Microsoft Teams is a chat- and conferencing-based workspace app that comes as part of an Office 365 subscription. It’s meant to facilitate ongoing collaboration and communication occurring among any team, project, organization, or group of people. Teams provides single-point access to conversations, files, notes, tasks, and, most relevant to this publication, online meetings.
Online meetings have become incredibly important in the world of employees and students who can work and learn remotely starting as early as the late 1990s, but especially so in 2020.
This guide covers the how-to, tips and tricks, and everyday etiquette for using Microsoft Teams for good online meetings. These guidelines are meant to be a starting point and won’t be perfectly applicable to every organization, but they should get you going with setting ground rules for you and your peers. For the sake of this publication, the terms meeting, call, conference, and similar all mean the same thing.
Want to know more about Teams Management & Governance?
AvePoint has you covered! It’s important to properly govern the provisioning and lifecycle of your Teams. Learn the right way to manage Teams with our, When to Use and How To Manage Teams and Office 365 Groups ebook. Or learn more about our Cloud Governance solution.
Some Big Picture Tips
Meetings and calls are better on the desktop app.
The web version of Teams is great, but not as feature-rich as the desktop app. Especially for meetings.
But you don’t need the app or a browser plug-in to join a meeting.
On desktop, anybody can join a Teams meeting right in a browser; no downloads necessary. Use Edge or Chrome.
Make sure your audio and video are set up and working.
You can type /testcall in the Teams search bar to make a designated test call. Teams runs you through a quick diagnostic test to ensure your audio and video are working well.
A pair of headphones goes a long way.
Wired or Bluetooth headphones will make the sound experience better for everyone. Make sure to choose the correct speaker and microphone when joining your meeting.
Make use of the whole Office 365 suite.
Teams incorporates multiple Office 365 apps: use OneNote to take notes or minutes, share and edit documents in SharePoint, create follow-up actions right in Planner. Learn more at jum.to/Groups.
It’s Not About the Tool
Good meetings happen because the people who lead them are competent, prepared, and organized. Microsoft Teams will not make a meeting good or bad; the people in the meeting will be responsible for that outcome. Make sure to follow the meetings best practices below to make the most of bringing everyone together. Professional organizations like APQC and PMI have additional resources, too.
Have a set agenda and share it ahead of the meeting.
Identify the topic, topic owner, and request input ahead of time. Ensure the agenda file is easily accessible to all meeting attendees; include a link in the meeting description or in the Channel conversation of a Channel meeting.
Define success for the meeting.
Make it abundantly clear what it means to have achieved the expected outcome(s) of the meeting. Make sure the attendees share the same view of what constitutes success.
Invite the right people.
A meeting without key stakeholders quickly becomes pointless. And meetings with too many non-essential attendees can waste people’s time. Be strategic and respectful.
Share background information and resources ahead of the meeting.
Ensure everyone has access to all reading materials, presentations, and numbers before the meeting. Post them in your Team, perhaps as tabs, or link to a folder of meeting resources in the meeting description.
Stay on topic.
Have a parking lot for distracting but productive topics. Great use of a separate page in your OneNote notebook or the Whiteboard that comes with your meeting.
Have a time keeper.
Each agenda item should have a time limit to keep discussion on point and productive. Assign an attendee to drop the hammer on time limits.
Have a scribe.
Taking good notes while facilitating a meeting is incredibly difficult. Assign an attendee to take notes that can be shared with everyone afterwards. Formal minutes or not, any written record is helpful.
Track action items and assign them appropriately.
Write down any tasks that arise during the meeting, make sure each has an owner, and assign a due date. Without writing these down, it’s easy for people to forget or misinterpret the concluding expectations of the meeting.
Finding the Right Meeting Time
Scheduling around everyone’s existing appointments can be difficult, especially if you’re crossing time zones or including external attendees. There are a few good options for this; you just need to be familiar with how they work.
Use Scheduling Assistant for internal meetings.
You should be able to see your colleagues’ availability through Scheduling Assistant so you can avoid times when they’re booked. It’s no different than the feature in Outlook.
Use FindTime to poll attendees for schedule preferences.
FindTime is a free Outlook plugin similar to doodle.com that lets attendees vote on available and favorite time slots and can even automatically schedule a Teams meeting once consensus is found. Visit jum.to/FindTime for more information.
Use Scheduler for Office 365 (via Cortana) to automatically schedule meetings.
Let Cortana negotiate meeting times automatically. Send an email to Cortana asking to “schedule a Teams meeting with John, Sally, and Jason sometime tomorrow”. Visit jum.to/Cortana for more information.
What Type of Meeting Should I Use?
