Well me hearties, the world is opening up a bit but there’s still a whole lot of remote work going on. So it’s still an excellent time to discover how to give a sales presentation over video call.
This is the second post in our absurdly helpful series about using popular video calling platforms to make remote sales presentations.
The idea is to look at the popular video calling platforms available on the business market today and measure them against criteria focused on sales presentations. Our criteria is as follows:
- How easy is it for you, the presenter, to use?
Can you schedule that call at a moment's notice? How easy is it for you to present your screen once you're in there?
- How easy is it for your prospects on the other end of the call to use?
Is it easy for them to start the call and their camera at their discretion? Can they dial in by phone if their microphone isn't working?
- How well suited is it for screen-casting a presentation?
When you’re casting, can you see your screen and the recipient's video? Can your recipients hear the audio from videos that you're playing? Can you cast from your iPad?
- Are there any extra features that make it more compelling to use?
For example, a chat function to send links to your viewers, or being able to record the call so that you can review it later.
- How’s the security and privacy?
Can you password protect the call? How secure is the software in general?
To get a true sense of how video calling platforms stack up against these criteria, we’re putting each contender through an exhaustive mock sales call. Naturally, the sales presentations we're using on these calls are all hosted on our award-winning, easy-to-use sales presentation platform: Showcase Workshop.
If you haven’t experienced the extreme gratification of using Showcase Workshop yet, now is a great time to try it out for free. But if your company still insists on using PowerPoint presentations, this guide is generic enough to apply to you too.
Today’s video calling platform is Microsoft Teams.
It should come as no surprise that Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) is the company behind Teams. Microsoft is that company that Bill Gates (you may have heard of him) and Paul Allen founded back in 1975. It’s kind of a big deal.
Microsoft announced Teams in November 2016 as a direct competitor to Slack. Earlier that year, they’d actually considered buying Slack for $8 billion but Bill Gates wanted to focus on their own meeting software, Skype, instead.
Luckily for us, Microsoft looked beyond Skype and created Teams. With multiple chat threads, video calling, and file-sharing, Teams is designed for — well — teams. Skype and the rest of the Microsoft suite integrate seamlessly into Teams to allow for even greater functionality.
Just the stats, thanks
Based in: Redmond, Washington.
Company size: Microsoft recorded 151,163 employees company-wide in 2019.
Cost: Free to use if you just want Teams. Paid subscriptions for Microsoft 365 Business start at NZD$7.60 a month (around USD$4.78 a month).
Compatible with: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux.
Reviews: Microsoft Teams has a TrustRadius score of 8.4 out of 10 and a Capterra rating of 4.4 out of 5.
Teams is primarily a tool for internal collaboration, and a lot of its features do reflect that. However, if you’re deep in the Microsoft ecosystem and don't want to switch apps a lot to make your sales calls, you might be wondering how it performs when calling an external audience.
Let’s find out!
Ease of use for the presenter
App and account
We're going to assume that if you want to start a call on Microsoft Teams, you already have the Teams app installed and you have a Microsoft login. If you don't already have these things, it probably isn't worth the effort to acquire them simply for the sake of making sales calls.
You can download and install the Teams app and create a Microsoft account for free. But be warned: If you don't have a Microsoft 365 subscription, it is literally impossible to schedule a call from the Teams app. Scheduling a call relies on the Calendar function, and this simply will not appear if you don't have a subscription to Microsoft 365. If your organisation is already embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem, this should not be a concern.
Microsoft Teams has apps available for Mac, Windows, iPads, iPhones, and Android devices, so you’re pretty well covered. This article looks at using Teams from a Windows computer specifically.
Scheduling and starting a call
As mentioned, scheduling a call is done from the 'Calendar' option on the left hand side of the Teams app. Setting it up is a lot like setting up a standard meeting or calendar event — but you’ll see in the email invite that there’s a giant “Join Microsoft Teams Meeting” link for your guest to click.
When the time comes to start your call — or, ideally, a few minutes before — you can click “Join”. You'll have the option to sort out your video and audio for the call, giving you a chance to double-check your background and appearance before joining.
Unlike Zoom, there doesn't seem to be an option to connect audio by dialling into the meeting on a phone. Yes, there is a “Phone audio” option in the bottom middle there but, funnily enough, I didn't have access to the dial-in information for my meeting — despite being the host.
Once I’d confirmed these settings and hit “Join now”, I got a security warning saying “Windows Defender Firewall has blocked some features of Microsoft Teams on all public and private networks”:
This is a bit naff — since Windows Defender and Teams are both Microsoft products, one might expect them to play nicely with each other — but all you need to do to resolve it is select which networks to allow Teams to communicate on and click “Allow access”.
