By Ty Collins
As many businesses shifted to remote work environments in 2020, Microsoft Teams usage grew substantially. The platform is a comprehensive resource for businesses and goes well beyond traditional video conferencing services. Not only can you host video conferences, but you can also collaborate on files and use the cloud feature to store all necessary documents.
Microsoft Teams does have some drawbacks, however. The platform is not as intuitive as others, particularly relating to guest access. How to invite external users to a meeting or a channel is one of the most frequent questions Teams users ask.
Microsoft Teams is part of the Office 365 line of tools, which includes Outlook, a software program many companies use as an email provider. If your business is using Office 365 for tools including Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Outlook, then your user list is likely configured in Office 365. The Microsoft Teams platform makes it easy to invite users within your network to a Teams meeting, but adding guests or external users is a little more tricky.
Using the Microsoft Teams scheduler, open your calendar and click the New Meeting button.
Name your meeting in the Meeting Title bar and add the email addresses of your external meeting invitees in the Required Attendees bar.
Teams meeting settings
When you are finished, hit the Send button. Some functions in Microsoft Teams are only accessible by administrators. If you can’t find some of the features that are listed above, talk to IT to verify that you are set up as an admin. If not, you may need to talk to your admins so they can invite guest users to join your meeting.
If you have followed these steps, then your guests should be able to accept the meeting and join it in Microsoft Teams. It's important to note if your guests also use Microsoft Teams within their own organization, they should join the meeting through the Microsoft Edge browser rather than joining through the Microsoft Teams tool. If they are logged into their own company’s account on the platform, it could cause conflicts when they try to join your meeting as a guest.
Another potential reason that your guests might not be able to access your meeting is that they are using an older version of Microsoft Office. Some businesses may be still be running Windows 7 on their computers, or they might not have upgraded to Office 365. Older versions of Windows are not compatible with the Microsoft Teams tool. If your clients are using older versions of Windows, ask them to try joining a meeting using the Microsoft Teams web tool. Alternatively, see if you can send the meeting invitation to their Gmail or another personal email account. If their Outlook isn’t compatible with Teams, accessing the invitation from a different platform can allow them to open the meeting in a browser.
One feature that makes Microsoft Teams stand out is the ability to call people directly using the tool. If you are already in a meeting and want to add someone who wasn’t invited to the initial call, you can do so while the meeting is in progress.
When you click on the three dots at the top right corner of the screen, you will see a drop-down menu. This menu includes the option to add new users to your meeting. If you click on the Add Member option, you will be directed to the user list within your company. Currently, this feature is only available for users within your organization or for users on domains that you have added with Microsoft Groups or Sharepoint.
If you want to invite external users to a meeting that is already in progress, you will need to copy the link for the meeting invitation and send it to them via email. Find the link by opening the meeting on your calendar, click on the Meeting Details tab and select Click Here to Join the Meeting. If you hover over this option, you can see the link, but they are usually too long to memorize. Instead, click on that option.
Join a meeting
Your browser should open on the Teams landing page which displays different options to join the meeting. Select Continue on This Browser, and you will be redirected to the meeting. Once there, you can copy the link directly from the website and send it to the external user via email.
Continue in this browser
Although the Microsoft Teams tool is very user friendly and easy to navigate, some of your guests will be using the web-based version of the platform to join meetings and collaborate on documents. For the most part, the web browser version of Teams offers the same capabilities as the software tool. When using the web browser, you can still collaborate on files, participate in video calls and see all of the messages within the chat. However, you won’t have access to the same background effects on video calls. If your company uses a branded background, it won’t be available with the web version of the tool.
Your meeting with a guest user could be a one-time meeting. In this case, you probably don’t need to add them to a team. However, if you are meeting with external users as part of a project that could span for months and include multiple meetings, you should create a team for that project and invite your guests to be part of it.
As of now, Microsoft Teams allows users to have up to 500,000 different teams. Setting up different teams for your projects makes it easier to add guest users. It also helps you better organize your projects.
This feature eliminates the need for multiple emails related to one project document. You can upload the document directly into the team along with all other project files. If there is a project document that requires input and editing from multiple users, you can make the document collaborative. Multiple people can edit the file directly without overwriting one another, eliminating the worry of having the latest version of a document.