You’ve got a few options for your meetings. An online meeting is great for a project team, organizational unit, or ad hoc call. A Channel meeting (a specific type of online meeting) is great for meeting within a Team itself. And a live event is perfect for a town hall meeting, corporate presentation, and even a webinar. There are certain aspects of your meeting that should help you understand when to use which. Open your calendar in Teams and click the dropdown arrow to the right of + New meeting to choose between the three.
When to schedule an online meeting
A scheduled meeting or meet now meeting will likely meet most of your online meeting needs. You can include several hundred and they can join through Teams or a phone number. The meeting comes with a designated chat space, a hyperlink to open the meeting in Teams on desktop or mobile, or a browser, and can include attendees both internal and external to your organization. If you’ve used Skype for Business meetings, the experience is similar, but with more features.
When to schedule a Channel meeting
Channel meetings take advantage of the new technology platform that Teams affords and therefore might be something you should consider using for internal meetings within your Teams.
A Channel meeting occurs in a Channel. Obvious enough, most likely. What might not be so obvious is that the chat and files associated with that meeting are also kept in the Channel. The meeting itself is its own Channel conversation and the files are saved in the Files tab of that Channel.
The conversation remains connected to the meeting, even if the meeting is on a recurring schedule. When the meeting takes place, you’ll see a video icon next to the Channel name. Click the Channel name and you’ll see a space displaying the ongoing meeting with photos of attendees who have joined and any conversation that’s taken place.
Creating the Channel meeting takes place when you’re scheduling your meeting; you can select a Channel to hold that meeting in. The Team members are not automatically added as invitees (unless they’re subscribed to Group notifications); you still must add the invitees and make sure to do so after you choose the Channel (otherwise the invitees get wiped). You can only schedule a Channel meeting when all invitees are already members of the Team it’s taking place in. As of the time of publishing, Channel meetings cannot be scheduled in Private Channels.
When to schedule a live event
Live events are large-audience meetings with a small number of presenters; they can range from single-camera presentations to professionally organized events with multiple feeds. Live meetings actually use Microsoft Stream, Office 365’s video platform, behind the scenes. Live events can support several thousand attendees and work well for town halls, webinars, conferences, and other large events. Video feeds are delayed 15 to 60 seconds and interaction is limited to moderated Q&A. Before scheduling your first live event, you should read up on how they work in detail.
Having trouble explaining Office 365 and which app to use when?
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Assign roles to your invitees.
Teams offers three different roles: organizer, presenter, and attendee. Each role has different capabilities. While it’s not required to set roles, they can be helpful in keeping control.
Post your agenda in the Channel conversation or include a link to it in the appointment.
This gives everyone the ability to familiarize themselves with the topics. And since the file’s not an attachment, you can make updates to it as you please and the link always opens the current version.
If you want a phone number connected to your meetings, you need a license.
Teams can append a phone number and meeting ID to the invite. If you don’t have this, you need to talk to your IT administrator about purchasing a license. Anyone with the Teams mobile app can still join a meeting without the phone number, though.
Try scheduling your meetings for 25 or 50 minutes.
Admittedly this is hard to stick to, but if you do, everyone might like you a lot more. It provides opportunities for quick breaks, like grabbing a glass of water or visiting the bathroom. You can set this up in Outlook for your meeting defaults.
Schedule a meeting in Teams
It’s very easy to schedule a meeting in Teams. Each meeting you create automatically has a dedicated online meeting space. No extra steps required.
- 1Click the Calendar icon in the Teams app bar then click +New Meeting > Schedule meeting.
- 2Complete the details of your meeting.
- 3You can invite anyone with an email address, whether they’re internal colleagues or external to your organization. External attendees can join your meeting from Teams or right from the browser.
- 4Press Send and get ready for your meeting.
Another quick way of scheduling a meeting is the shortcut from your ongoing private chats. Below the message box you will find a small calendar icon. Click this icon to open a pre-filled meeting invite with all the individuals in the chat set as attendees.
Schedule a meeting in Outlook
Although it’s recommended to use Teams to schedule your meetings, you can also schedule Teams meetings through Outlook. Outlook for the Web and the Outlook mobile app provide the best experience. Simply create a new event in Outlook and there is an option to add an online meeting in Teams. If you prefer to use the desktop app on Windows or macOS, you can create a new meeting and add a Teams meeting to it.
Schedule a Channel meeting
Channel meetings take place in a Channel in a Team. You schedule your Channel meeting the same way as any other meeting in Teams. Just make sure to choose a Channel from the Meet in a Channel field in the new meeting pane.
Select the Channel, then add invitees.
Channel meetings do not invite the Team members or Channel followers (unless they subscribe to the underlying Group notifications). You still must invite people explicitly. Don’t add invitees until you’ve selected your Channel first.
Attendees must be part of the Team.
Once you invite someone that’s not a member of the Team, the meeting can no longer be a Channel meeting.
You can forward a Channel meeting to someone outside the Team.
