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

You can host videoconferences in the free version

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Microsoft Teams meeting.
Photo: Microsoft

If you’re looking for an app to use to meet with your friends or co-workers online — especially if you use some form of the Microsoft 365 app suite — you may want to try Microsoft’s app Teams, its alternative to Slack. You can use Teams for such tasks as instant messaging, collaborating on files, and hosting video meetings.

While Teams was originally designed for work teams, anyone can sign up for a free home account. Currently, with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, Microsoft allows up to 300 participants in each of its free online meetings with a maximum of 60 minutes per meeting. (These allowances are due to expire on June 30th, 2021.) Like the paid versions, the free version offers screen sharing, customized backgrounds, and scheduled meetings; however, you need a paid version (which starts at $5 per month as part of Microsoft 365 Business Basic) if you want to record your meeting.

Before you start, you 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 or mobile apps.

Here is how to set up a meeting via the desktop app; the process is similar for starting a meeting via your browser.

  • Click on “Meetings” on the left-hand side of the screen. You’ll be given the choice to either schedule a future meeting or begin one immediately.
Meetings tab
You’ll get two meeting options: start one instantly or schedule one for later.
  • If you choose “Meet now,” you’ll find yourself on a preparatory screen where you’re given the option to name your meeting, toggle your audio and video on or off, and add a background (or blur your real background). Click “Join now” when you’re ready.
Before starting your meeting, you can toggle your audio or video on or off, or choose a background.
Before starting your meeting, you can toggle your audio or video on or off or choose a background.
  • If you choose “Schedule a meeting,” you’ll get a pop-up that lets you name your meeting and select the date and time
It’s simple to schedule a meeting via Teams.
It’s simple to schedule a meeting via Teams.
  • Once you click on “Schedule,” you are invited to copy the invitation or share it via Outlook or Google Calendar
You can share the invitation in several ways.
You can share the invitation in several ways.
  • When you start your meeting, you’ll see a row of buttons at the bottom of the screen. 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, see the chat, view participants (in a column on the right side of the screen), or hang up. Click the three dots in the middle to access additional options like enter full screen, enable live captions, raise your hand, or switch off video for participants who join the call.
You’ll see a row of buttons with various commands at the bottom of the screen.
You’ll see a row of buttons with various commands at the bottom of the screen.
  • To add participants, click on the “Show participants” button on the right side of the row of buttons. Then, in the sidebar on the right, either type in the name of the person you want to invite (if they’re in your contact list) or click on the “Share” button to copy the meeting link or email an invitation.
  • 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 checkmark 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.

And that’s it! Since your meeting link is unique, you’ll be able to log onto it at any time.

Update January 5th, 2021, 11:19AM ET: This article was originally published on June 20th, 2020, and has been changed to include updates in the software.