How to Prevent Attendees Unmuting Themselves in Teams Meetings

Keep Quiet Please

Office 365 notification MC223029 of 29 September tells us that Teams meeting organizers now have the option to stop participants unmuting themselves during meetings. This is Microsoft roadmap item 66575. The change is rolling out now. GCC and GCC-High tenants will see the update at the end of October.

People attending online meetings should mute themselves unless they need to speak. Muting stops extraneous noise leaking into the meeting to make it harder for other participants to hear what’s happening, so it’s simply good meeting etiquette to use the mute button. However, as we all know, it’s possible that some participants are more eager to contribute than others and can try to dominate proceedings, which is why meeting organizers can mute people. Stopping them being able to unmute themselves will keep people quiet, but it also stops them participating, so mute controls should be used judiciously.

Preventing meeting participants from unmuting themselves is probably focused on education rather than commercial or government Office 365 tenants. At least, I can see how a teacher would want to stop participants interrupting a class, but I have seldom been in a business meeting where the same need exists.

Update Teams Meeting Settings

In any case, you can select a meeting from the calendar app and update meeting options before it starts (Figure 1) to move the Allow attendees to unmute slider to Off if you want a quiet time.

The choice to stop attendees unmuting is in Teams Meeting Options
Figure 1: The choice to stop attendees unmuting is in Teams Meeting Options

Note that the settings shown in Figure 1 allow anyone in the organization to present. This means that the muting control doesn’t apply to these users because they are presenters rather than attendees. It wouldn’t make much sense to impose a muting control on people scheduled to present at a meeting.

During the Meeting

When the meeting is in progress, you can flip the switch to calm proceedings (Figure 2). Attendees see a note that the “mic is disabled for all attendees” if they try and unmute.

Updating options for a Teams meeting to control attendee unmuting
Figure 2: Updating options for a Teams meeting to control attendee unmuting

If someone really needs to say something, they can raise their hand (virtually) to let the meeting organizer know. If the organizer decides that the attendee has something useful to contribute, they can select their name in the participant list or in the list of attendees at the bottom of the screen (the meeting stage) and allow them to unmute (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Allowing a meeting attendee to unmute themselves

Future Updates

The current implementation is quite a blunt instrument. Microsoft admits this and says that they will address some limitations during the last quarter of 2020, including:

  • Allow the organizer or presenters to allow any attendee to unmute even if their hand isn’t raised.
  • Allow the organizer or presenters to prevent a single attendee from unmuting even if “Allow attendees to unmute” is on.

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Overall, while I can’t see myself using this feature in the meetings I organize, I’m sure that others will find it useful to control unruly and vocal audiences. Perhaps in a presidential debate?


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