Once you’re in the call, sharing your screen is pretty straightforward: It’s the very obvious “Share screen” icon between the microphone and the three dots.
Like most good systems, you can choose to share an individual window rather than your whole screen. I, of course, selected the Showcase Workshop window that I already had open.
As you can see from the screen cap, Teams has a whole section in the screen sharing dialogue dedicated to PowerPoint. Although this looks quick and easy, you still have to browse to the location of the PowerPoint file that you want to share, and wait for it to load before you can present it.
This is only a mild inconvenience, especially if you’re setting up your call in advance of your prospect actually joining. What I found more annoying was being reminded of just how boring most PowerPoint presentations are.
If you also feel your heart sink a little bit when you load up an infinite carousel of dull, text-packed slides with pixelated clipart, you might want to get in touch with us. There’s a better way. You don’t have to suffer.
One small gotcha when selecting your screen sharing options is that the option to include system audio is unchecked by default. So if your presentation includes video or sound elements, you’ll want to check this to ensure that sound carries through to your prospect.
Similar to Zoom’s “Participants” window, Microsoft Teams has a “People” panel, with a couple of useful features built in.
One of these is the ability to invite other people to the call, right there and then. This feels way more seamless than Zoom’s convoluted options for adding more guests mid-call.
The other nifty feature is the ability to download a full list of those who attended the meeting.
Unlike Zoom, you don’t need to keep this “People” panel open to see exactly when your guests have joined the call; Teams uses a lobby system that is enabled by default, so you'll get a notification when one of your guests is waiting to join the call.
Our verdict: Ease of use for the presenter:
Score: 4 / 5 stars
Teams has a frustrating mix of great features and a couple of naff gaps (the Windows Defender warning, the lack of a dial-in option, and having to explicitly check the System Audio option).
Ease of use for prospects
So we've seen how Microsoft Teams works for the host of the video call, but what about the guests? As the Red Hot Chili Peppers would say, they have to “take it on the other side”.
Whether you’re presenting to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or a red hot prospect, the joining experience is nice and simple: All they need to do is click that big old “Join Microsoft Teams Meeting” link that they saw in the invite email.
If your prospect has the Teams app installed on their device, the link will prompt them to open the call in the app — but, helpfully, still gives the option of using the browser:
Like the host, the prospect has a chance to check their video and audio before joining the call. In our testing we couldn't see any option whatsoever for the guest to dial in by phone.
Once the guest enters their name and clicks “Join”, they are taken to the virtaul lobby to wait for the host to let them in. The lobby is a clean and simple page with the basic camera and audio settings still active:
If you, the host, are presenting your screen, the first thing your prospect will see after being admitted from the lobby is the shared screen nice and large. Weirdly, they won’t see your face. Instead there’s a small square with the host’s initial, right where you’d expect a video feed to be:
On the host end, the webcam indicator light was still on so I had no idea that my video wasn’t showing up for Millie. I could also see a control to turn my camera on and off, but this made no difference to what Millie saw. Uncool!
As soon as I stopped sharing my screen, my video reappeared for Millie. This is a pretty big and confusing boo-boo for Teams.
That being said, the shared screen showed up crisp and clear for Millie, with very little lag when moving through a Showcase presentation. And once I turned on the “System Audio” toggle, the sound came through as well.
Millie wasn't able to remove me from the call (so Teams already has an advantage over Google Meet, which we'll be reviewing next week), but she was able to share her screen without any approval from me, the host.
After some digging, I later found that there are Settings you can establish when scheduling the call. These include switching the the lobby option off so your guests can join the call immediately, and restricting guests from presenting.
Our verdict: Ease of use for prospects:
Score: 3.5 / 5 stars
Easy to join, but no phone option and the fact that the guest can miss out on seeing the host completely makes Teams lose some points in this area.
Screen-sharing a presentation
As we saw from the host usability section, starting a screen-share is pretty easy —as long as you remember to tick the "System audio" option.
The Teams window forefronts your shared screen to an almost excessive degree — as we saw in the section above, it actually stops the host’s video sharing outright.
And even in the host’s view, the guest’s video window is made quite minimal - with half their face obscured by video controls:
The presentation renders well and doesn’t lag, but when I tried to give Millie control of my screen for her to explore, nothing happened. I also couldn't see any way to hook up my iPad screen to share, so you may be out of luck if that’s where your presentation happens to be.
Our verdict: Screen-sharing a presentation
Score: 3 / 5 stars
Microsoft Teams has a good basic implementation of a screen-sharing feature, but some advanced features are lacking.
It’s possible to set a background for your call on Zoom as well, but Microsoft really highlights this feature — it’s one of the options you can pick right off the bat when starting the call as the host.
