Managing Participants

Learning how to manage participants is a key step in an engaging meeting. Learning how to mute people who have background noise or turning on and off video is a key role of a host that helps remove unnecessary distractions from your virtual meetings. In addition, the participants feature gives multiple ways for attendees to communicate with you.

Mute and Unmute Audio and Video


  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of the virtual meeting options, highlighting the participants.

  • Step 2: You can mute and unmute participants by hovering the mouse over their name and clicking “Mute” or “Unmute.”
Snapshot of the name and participant id of John Chen, selecting the audio control of a selected participant named George Tam with mute or unmute option.

This feature also allows the host to turn off video.

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Hover over the participant's name and click “More.”
  • Step 3: Click “Stop Video.”
Snapshot of the name and participant id of John Chen, selecting the video control of a selected participant named Ruth.

You can ask a participant to turn on their video.

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Hover over the participant's name and click “More.”
  • Step 3: Click “Ask to Start Video.”
    Snapshot of the name and participant id of John Chen, selecting the video control of a selected participant named George Tam.
  • Step 4: The participant will see a dialog box that gives them the choice to “Start My Video” or “Later,” meaning they will start their video later.
    Snapshot of zoom option of managing the participants.

Microsoft Teams

  • Step 1: Click “Show Participants.”
    Snapshot of clicking show participants.
  • Step 2: Find the person and click the microphone to mute or unmute.
  • You can ask participants to turn on or off their camera.
  • To turn off your camera:
  • Step 1: Find the toolbar and click “Turn camera off.”
Snapshot of clicking turn camera off option from the toolbar.
  • To turn on your camera:
  • Step 1: Find the toolbar and click “Turn camera on.”
Snapshot of clicking turn camera on option from the toolbar.

Microsoft Teams makes it easy to look up someone from your company directly and ask if they can join your meeting on the fly. This is a useful feature if you discover you need the approval of another person to go forward with your decision.

Snapshot of engaging virtual meetings.

Make Host

If you are the host of a meeting, you can delegate the role of host to another participant. This feature is useful if you are the organizer of the meeting but want someone else to be the producer or take all other roles during the meeting. Making someone host will give them the ability to mute, unmute, rename, create breakout sessions, and designate the co-host role to other participants. See your virtual meeting platform for a complete list of features. This is also useful if you need to leave the meeting but want the meeting to keep going. Make someone the host and then leave the meeting, making sure you don't end the meeting for all. Once you give someone host role, you cannot take it back. The new host needs to make you host to get this ability back.

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Hover over the participant's name and click “More.”
  • Step 3: Click “Make Host.”

Snapshot of managing participants.

Make Co-Host

If you are the host of a meeting, you can delegate the role of co-host to one or more participants and still maintain overall control of the meeting. Co-hosts can mute, unmute, rename, or record, but they can't create breakout rooms and make someone else a co-host. Co-hosting is one of the most valuable ways to never lead a meeting alone. As a host, you maintain your ability to control the meeting, including removing the co-host role from someone. See your virtual platform for the latest set of features.

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Hover over the participant's name and click “More.”
  • Step 3: Click “Make Co-Host.”
Snapshot of clicking participants, more, and make co-host.


As the host, you have the ability to rename a participant. If this is a new virtual meeting, you can greet someone and ask them their name. You can follow with, “Where are you calling from?” You can rename this participant with their name and location. Like a “My Name is …” nametag, this helps your meeting be more engaging by displaying a participant's name, which allows other participants to get to know the attendee by their name.

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Hover over the participant's name and click “More.”
  • Step 3: Click “Rename.”
Snapshot of clicking participants, more, and then rename option.

See “Virtual Meeting Nametag Openers” in Chapter 7 for more ideas on how to use Rename in creative and effective ways.

Mute All

Have you ever tried to start your meeting and you couldn't get all of the participants to stop talking? Well, now you can if you are the host. You have the ability to turn everybody's microphones off all at once. You can announce you are starting the meeting, then mute everybody and, if necessary, unmute the host and any speakers. This is very helpful with presentations.

