New Microsoft Teams Feature Lets Organizers Turn Off Chat

New feature in Microsoft Teams lets host shut down distracting conversations.

A new feature for Microsoft Teams is giving organizers the ultimate power – letting them manage the chat function and even turn it off entirely.

The feature is already present in some competing video meeting services, such as Zoom, but makes it debut on Teams this month.

The request was actually made via the official Microsoft Teams forum, where it gathered considerable traction and support.

Control Over Chat

As anyone who has ever hosted a video call knows, keeping everyone focused on the subject at hand can be a mammoth task, especially with employees working from home who may become distracted.

Chat can be a major cause of disruption, and can often derail a meeting as the host tries to focus on one topic, and the participants are having another separate conversation in the chat.

Now, the host can turn off the chat function at will, providing one less distraction for everyone in the meeting. Should it be needed, it can easily be turned back on again.

The feature isn't exactly new to video meeting services (Zoom has had it for some time), but this is the first time that it has been present in Microsoft Teams.

Read our in-depth review of Microsoft Teams vs Zoom

A Popular Microsoft Teams Request

The new feature didn't come out of nowhere. It was actually a request on the official Microsoft Teams forums back in March 2020. The original request read:

Please allow meeting organizer to temporarily disable chat during a meeting. We often have people so focused on the chat, they don't pay any attention to the actual meeting. We'd love to be able to turn off chat at the beginning of the meeting, and then turn it back on at an appropriate point.

Since then, the simple ask has amassed 3,904 votes and over 672 comments, showing that the original commentator was certainly not alone in being fed up with trying to control team meetings.

The comments come from employers who are trying to retain the focus of their staff, as well as a large number of teachers, who have come to rely on Microsoft Teams to host virtual classrooms during the pandemic. Comments like the following are fairly commonplace:

As Teachers, we need to be able to use Teams as a multi-function tool – with control over your classes' activities. Having the ability to disable chat (like the mute button ) is fundamental to our class management. Please make this happen soon! – Microsoft Teams User

The prayers of everyone who voted and commented in agreement were answered almost a year after the original request, when a member of the admin team for the forum replied that yes, it was now possible to turn off the meeting chat, including instructions on how to do so.

Microsoft Teams Versus Every Other Video Conferencing Service

There's no doubt that video conferencing services have become increasingly more common place in the last year, with lockdown forcing many of us — in our business as well as personal lives — to engage with friends and coworkers online.

Microsoft Teams was created as a response to Bill Gates' withdrawal from a potential $8 million dollar bid for rival Slack in 2016. As the saying goes in business, if you can't buy them, copy them, and it's been fighting tooth and nail to dominate that space ever since.

Teams has been in fierce competition with Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, and just about any other video conferencing service you care to name. We've praised Microsoft in the past for continually rolling out new features for the service, and the ability to (finally) shut down chat, is just another example.

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Written by:

Jack is the Deputy Editor for Tech.co. He has over 15 years experience in publishing, having covered both consumer and business technology extensively, including both in print and online. Jack has also led on investigations on topical tech issues, from privacy to price gouging. He has a strong background in research-based content, working with organisations globally, and has also been a member of government advisory committees on tech matters.

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