The Slice

The Ultimate Guide to Muting Participants in a Zoom Meeting

January 13, 2023

When you're holding a virtual meeting or event with a large group of attendees, muting everyone except the speaker is a requirement to reduce distractions and background noise. Even with smaller groups, though, some good arguments exist for muting the group during presentations.‍ While muting your participants solves the background noise problem, it creates another issue– how do you keep people engaged when they can't chime in, ask a question, or otherwise freely participate? Let's take a look at everything you need to know about muting participants in a Zoom meeting.

When you're holding a virtual meeting or event with a large group of attendees, muting everyone except the speaker is a requirement to reduce distractions and background noise. Even with smaller groups, though, some good arguments exist for muting the group during presentations.

While muting your participants solves the background noise problem, it creates another issue– how do you keep people engaged when they can't chime in, ask a question, or otherwise freely participate?

Luckily, there are a lot of tricks and tips you can use to make sure your meeting or event flows smoothly and everyone stays present and interested in the topic at hand. Let's take a look at everything you need to know about muting participants in a Zoom meeting.

Why Would You Want to Mute Participants in a Zoom Meeting?

If you're used to having Zoom meetings with a small handful of colleagues, you might not think muting participants is ever something that needs to occur. The truth is, though, there are a lot of situations where muting everyone but the speaker is appropriate.

Let's look at some common reasons why putting attendees on mute for portions of a meeting might be the right choice.

Helps Keep the Focus on the Agenda Without Disruption

When you're having a small meeting, you might not find it necessary to mute participants. However, the more people there are, the more potential disruptions there can be. This is particularly true if your meeting is focused on a hot topic at your company, where people might be jumping at the bit to offer their two cents.

You can help to control the flow of conversation by muting meeting participants until it is time for them to ask questions, share their thoughts, or otherwise participate.

Reduces Background Noise For the Speaker Among Large Groups

This is a big one– when there are large groups in a Zoom meeting, there's simply going to be a lot of background noise. We aren't speaking poorly of your attendees. Even if everyone is fully engaged and on their best behavior, there are environmental sounds and distractions that become increasingly likely the larger the group.

For example, one person might have a construction crew working outside their office, while another might share an apartment wall with a neighbor whose dog simply doesn't want to stop barking. Even the sounds of coughing, sniffling, or ringing phones can be a major distraction when amplified by a large group.

In large groups, only having the person speaking unmuted is practically essential. Otherwise, you'll be dealing with distractions left and right.

Maintain Order and Organization in Calls With Many Participants

When there are a lot of people on the same call, it's easy for things to get off track. You might find that people are constantly talking over one another or that you have to repeat your main points several times. This isn't just frustrating– it's inefficient.

Muting participants means you can control who is speaking and when. This can create a sense of order in an otherwise potentially chaotic meeting. 

Silence Individuals With Poor Video Conferencing Etiquette

Of course, sometimes people aren't on their best behavior. Many people simply consider it common sense to mute themselves when they aren't the one speaking, not to mention if there is distracting background noise coming from their end of the computer.

Others, however, might be completely unaware or uncaring of the fact that they are the source of problematic sounds. Whether they're listening to music or having a side conversation, muting these attendees might be necessary to keep the event or meeting flowing smoothly.

If you're deciding whether to mute your meeting attendees, you might be asking yourself the age-old Zoom-meeting-camera-question: should having cameras on be a requirement? Check out the pros and cons in this article.

How Can You Keep People Engaged While They Are Muted?

While there are many good reasons to mute your participants, this can also pose a problem regarding engagement. People might be inclined to only passively listen or even zone out when they aren't expected to speak or don't have the option to participate.

Let's look at a few ideas for how to keep engagement up and distractions down at the same time.

Create an Agenda in Advance Collaboratively

If you're holding a meeting with your team and you've decided that muting the participants for a portion of the meeting is the right call, creating an agenda together in advance can help ensure that everyone is paying attention and engaged.

On top of that, you can know for certain that everyone has had the chance to offer their two cents on which topics should be discussed during the meeting.

Break It Up

Rather than muting all of your participants for a 45-minute lecture, consider breaking up your meeting or event into smaller chunks.

In some of these periods, you can have them on mute to clear the path for a disruption-free presentation. In others, you can unmute participants to hold a question and answer session, have an open discussion, or engage in some fun activities.

Allow Comments and Reactions

You can make your meeting more interactive by enabling the "Comments and Reactions" feature.

This means that people can make asynchronous comments that don't interrupt the flow of the discussion.

Make Time For Icebreakers and Activities

The human attention span is only so long, so it's a good idea to mix up the type of activity your participants are engaged in to keep them fully present and excited to be there.

Both icebreakers and energizers have their place in group calls to bring the energy level up a notch.

Only Invite Participants That Need to Attend

Of course, if the information shared in a meeting or an event is relevant to an individual, they're much more likely to stay engaged despite being on mute.