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Click “Mute All.”
  • Step 3 (optional): Unmute the host and speakers.

Snapshot of clicking participants and then mute all.

Unmute All

Would you like to end your meeting with applause from your entire group? Would you like everyone to thank your guest speaker? Then you need to Unmute All, which will turn on everybody's microphones. This can give the feeling of a big meeting by hearing a collection of voices.

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Click “…”
  • Step 3: Click “Ask All to Unmute”
Snapshot of clicking ask all to unmute.

Mute/Unmute Participants on Entry

Have you ever had a productive meeting and a participant, logging in late, was driving in their car while playing their music? You can now avoid hearing this, as you can set your participant's sound when they log in. If you want to mute participants when they log in:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Click “…”
  • Step 3: Check “Mute Participants upon Entry.”
Snapshot of checking mute participants upon entry.

There are times that you want your participants' microphones on by default. At the beginning of the meeting, you may prefer to have microphones on so when someone logs on, they can reply immediately to your greeting. To turn microphones on by default:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Click “…”
  • Step 3: Uncheck “Mute Participants on Entry.”

Disallow/Allow Participants to Unmute Themselves

Have you ever had a meeting that was so unruly that participants continued to unmute themselves and talk out of order and over each other? This can be very important if you have a speaker or a collection of speakers for a presentation. Any nonspeaker attendee noise, like someone coughing loudly in your meeting or unwanted attendees coming in to protest your meeting, becomes distracting. You can control this during your meeting to ensure that you have the engagement you want. To disallow participants to unmute themselves:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Click “…”
  • Step 3: Uncheck “Allow Participants to Unmute Themselves.”
Snapshot of unchecking allow participants to unmute themselves.

Most participants want control. If you are having a meeting instead of a presentation, then the default is to give control of muting and unmuting to the participant. Another example is if after a speaker finishes, there is a question-and-answer period; you can give control back to the participants to unmute themselves to ask a question. Here's how to allow participants to unmute themselves:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
  • Step 2: Click “…”
  • Step 3: Check “Allow Participants to Unmute Themselves.”

All of these are small details that can help your meeting be more engaging by minimizing distractions and focusing on the task you are attempting to complete.

You can look up all the latest participant features on Zoom or your virtual meeting platform.1


Have you ever had an unwanted visitor enter your virtual meeting? They might not be authorized to be there. They might be exhibiting disruptive behavior. You can remove this attendee to keep your meeting productive and engaging.

To remove an attendee:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click “More” next to the participant's name.
  • Step 3: Click “Remove.”
Snapshot of clicking remove after clicking more option.

This will remove the participant from your meeting. It is set by default that a removed participant can't reenter the same meeting.

If you have a repeat offender, you can click “Report …,” which will send a report to your virtual platform. If enough people have reported a user, the virtual platform will revoke their account.

Raise Hand

Do you have participants who don't turn on their video cameras? Do you have more than a screenful of participants? Are you looking for an easy way to find out who wants to ask a question or contribute to the meeting?

Then consider using Raise Hand as your meeting's preferred way of engaging and helping air traffic control. Clicking “Raise Hand” will raise a virtual hand that the host can easily see. The host can engage with all of the participants who have their hands up and the host can lower a hand after the participant has contributed. You can also take informal polls using the Raise Hand feature. Teach “Raise Hand” at the beginning of your meeting and continue to use it throughout your meetings so your participants can get used to using this feature and feel engaged.

To “Raise Hand”:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click “Raise Hand.”
Snapshot of clicking the raise hand option.

Your raised hand will show up on your video and on the host's “Participants” window.

You can click again to lower your hand.

Your host can also click to lower your hand.

This is a very easy way to ask people something like “Can you hear me?” and to have them raise their hand if they have a question.

Microsoft Teams

In Microsoft Teams, it's even easier to raise hands.

  • Step 1: Click “Raise your hand” on the toolbar.
Snapshot of clicking raise your hand option on the toolbar.

You will move to the top of the list of participants so it's easy for every participant to see your raised hand when there is a big audience. The host can lower your hand after your question is answered. You can lower your hand if your question has already been answered or you no longer want to contribute.