Just know that those external attendees will not have access to meeting chat, files, and some other features because they’re not a member of the Team. Handy, but don’t rely on it.
You can’t schedule meetings in Private Channels.
This is one of the feature limitations that comes with using Private Channels.
Start an ad hoc meeting
Sometimes you just need to hop into a quick video call with some people right now. There are a bunch of ways to start ad hoc meetings—including starting a video call directly from an ongoing private chat, for example—but this is the one sure way that doesn’t require any prior setup and is a good default to remember.
- 1Click the Calendar icon in the Teams app bar then click Meet now.
- 2Name your meeting and choose your audio and video sources. Join the call.
- 3To include internal people, open the Show participants pane and add their email addresses.
- 4To include external people, open the Show participants pane and click the link icon and send the copied link to your recipients (via email, chat, text message, whatever works).
Another quick way of starting an ad hoc meeting is available within your ongoing private chats. There are buttons in the private chat to start an audio or video call with the people in your chat. This is useful for kicking off a meeting quickly with people you interact with regularly.
Join a Scheduled Meeting
Joining Teams meetings is easy. Each meeting includes a standard signature section in the appointment with a link to join and a phone number and conference ID for those who have a license for the phone number.
Join from Teams
Click the Calendar icon in the Teams app bar then click the meeting you want to join. In the meeting details is a purple Join button. Click that to join, select your video and audio settings, and join in. If the meeting is imminent, there will be a join button right on the calendar appointment itself to save you some clicks.
Join from Outlook
Click the Calendar icon in Outlook then click the meeting you want to join. In the meeting details is a Join button. On desktop, the meeting will launch in your browser first. If you use Teams for desktop it will open Teams; if you don’t, the meeting will launch in the browser directly. On mobile, the meeting will always open in the Teams app, so make sure it’s downloaded (especially for external attendees who may not otherwise use Teams). Select your video and audio settings and join in.
Join from any email address
In the appointment, find the Join Meeting section in the signature and click Join. Select your video and audio settings and join in. If you don’t have Teams, you can join through your browser; no downloads or plug-ins required.
Join from a telephone
In the appointment, find the Join Meeting section in the signature to find the phone number and conference ID to join by audio only. The meeting organizer requires an additional license to use a phone number for audio conferencing.
Pull someone into an ongoing meeting
Sometimes you need to quickly get someone into an ongoing meeting and they don’t have the appointment readily available. You can add people as necessary during the meeting itself.
- 1While in the meeting, click the attendee listing to reveal the Show participants pane.
- 2If you’re inviting someone from your organization, start typing their name in the Invite someone field and select them when they pop up.
- 3If you’re inviting someone from outside your organization, click the link icon and send the copied link to your recipients (via email, chat, text message, whatever works).
During Your Meeting
Tips for everyone
Regardless of whether you’re leading the meeting, taking part, or just following along, everyone should do their best to follow these recommendations to ensure you all have a good experience.
Just because you can more easily get away with jumping between apps while in an online meeting than in a physical meeting, that doesn’t mean you should. Be respectful of everyone else: be present, be engaged, and be on task.
Use video when circumstances and internet connection support it.
Video facilitates a much more effective meeting than audio.
Mute new joiners if they get noisy.
As people join, they may not be muted and might cause distractions. You’ll see who’s making noise from the purple hue around the icon in the attendee list.
Note: only certain meeting roles can perform this action.
Stay on mute when you’re not talking.
Nobody wants to hear you cough or listen to your dog whimper about needing to go out.
Use background blur or a custom background image to minimize distractions.
Everyone will see your background a lot. Consider an image with reminders on how to be a good attendee, like this example.
Use chat to help share resources and information during meetings without causing a distraction.
It’s helpful to share web addresses, contact names, spellings, and other supplemental information while someone else is talking. These chats are part of the Channel/Private Chat, so everyone can refer to them after the meeting, all without disrupting the call.
Share your screen.
Screen sharing keeps everyone on the same page during your meeting.
When sharing PowerPoint presentations, keep them simple.
If you directly share a pptx, it loads through PowerPoint Online, which lacks support for robust animations and transitions and doesn’t allow jumping ahead to other slides.
When sharing webpages, zoom in.
This helps your attendees see what you’re showing, which is usually smaller on their end. Ctrl/Cmd + = will zoom in most browsers.
Record your meetings for future reference.
The videos can be useful for training and for people who were absent. Microsoft Stream can even auto-transcribe what was said. Meeting recordings will automatically appear in the meeting chat and can also be found in Stream under My content.
Tips for the meeting leader
Leading the meeting comes with responsibility. Here are some things to keep in mind to run your meeting like a pro.
Admit attendees as they join the lobby.
The lobby is a safe space for attendees to wait to join the meeting. Just don’t forget about them. You can change these settings if you prefer.
Mute everyone at the start of the meeting.