When setting up the call, the background options were a range of quite tasteful and convincing office spaces/rooms (and a beach that’s mostly blue sky):
When I was actually in the call however, I also had the option of...this thing:
Nerd Alert: I’m pretty sure what we’re seeing here is the titular Halo from Microsoft’s popular video game series.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable or weird to set a background for a remote video sales call, but I do reckon picking a Halo background is a bad bet. It’s somewhat unclear why this even exists in a tool used for business communications!
What’s worse is that if you somehow picked this by accident, it’s hard to get rid of — the “Hide Background” control actually hides in the “Background settings” panel that you picked the background from, not the background itself.
Like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams has support for auto-generated captions. When you turn these on, they are visible on your own end of the call only. This is a great accessibility option for those who need it.
The chat function in Microsoft Teams is almost absurdly comprehensive and blows Zoom way out of the water. You can insert tables, quote blocks, links, gifs, and stickers; you can also format text into bold, italics, or bullets, and react to messages.
Like almost all of the Teams app, the design of the chat options and messages is clean and minimal.
Millie did note however that it would be easy to miss any chat messages as the notification dot is quite small and unobtrusive in the interface:
It’s quick and easy to start recording from the “More” option (the three dots in the call toolbar).
The recording starts automatically and you get a helpful note telling you what will happen with the recording after it's done.
Interestingly, the recipient gets a note that recording has started and implies that by joining the call, they’ve consented to being recorded. This seems like a bit of a bait and switch!
The host’s view actually encourages you to get consent from the other participants in the moment.
Once the call is finished or you stop recording, the recording appears in the meeting notes for the meeting; you'll also get a copy via email. In both instances the file appears to be hosted on Microsoft Stream.
It’s not clear what Microsoft Stream actually is, but the default sharing option assumes that you’ll be sharing it with members of your own organization on Teams.
The “Get link” option provides you a link to the file but also on Microsoft Stream, which you have to log in to view.
Long story short, it’s quite difficult to share your meeting recording file with anyone outside your organization.
One thing I noticed when playing back the recording is that the audio is absolutely terrible. This could be a function of the microphone on my particular computer, but it's worth mentioning in case there are some overzealous compression methods going on as well.
When poking around the call options we also saw that it was possible to start a ‘whiteboard’ or to collect meeting notes in-call. Neither of these actually worked for us, however. The whiteboard option was restricted to internal calls for the time being, and the meeting notes gave us a confusing error message about our wiki.
One little element that Millie and I found very useful was that there was always an unobtrusive timer visible on the call so you could see how long you'd been talking for. Although it's a small detail, we reckon this is great as a subtle reminder to stay on track and not waste your prospect’s time.
Our verdict: Extra features
Score: 3 / 5 stars
Points for the chat, captions, non-Halo-themed backgrounds, and nifty little timer. No points for features that don’t actually work!
Security and privacy
In contrast to Zoom’s laundry list of security fails, Microsoft may actually be going too far in the other direction — at least in a couple of instances.
The fact that Windows Defender flagged the app when starting the video call and the restriction on sharing a recording file to anyone outside your organization are features that are more of a hindrance than a help.
On the positive side, Microsoft Teams’ built-in lobby feature is a clean and simple way to vet incoming guests. The links to the calls themselves are hard to spoof or guess, because they are extremely long. You can also choose settings that prevent guests from casting your screen.
Behind all of this, Teams is an “enterprise-grade” application, with all the security considerations that implies. Data is encrypted in transit and at rest — something Zoom said they did but actually didn’t.
If you’re not a big data security nerd like me, encryption “at rest” protects your data wherever it’s being stored — on your computer, your company server, or in the cloud. Encryption “in transit” protects your data as it moves from one location to another (e.g. when you’re uploading from your computer to the cloud).
The “in transit” part is trickier, and that’s the bit Zoom was a little dishonest about.
Our verdict: Security and privacy
Score: 5 / 5 stars
Secure to a fault!
What’s Microsoft Teams’ overall score for sales presentations over video call?
Host ease of use: 4/5
Participant ease of use: 3.5/5
Screen-casting capabilities: 3/5
Extra features: 3/5
Security and privacy: 5/5
Total: 18.5/25 or 74%
If your organization is part of the Microsoft ecosystem, you could certainly do worse than hosting your sales presentation calls on Teams.
However, it’d pay to be aware of the mild hooks here and there — for example, not being able to share the recording, and not having your video cast when you’re screen sharing — before you leap straight in.
Showcase Workshop looks great on Teams and we have an app for Windows computers, so don’t feel like you have to settle for a stale PowerPoint when presenting through this channel!