In an era where remote work and virtual events have become the norm, Microsoft Teams has been a cornerstone for many organizations worldwide. On September 28, 2023, Microsoft announced a significant shift in its virtual events offering by introducing ‘Town Halls’ and simultaneously announcing the retirement of Microsoft Teams Live Events. The new features promise to offer an integrated and unified experience, enabling organizations to conduct various types of events, both internal and external.

A New Dawn: Town Halls in Microsoft Teams

Amber Waisanen, a key spokesperson for Microsoft, unveiled the new ‘Town Hall’ feature in Microsoft Teams, aimed at commercial customers. This feature is set to replace Teams Live Events and will become generally available starting October 5, 2023. Town Halls are designed to offer a one-to-many event format, boasting advanced production capabilities and a structured approach for attendee engagement.

“Town halls in Microsoft Teams enable customers to extend their reach to scale their message and connect with audiences around the world,” Amber noted in the announcement.

Advanced Features in Town Halls

  • Attendee Capacity: Town Halls can host up to 10,000 attendees on standard Office and Microsoft 365 plans, and up to 20,000 attendees in Teams Premium.
  • Event Concurrency: The feature supports up to 15 simultaneous events across a tenant in standard plans and up to 50 in Teams Premium.
  • Event Duration: Events can last up to 30 hours.
  • eCDN Support: Both first-party and third-party eCDN are supported for real-time monitoring.
  • Green Room: A separate space for presenters to prepare without disturbing attendees.

Enhanced User Experience

  • Manage What Attendees See: Organizers can control the view so attendees only see shared content and on-screen participants.
  • Hide Participant List: Attendees won’t see the participant list, enhancing focus on the event.
  • RTMP-in and RTMP-out: These features allow integration with external hardware and software, as well as streaming to third-party platforms like YouTube and LinkedIn.

Community Feedback and Future Updates

Bryan Nyce from Microsoft confirmed that PowerPoint Live support is in the pipeline. Questions from the community also brought up the possibility of watermarking options and specific access control features, to which Microsoft assured ongoing developments.

The Gradual Goodbye to Teams Live Events

Microsoft Teams Live Events will continue to be supported for commercial customers until September 30, 2024, after which it will no longer be available. Existing recordings will remain accessible until the end of December 2024. Government customer timelines for the retirement will be announced separately.

Making the Transition Smoother

To assist organizations in making a seamless transition, Microsoft is offering technical guidance, LEAP support, free instructor-led training, and FastTrack onboarding assistance for eligible subscriptions.

“We look forward to seeing how you leverage town halls in Microsoft Teams to host dynamic, large-scale events and drive deeper connections with people and teams both inside and outside of your organization,” Amber concluded.

Final Thoughts

The introduction of Town Halls in Microsoft Teams is a significant leap towards an integrated and enriched virtual event experience. With enhanced features, extended capabilities, and the promise of future updates, Microsoft seems poised to redefine how we perceive virtual events, thereby contributing to the ever-evolving dynamics of remote collaboration and global connectivity.