Use the Mute all feature at the beginning of the session. This ensures distracting sounds don’t come through.
Join the call with your mobile device to track chat.
Sometimes the content on your screen overtakes your ability to follow the meeting chat. But you can join with the smart phone app and follow chat from there.
Keep an eye on raised hands.
Attendees can click Raise hand to indicate they want to say something. Be on the lookout for the notification so they don’t sit and stew for too long.
Share meeting recordings with attendees.
If the meeting includes people outside your Team (including externals), it can help to upload the video to your OneDrive and share a link to everyone in a follow-up message.
Enable live captions for accessibility.
If you have the right Office 365 license, you can enable live captions, which helps not only the deaf and hard of hearing, but anyone surrounded by a lot of background noise.
Tips for meeting attendees
Attendees have a role in facilitating a good meeting, too. When you join a meeting, follow these tips to help keep things running smoothly.
Use the Teams app if you can.
The web version of Teams is great, but not as feature-rich as the desktop app. Especially for meetings. But if you don’t have an Office 365 account, don’t worry: the browser is plenty good enough.
Do not admit people from the lobby unless you know you should.
At this time, all meeting attendees that are in the meeting are able to admit people from the lobby. You should only admit people if the meeting leader is okay with it.
Raise your hand to speak.
Use the Teams Raise hand feature to indicate to the meeting lead that you have something to add. This will help avoid interruptions and awkwardly cutting each other off.
Zoom in on shared screens if you need to.
Any attendee can press Ctrl/Cmd and use mouse scrolling to zoom in on a screen shared by someone else.
You can transfer a desktop call to your mobile device.
This can be very helpful if you need to get on the road during a meeting. Open the mobile app and you should have an option to join from there. Click the option to send call to my phone.
Wrap Up Your Meeting
When your meeting is over, don’t just hang up. There are some steps to closing out your meeting in a productive way. Follow these steps to ensure a good experience.
Identify all action items, assignees, and due dates.
Tasks are almost always a result of a meeting. Track them in a central, agreed-to place, like Microsoft Planner, Microsoft Project, To Do, or a separate task app you can add as a tab in Teams.
Now is the time to set up any follow-up meetings.
You have everyone’s attention and they all have access to their calendars. Talking through schedules is usually easier than messaging about it later.
Share the recording with those who may not have access.
If you recorded the video, open it in Stream, download it to your desktop, then upload it to your OneDrive so you can share the link with anyone who isn’t in your Team.
Continue chatting if need be.
The meeting chat will continue to be active after the meeting. If you have follow-up information to share, the meeting chat is a great way to do it.
Mute and hide the chat if necessary.
If you don’t want to be notified or bothered by the ongoing meeting chat, you can mute the chat to disable notifications and hide the chat to remove it from your chat listing. Click the ellipses on the meeting chat for the options.
End the meeting.
Normally, a meeting doesn’t end until everyone leaves. But an organizer can end a meeting by clicking the ellipses on the meeting chat and selecting End.
Keyboard Shortcuts You Need to Know
Tips for everyone
Some people absolutely love keyboard shortcuts. Teams has dozens of them. You can find a full list of them by typing /keys into the search bar at the top of the Teams window. But these are the important ones for meetings.
|Join from meeting details||Alt+Shift+J||Option+Shift+J|
|Start a video call||Ctrl+Shift+U||Command+Shift+U|
|Toggle background blur||Ctrl+Shift+P||Command+Shift+P|
|Open sharing toolbar||Ctrl+Shift+Space||Command+Shift+Space|
|Share your screen||Ctrl+Shift+E||Command+Shift+E|
Special thanks to Sven Seidenberg for his review and contributions
Sven Seidenberg is a Microsoft Teams enthusiast and consultant for Bright Skies, based in Hamburg, Germany. He focuses on Microsoft Teams administration and change management. Together with clients, he develops concepts about how Microsoft 365 apps and services can best help their organization work more productively in different ways. He also focuses on automation and digitized processes through the Power Platform.
Next Steps & Resources
- Get our corresponding Everyday Guide to Teams Etiquette for more Teams tips and tricks.
- Try the Microsoft Teams demo to get an idea of how Teams works.
- Try Microsoft Teams for free before deciding to subscribe to Office 365.
- Download the Microsoft Teams desktop and mobile apps for free.
- Keep up with updates and feature rollouts with the Microsoft Teams Roadmap.
- Ask questions and help others by joining the Microsoft Teams TechCommunity.
- Suggest and support feature requests through the Microsoft Teams UserVoice.
- Familiarize yourself with this wide range of Microsoft Teams resources.
- Watch the webinar featuring AvePoint and Microsoft on How to Achieve 90% Microsoft Teams and Yammer Adoption in 3 Months.
- Use this one page slide to set expectations during your next meeting to keep everyone on track.