If you train your group to all raise their hands, the host can click “Clear all” or “Lower all hands” to lower all hands.


Yes/No can be used for voting or fast two-option polling for your group. The host can see the number for each vote in real time and report that result back to the group. This can help with quick decision making or taking official votes on decisions.

To use Yes/No:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click the green checkmark for Yes and the red X for No.
Snapshot of clicking the yes and no option.

To teach your participants how to use Yes/No, you can start with an easy question such as “Can you hear me?” Add the hand motion of putting your hand to your ear so your participants should be able to understand that you are asking “Can you hear me?” even if the audio isn't working.

To finish teaching this tool, ask your participants to chat questions that can be answered Yes/No. As the host, you see a count of Yes and No and can share that count with the participants. You can encourage people who haven't replied to select one to make sure you get 100% participation.

Snapshot of the options listed including yes, no, go slower, go faster, more, and clear all.

Go Slower/Go Faster

Did you ever wish you could tell your instructor or presenter to go faster or slower? Well, now you can. If you have a meeting that could benefit from feedback from the participants, then consider using the Go Slower and Go Faster buttons. My friend took a video editing course that did not use Go Slower and Go Faster in which the instructor proceeded to teach a feature that he had never seen before. He could not get it to work as the instructor showed it and by the time he figured it out, he had already missed 25 minutes of instruction. A Go Slower button here could have increased the instructor's effectiveness greatly.

To use Go Slower/Go Faster:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click the “go slower” or “go faster” button.
Snapshot of the view of the go slower and go faster options.

If you are the host, you need to pay attention to these buttons on your Manage Participants control and respond to your participants when they start clicking the buttons. You can ask a question to check to see what part is too fast or too slow. An easy exercise to teach your participants this feature is to read a paragraph of a book. Start off reading it too fast, watch for most attendees to say “go slower,” then slow down to a snail's pace; then, when most participants say “go faster,” speed up until you see most of the “go faster”s go away.


Do you need a way find out if your participants like or dislike a topic? Teach them the dislike and like buttons. For a simple two-way question, I would use Yes/No or even a hand raise on the screen if that's faster. You can attach more meaning by using like and dislike through the virtual meeting as a way to express your mood or your thoughts about the current topic.

To dislike or like:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click “more.”
  • Step 3: Click the thumbs-down for “dislike” and the thumbs-up for “like.”
Snapshot of clicking the thumbs-down for dislike and the thumbs-up for like.

As the host, you can get a count of how many thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs you have.

Snapshot of the option that counts the thumbs-ups and thumbs-down.


Do your participants have their video turned off? Do your participants have their audio muted? Do you want to signify applause for a large audience? Consider using Clap. Clap will put a clap icon next to an attendee's name in the “Participants” screen. Anyone can see the icon in the “Participants” screen and can see if the majority of people are clapping.

To Clap:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click “more.”
  • Step 3: Click the hands applauding or “clap” icon.
Snapshot of the hands applauding icon.

Need a Break

Have you ever had a speaker go too long on a topic? Has a meeting been so intense that you needed a break? Do you need a bio break now? Consider adopting the “need a break” icon into your meeting. Show this at the beginning of your meeting and now your participants have a way to communicate to you that they need a break. They just need to click the “need a break” icon and when you see a good collection of these icons, allow for a 10- to 15-minute break if you want to maintain high engagement.

To have your participants tell you that they need a break:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click “more.”
  • Step 3: Click the “need a break” coffee cup icon.
Snapshot of clicking the need a break coffee cup icon.

If you're the host and you show how to use this icon, make sure you follow up and listen to your participants. Engagement is a two-way street and if you accidentally make it a one-way street, such as if your participants offer you feedback and you as the host ignore it, then your participants are much less likely to offer you future feedback.


