge and a hub where event-related teamwork occurs, something the team uses for more of a targeted interaction.

Benedict says it’s fairly easy for employees to stream meetings from Yammer, Teams, or Stream itself. However, it gets more challenging when a team wants to have a meeting with several thousand attendees (up to 10,000 people). These meetings are run by a specialized production team at Microsoft, with the CSEO live events team overseeing in real time the backend video and audio streamlines. They do this by using a third-party monitoring service that enables them to make sure these events run at the expected standards. This includes making sure that video doesn’t break down or buffer at any point during the stream.

Real-time telemetry and reporting and gathering post-event stats are key, Benedict says.

“We rank each of these areas between one (best) and four (worst),” he says. “To maintain a seamless experience, we need to make sure a meeting goes no higher than 1.3 on our QoE scale.”

Currently, real-time metrics are pulling information on region, bitrate, and video-buffering time—also called QoE, or quality of experience. At a recent companywide Q&A, more than 10,000 people watched at 1,384 unique locations. The meeting scored a 1 in quality, and load uptime averaged a quick 3.5 seconds.

“Not bad,” Benedict says humbly. “But we will keep working on it to make it better and better.”

Learn how Microsoft utilizes live events internally and externally, how Microsoft uses the live events platform to run its meetings, and how CSEO used live events to run a recent 18-hour virtual team meeting.

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