To set up a project team, click the Teams button on the right side of the tool. When you are in the Teams section, you will see an option to create or join a team.
Create or join a team
When you have created your team, you can add internal and external members through your contact list or through email addresses. You can also generate a code to send to external users. They can click on Join or Create a Team and enter the code provided. Once they are a member of the team, they should have access to all of the files the rest of the team has access to. You should also be able to invite them to team meetings directly from the app.
If your guests do not have an account with Microsoft Teams, they do not need a license to access the platform. You can invite guests to Teams with a variety of email platforms including Gmail. If your guests aren’t using Outlook to host their email, they should still be able to access the meeting through the web. Once they have received the invitation email and entered the authentication code, they will be directed to access the Teams platform through a link.
Teams can function as part of the Office 365 cloud, which means your company can store large amounts of files and data online. For this reason, some people might be hesitant to invite guests onto their platform. But guest users can only access files that are uploaded to their particular teams. If you invite a client to be part of a team to collaborate on documents, they will not have access to everything that is stored within the cloud.
Microsoft Teams is a secure platform, and it gives you the option of sharing a document with specific people rather than making every document that is uploaded sharable. Many of these functions can only be enacted by admins. If you’re a project manager, ask your IT department to give you admin capabilities so that you can organize and control files and channels within your project team.
There might be a scenario in which you need to take away someone’s access to a team. In this case, click on the Teams option on the right hand side of your screen. Click on Manage Teams and select the team with the member that needs to be removed. You will see a list of members within the team. Click on the X to the far right of the member to remove them from the team.
An advanced feature of Teams is the External Access feature. This allows you to add a domain to Groups and Sharepoint so your platform can integrate with others. When your company works closely with more than one member of a different company, or if you collaborate with a different company on multiple projects, adding their domain to your Teams account will make it easier to add guests from this company to meetings.
Granting external access to a whole domain needs to be set up by an admin, and it may need to be set up in 365. Your meeting settings include the option to allow or block entire domains for your team settings. The Microsoft website offers more detailed information about setting up permissions for whole organizations.
If you find that guest users are contacting you and are having difficulties accessing your Teams meeting or files, you should check your Office 365 settings. Sharepoint, Microsoft Groups and Microsoft Teams are three components of Office 365 that could impact one another. They are separate features, but they do have some overlapping capabilities.
If any of the Owner or Admin features of Microsoft Teams aren’t functioning correctly, the settings could be conflicting with Sharepoint or Groups. You can double check them yourself or let the IT department investigate to see if any conflicts are impacting the functionality of your software.
Calendly can be integrated with Microsoft Teams, and many other video conferencing tools, for seamless use. Its integrated scheduling platform makes it easy to schedule all of your meetings on Teams. Simply change your default meeting location to Teams, and the two tools will sync when you schedule a meeting. Calendly also automatically shares meeting details with invitees. You don’t need to send them an email reminding them you will be meeting on Teams.
Your clients utilize a variety of platforms and calendars. Microsoft Teams is comparatively newer than some tools, but it is quickly increasing in popularity. This is because it is part of the 365 software family and it is easy to integrate with other Microsoft Office products. Since all of the platforms are part of the same brand, they function correctly while collaborating on files.
Calendly lets you manage your appointments on up to six calendars. You can easily schedule touchpoints and meetings with all members of your project team, even if they are using different calendars to communicate. This eliminates the need to check in multiple places when scheduling a meeting.
Microsoft Teams offers more than simple video conferencing. The platform is easily integrated with other applications from Office 365. It is an excellent resource for sharing files, collaborating on projects and freeing up your email box. While there are still some glitches involved with inviting guest users to meetings and collaborating on teams, Microsoft keeps improving the tool based on user recommendations.
If invitees to your meetings are having a hard time joining, ask them to try joining on the web platform. Find the link to your meeting and send it to them so they can open it in a browser. Once they have the link, they should be able to join even if they do not have an account. Integrate your Teams tool with your Calendly account to easily track meetings and users.
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