Do you need to take a phone call? Do you need to run to the restroom? Do you need to attend to your children or pets for a moment? Find a way to communicate that to your other attendees, especially if you are responsible for a portion of the meeting or if you're presenting. There is no consistent etiquette yet for all virtual meetings but you can establish one for your meeting. You could mute your microphone, click your “away” icon, and then leave your video on so everyone can see that you are not at your computer. Muting your microphone means that any conversations you need to have or accidental background noise will not be heard in your meeting. Clicking the away icon will tell people that you left and not to call on you. Leaving your video on will confirm that you're gone or you have returned and if you're available or still taking care of something such as a phone call.

To turn on “away”:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click “more.”
  • Step 3: Click the “away” clock icon.
Snapshot of clicking the away icon or clock icon.

Think of this as the virtual way of stepping out of a meeting for a phone call. Proper etiquette usually says to not take calls during important meetings, but if you must do so during a face-to-face meeting, then have your phone ringer on silent, motion that you need to take a call, walk out of the meeting room, and then take your call. All of these steps are taken to cause the least amount of disruption to your meeting. The host of your meeting should notice and not call on you or schedule around your presentation until you get back.

Clear All

Did you just ask 100 people to vote Yes or No? Did everyone in your meeting just clap? Did everyone in your meeting ask for a break and now you're on break? These are all perfect opportunities to “Clear All.” “Clear All” removes all the participants' icons such as Yes, No, go slower, go faster, and more.

To Clear All:

  • Step 1: Click “Participants.”
Snapshot of clicking the participants option.
  • Step 2: Click “Clear All.”
Snapshot of clicking the clear all option.

This feature is only available to hosts and co-hosts. This is a quick way to clear all the responses from everybody. You can use this to clear all the responses before you ask for new ones.


Learning all the tools to manage participants is what makes a great, interactive digital event. Joan Eisenstodt of Eisenstodt Associates is a meeting veteran. She is a legend in conference programs, contract negotiations, and diversity and inclusion in meetings. Joan reminds us that every attendee has different needs and great meeting design learns how to address these needs.

I'm an aural learner … someone who likes to talk out issues. It is almost the only way I learn and understand concepts—by saying what I think is being said and having a conversation about what applies. I'm also a strong Introvert (see MBTI2) who “wants to be alone.”

Webinars generally are difficult for me to deliver and in which to participate. Yet many are used to them because so many meetings are delivered by “sages on stages” without more than the aisle mic for “Q&A at the end,” which is not remotely interactive.

I write to contribute to this long-needed book because of what John Chen does so well in physical meetings and digitally to engage people. As I write, I'm a participant in a Zoom presentation that (a) doesn't list the participants; (b) doesn't allow us to see the other participants' faces if they want to be seen; (c) only allows general discussion to the presenter and (d) though I asked in the chat for all to introduce themselves, only two others have replied. I do not know how many of us are here.

Let me tell you about one of my best physical meeting experiences: a large area was set behind the production and main stage with comfy seating clusters where I sat with a colleague. My aural-learning self could talk during the sessions presented from the main stage to discuss what we heard without disturbing the speaker. Twitter was another way to engage with those who were “out front” and wanted to discuss the content.

What's best for digital is what's best for physical meetings:

  • Provide expectations for participation in advance. As a program starts, make sure to let attendees know that it's acceptable to not be “seen” if being seen is optional.
  • Allow participation with others in attendance in some form for those who prefer it. If it needs to be limited, explain how and why.
  • Have a question asker/moderator to keep the speaker connected to attendee questions.
  • Ensure participation is inclusive for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have low vision, and who prefer not to be seen. Captioning is an option now on most digital platforms.
  • Describe the slides—not read the words—and describe images for all who are unable to see.
  • Encourage engagement in whatever way is possible.
  • Provide slides, notes, and resources ahead of the program. For those like me who take notes instead of frantically writing what's being shown and said, encourage printing on post-consumer or other non-paper materials (I like Ecopaper as a source). Those of us who like taking notes or writing thoughts can do so with the presentation so that we don't have to madly listen, take notes, and engage at the same time.
  • Use language appropriate to the audience—and please, avoid calling everyone “guys”—it is not generic.

    Source: Joan Eisenstodt, eisenstodt.com


  1. 1   https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362603-Host-and-Co-Host-Controls-in-a-Meeting
  2. 2   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator
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