So, What’s All the Fuss with ‘Front Row’ in Microsoft Teams Rooms?
Discover the Best Seat for Your Next Collaboration Session
If you follow Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR) content online – maybe even just the larger category of Microsoft Teams content – then you have likely heard the term “Front Row” on multiple occasions. Much has been announced, discussed and clarified regarding what exactly Front Row is in a Microsoft Teams Rooms and why an organization might want it. With that in mind, let’s cut through some of the noise and talk about what exactly it is, how it works and what an organization can do to prepare for using it within their meeting rooms strategy.
What IS Microsoft Teams Front Row, anyway?
Let’s cut to the chase and boil this down to its most basic form right out the gate: “Front Row” is very simply another layout within the Microsoft Teams Rooms in-meeting experience. Yep – you read that right: it’s an in-meeting layout.
While that may sound like an over-simplification, I feel like it’s necessary to describe it that way up front because much of the initial confusion about Front Row was centered on what it even was. Some thought that Front Row was an overhaul of specific hardware, meaning a significant investment up front. Others thought that it brought advanced capabilities only unlocked by a particular license upgrade. While Front Row does bring with it a more valuable and inclusive in-meeting experience to the participants in a conference room, it does not require an upgrade to any hardware in an existing Microsoft Teams Rooms setup nor require upgrading the Microsoft Teams Rooms Standard license.
However, it is important to note that while there are practically no actions required by an organization to begin utilizing Front Row, there are a few caveats to consider:
- Front Row is only available on Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows It is not yet available on Microsoft Teams Rooms on Android systems. That is planned, though, so be patient on that front.
- Front Row was made available by an update to the Teams Rooms firmware. If your organization has blocked automatic updates for any reason, this might prevent you from seeing Front Row as an available layout option when in a meeting on the MTR.
With those caveats out of the way and a clear understanding of what it IS, what additional value does Front Row bring to an organization? There are a few key areas in which Front Row brings a richer, more inclusive and more natural meeting experience:
- Meeting Chat. The chat from a meeting—historically not visible to in-room meeting attendees in a Microsoft Teams Room—is visible in this layout, along one side of the front-of-room (FoR) display(s). While the in-room attendees cannot add to the chat, they do not miss any context of the meeting that may only be captured through participation in the chat.
- Agenda, Tasks and Notes. These extra meeting components can be explored by individual meeting attendees that are sitting in front of a laptop with the Teams meeting invite in front of them. However, in-room attendees never really had a sense of any of these items. Now, with Front Row, they will be displayed on the FoR display(s).
- Optimized Video Gallery. When shared content is taking up most of the real estate on the FoR dispay(s), the video gallery is normally placed off to the side. With Front Row, the video gallery is laid out horizontally below the content, providing for a more natural eye-to-eye experience for the attendees in the room (See below image).
- Multiple Display Setups Supported. While Microsoft calls out that Front Row will work with either a single or dual display setup, it has also provided the example of using projectors in certain spaces. While this last option obviously does not work in every space, it does speak to the flexibility offered for Front Row.
How should you prepare your organization for Front Row?
Honestly, to start using Front Row right away, there are only two main things that come to mind to help prepare your organization:
- Educate your users on how to access this new layout option when in a meeting using your existing Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows systems.
- Ensure your Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows systems are running the latest firmware.
Now, while those are two easy steps (well, I suppose the word “easy” is up for interpretation here, right?), preparing your organization to take advantage of this enhanced collaboration experience most effectively might require you to put a little more thought into the room itself.
As a matter of fact, you may find that the Front Row layout is something you want to be used as a default in certain rooms as pictured below but optional for other rooms. The room in the picture below might require the orientation of existing rooms to be adjusted, the right furniture to be added, and even the displays to be reconsidered.
Displays might be one of the biggest technology considerations for effectively embracing Front Row within your organization. Front Row was designed to work with existing 16:9 aspect ratio displays, but optimally, the now-supported 21:9 aspect ratio will lay out the meeting components on-screen in a better, more natural way.
However, displays that are built for this 21:9 aspect ratio are relatively new options. Additionally, not all existing Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows systems support the 21:9 ratio currently. Obviously, there are little things that can trip up an otherwise incredibly effective collaboration upgrade in your meeting rooms, and it is important to avoid those pitfalls at all costs.
This is where a trusted, global partner comes into play. Not only a partner with the knowledge, experience, and skill to implement Front Row in the best way possible for your organization, but one with the industry relationships to bring best-of-breed hardware options to your meeting room decisions.
Reach out to myself, or your friendly Diversified account rep today to kick-start the Front Row conversation!