How to start a video meeting in the free version of Microsoft Teams

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If you’re looking for yet another app to use to meet with your friends or co-workers online, Microsoft has just made it possible to hold meetings on its free version of Teams.

Teams is Microsoft’s alternative to Slack — you can use it for instant messaging, hosting meetings, and collaborating on files. It’s designed for work, but anyone can sign up for a free account. (However, during signup, if you say you want to use Teams for communicating with friends and family, it will direct you to Skype — so just make sure you tell it that you’re using it for work.)

Previously, free accounts could join meetings, but couldn’t initiate them; now, anybody can start a Teams meeting. And currently, Teams doesn’t put a cap on the length of the meeting or the number of participants (although, according to Microsoft, this is due to the COVID-19 crisis, so that may change in the future).

To start a Teams video meeting, first you’ll have to either sign in with your Microsoft account or create one and then sign in. (You can create an account with any email address; it doesn’t have to be an Outlook address.) You can also, if you want, download the desktop app for macOS or Windows.

The process is similar for starting a meeting via your browser or the desktop app. Once you’re signed in, if you’re ready to start talking immediately:

  • Click on “Meetings” on the left-hand side of the screen

Meetings tab

You’ll get two meeting options: to start one instantly or to schedule one for later.

  • You can either schedule a meeting or begin one immediately. For the latter, select “Meet Now.” You’ll be given the option to name your meeting and toggle your audio and video on or off. Click “Join now” when you’re ready.

“Meet now” page

You can enter in a name for your meeting before it starts.

  • At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a row of buttons. From left to right, these allow you to toggle your camera on or off, switch your mic on or off, share your screen, access more options, raise your hand, see the chat, view participants, or hang up. (There is, however, no recording feature.) Click the three dots in the middle to access additional options like entering full screen, enabling live captions, or switching off video for participants who join the call.

Call window

You’ll see a row of buttons with various commands at the bottom of the screen.

  • When the meeting starts, you may get a pop-up window with two options for adding people to the call: you can either get a link to share or send an email invite. If you don’t get this window automatically, or if you want to access it later, click on the “Show participants” button on the right side of the row of buttons. Then, in the sidebar on the right, click on the “Share Invitation” button to open up that same window.

“Invite people to join you” window

You can copy and share the meeting link or send an email invite.

  • New participants who use your link to join the meeting will first wait in a virtual lobby and will be told “Someone in the meeting should let you in soon.” If you’re hosting the meeting, when their name appears in the “People” sidebar, click on the check mark next to their name to add them to the call. If you haven’t enabled the sidebar, you will get a small pop-up window above the “Show participants” button at the bottom of the screen to alert you that they’re waiting; click “Admit” to add them to the call.

“People” sidebar

When someone joins the call, you’ll have to click the check mark to let them in.

If you prefer to schedule a meeting for later, here’s how:

  • Click on “Meetings” on the left-hand sidebar.
  • Click the “Schedule a meeting” button.
  • A window will pop up which will let you set the time and date for the meeting, along with a title. Click “Schedule” when you’re done.

“Schedule a meeting” window

Enter in a title and choose a date and time for your meeting.

The next box will give you the option to “Copy meeting invitation” to get a link to join the meeting. You can also automatically share your invite via Google Calendar and / or Microsoft Outlook, depending on what services you’re currently signed into.

Microsoft Teams

You can copy the meeting invite or share it via an online calendar.

And that’s it! Since your meeting link is unique, you’ll be able to log onto it at any time, but this way, you and the other participants will have a scheduled time to meet.

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