Enable Live Transcription in MS Teams Meetings

Is the "Start transcription" option missing from your Teams menu? Is the "Join" button missing from your calendar entry? Maybe I can help (but probably not).

Enable Live Transcription in MS Teams Meetings

I've been using the live transcription feature in my daily update meeting with my one remote employee.  The feature works pretty well, though there are a couple things I find annoying:

  • I can't set it to start automatically at the beginning of each meeting
  • There doesn't seem to be a way to search more than one transcript at a time

Sometimes it's available; sometimes it's not

As I said, I use the feature in my daily meetings.  But every time I tried setting up a one-off meeting, the feature wasn't available.

Sometimes the option was there, sometimes it wasn't.

Check Permissions/Policies

The first thing I did was make sure it wasn't a permissions issue.  I went to the Meetings Policies tab in our Teams Admin Center.  Then I clicked on the Global (Org-wide default) policy.  (The other five policies I blurred out in my screenshot are all built-in policies that have been deprecated; I have not built any custom policies yet.)

Teams Admin Center > Meetings > Meeting policies > Manage policies > Global (Org-wide default)

I verified that "Allow transcription" was set to On.  I had done this weeks earlier, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to transcribe my daily meetings.  Still, when something weird like this happens, I always check permissions first.

"Allow transcription" is enabled in the Global policy. Permissions look good.

Then, because I'm paranoid, I checked to make sure that I did not have some custom policy assigned to my user account.  Everything looks good here:

Users > {Click on user name} > Policies > Verify Meeting policy is correct


Finally, I decided to (re-)read the fine manual (that's what that acronym means, right?).  Microsoft 365 changes constantly, so the documentation barely keeps up.  

Following the link I posted earlier, I arrived at this nugget of information:

Ah, I see. Wait, what's the difference among these three meeting types?

It turns out that the live transcription feature is only available for "scheduled meetings" and not "channel meetings" or "Meet now meetings."  Which raises the obvious question, "What's the difference?"

After much DuckDuckGo-ing, I gave up.  I could not find any sort of authoritative answer as to what constitutes a "scheduled meeting" vs. a "meet now meeting."

So now I was stuck resorting to trial and error.

What's a "Scheduled Meeting?"

The answer seemed straightforward based on the user interface in Teams:

The button on the left starts a "Meet now" meeting, which must mean the one on the right lets us create a "scheduled meeting."

There's a button that says right on it, "Meet now."  That has to be the "Meet now" meeting of which the website spake.  Alas, 'twas more to the story.

I clicked the button to schedule a "+ New meeting."  I added a Title to the meeting, set the date and time for tomorrow at noon, and left the recurrence setting to "Does not repeat."  I saved and closed the meeting.

I then clicked on the event on the Calendar in Teams.  I clicked [Join] in the pop-up box.  To test the functionality, I joined the meeting then clicked on the three dots to pull down the menu.  "Start transcription" was not an option.  I clicked [Leave] to leave the meeting.

I went back to the event on the Calendar and clicked Edit.  I changed the recurrence option from "Does not repeat" to "Custom."  I then set a "Custom recurrence" schedule to repeat every 1 day, but with an End date that matched the Start date.

Behold, a single occurence "series" of meetings.

I saved the Custom recurrence and then saved the meeting details.  I clicked [Join] on the meeting entry on the calendar, joined the meeting, then clicked the three dots to pull down the menu.  Wouldn't you know it, "Start transcription" appeared as an option.

The Wrong Solution?  The Wrong Problem?

Thrilled that I finally figured out what was wrong, I decided to write an article about the ordeal to help the next poor soul.  The only problem?  I couldn't reliably reproduce the problem.  At least, not the same way.

After having written most of the article from memory, I went back to recreate the exact sequence of steps that led to the problem.  But, no matter what I did, I always seemed to have the option to "Start transcription" now.  

Man, as a developer, there's not much worse than a problem that you can't reproduce.

My theory

If I had to guess, I would guess that the problem was a temporary network issue.  Perhaps Microsoft's policy server was overloaded.  Every time Teams sent a request to see if I had permission to initiate the transcription, it failed to receive a response and so had no choice but to deny my access to the feature.  In this theory, changing the recurrence type from "Does not repeat" to "Custom" was a red herring.  That was simply the last action I performed before the network issue resolved itself.

A different problem

In trying to reproduce the original problem, I seemed to have stumbled upon a different problem.  I created a meeting using the "+ Add meeting" button, but I did not add any other attendees.

When I clicked on the event there was no Join button, only an Edit button:

Where is the Join button?

It would seem that the Join button does not appear until you add at least one attendee to the meeting.  It can be a required attendee or an optional one; that does not seem to matter.  I clicked the Edit button above and added a single Optional attendee.  I then clicked [Send update] in the upper-right to save my changes:

Now when I click on the meeting entry, I have the option to Join the meeting (even though it does not start for more than 12 hours):

To make things even more interesting, I can now go back and [Edit] the meeting and remove the only attendee.  When I click Send update and return back to the meeting entry, I still have the option to Join the meeting.

So, to recap:

  • Create a meeting with no attendees: [Join] button is missing
  • Add a single attendee: [Join] button shows
  • Remove the one attendee: [Join] button still shows

Future Readers

Having spent way more time on this article than I ever intended to, Microsoft is almost certain to change the functionality of Teams meetings and transcription options so that everything I just wrote is no longer applicable.  Your mileage may vary.  (Mine sucked.)

All original code samples by Mike Wolfe are licensed under CC BY 4.0