If you're struggling to keep participation and engagement up during your meetings, you might consider whether everyone in attendance needs to be present.

Take a Break With Some Entertainment

Live entertainment can truly bring your meeting to life even when the participants are on mute much of the time.

Consider bringing in a live music DJ to create an energetic and enjoyable vibe that will pervade the entire event.

Use the Breakout Room Feature

Giving large groups the opportunity to break up into smaller conversations can help keep everyone participating even when they're on mute during the bulk of the meeting.

This is a great way for people to have focused discussions about specific topics in an orderly and lively way.

Let People Express Themselves With Backgrounds

Why are custom Zoom backgrounds so dang fun? There's something about expressing yourself through a classy, professional, zany, or interesting video background that wakes you right up.

You might find that participants are a lot more engaged even when they're on mute if they are encouraged to tap into their creative side through their background.

Use the Chat Feature

There is also a chat box feature on Zoom, which allows people to participate without interrupting the flow of a presentation.

People can either ask the speaker a question or make a comment for everyone to see in the chat. This is a great way to keep people engaged while they're on mute in a meeting or during an event.

End With a Social Event

You might find that your attendees are a lot more engaged when they know that the meeting is being capped by a fun social event where they'll be able to chat with other participants.

Consider hosting a virtual happy hour or a game of radio bingo to add a little something extra to the experience.

Make sure you check out our recent post on how to encourage participation in meetings and webinars for more useful tips.

How to Mute Participants in a Zoom Meeting

Now let's get down to the nuts and bolts. How, exactly, do you mute participants in a Zoom meeting?

Only the host or the co-host in a meeting is able to mute and unmute all participants. Of course, individual attendees have the ability to mute and unmute themselves unless the host has turned off their ability to unmute.

As you might expect, there are some privacy and security concerns with simply unmuting all participants without giving them the option to consent or decline. For this reason, hosts have to use an option known as "Ask All to Unmute," which prompts each user to unmute themselves. The other option is to schedule the meeting with a certain feature enabled– "Request permission to unmute participants"– which gives attendees the option to approve the host's ability to unmute them ahead of time. 

How to Mute All Participants in a Zoom Meeting

In order to mute all of the attendees in your conference call, you will first want to select "Participants" located in the meeting controls and then choose "Mute All." You will be able to mute everyone already present in the meeting, as well as people that join in later.

You can choose to select "Allow participants to unmute themselves" if you want them to have that option.

How to Mute an Individual Participant in a Zoom Meeting

In order to mute a specific individual, you'll want to go to the meeting controls and choose "Participants." Hover your cursor over the person you want to mute and choose an option: Ask to Unmute, Unmute, or Mute.

The "Unmute" option is only available if the participant provided consent after you enabled pre-approved consent to be unmuted.

How to Ask All Participants to Unmute

At a certain point, you might want to bring some life back to the meeting and let the people share their point of view. As mentioned above, you can only request that everyone unmute themselves rather than manually being able to unmute them without their permission. This gives them the ability to stay on mute if they want to.

To do this, you'll head to the meeting controls and click "Participants." You'll select "More" and "Ask All to Unmute."

How to Enable Pre-Approved Consent to Be Unmuted

When you are scheduling a meeting, you can enable the option "Request permission to unmute participants." This way, participants will be prompted to consent or not consent to the host unmuting their mics. All of the meetings scheduled by this same host will have permissions set this way.

For an account, you can enable this feature by signing in as an administrator with permission to alter or edit the account's settings. You'll then click "Account Management" and then "Account Settings" in the navigation menu.

Next, head to the "Meeting" tab, go to the advanced section of "In Meeting," and navigate to the option "Request permission to unmute." If the setting is disabled, you'll want to click on the toggle so it is enabled. You might then see a pop-up verification– if so, choose "Turn On."

You can also choose the lock icon and click "Lock" to make this setting mandatory for all of the users in the account.

To turn on pre-approved consent to unmute for all of the individuals in a group, you'll want to go to the "User Management" selection in the navigation menu and then "Groups."

Choose the group name and then select the "Meeting tab." This allows you to access settings for the group.

You'll then go to the advanced section of the In Meeting option and navigate to the "Request permission to unmute" option. You'll want to click the toggle to enable the setting if it isn't already on.

What's the Best Way to Keep People Engaged While on Mute? 

Perhaps we're a bit biased, but we think the answer to this question is so simple it might escape you. What is it, you ask? Pizza.

That's right. When people aren't able to jump into the conversation at any point, giving them a delicious meal to enjoy while listening to a presentation is the perfect solution.

We know what you're thinking. "How am I supposed to send pizza to everyone attending my meeting?" Don't worry– we've got you covered.

At PizzaTime, our specialty is organizing pizza parties for remote teams around the world. No matter where your attendees are signing in from, you can have fresh pizza sent right to their door with less than two minutes of planning.

The Pizzatime Blog

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