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Master Microsoft Teams
in 20 Minutes (or less)

Learn how to use Microsoft Teams
to improve your experience at work.
Learn how to use Microsoft Teams
to improve your experience at work.


What is Microsoft Teams?

In May of 2017, Microsoft Teams debuted, introducing users to a quick, contextual collaboration and communication toolkit that integrates seamlessly with Office 365 products. Adoption skyrocketed as more and more teams like yours adopted Microsoft’s burgeoning new collaboration platform.

Coupled with a wave of educators and students of all ages looking to Teams as a hub for distance learning in 2020, the platform’s growth doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

As the Microsoft Teams base grows, users continue looking for new and creative ways to get a wide range of work done. Some users recently adopted Teams but haven’t found their rhythm yet.

No matter where you are in your Teams journey, from learning the basics to implementing advanced automation and integrations, this guide is for you.


Why read this guide?

At Polly, we’ve been using Microsoft Teams and developing tools for it since its launch in 2017. We built one of the most popular third-party apps on Teams and learned a lot along the way.

Teams changed the way we work for the better, and we want to help you learn how to use Microsoft Teams to enhance the way you work, too. We designed this guide to empower you. It's chock full of the knowledge you need to get your most important work done in Teams.

In Part I of this guide, we'll discuss the basics of Teams and ways you can use the base platform to your best advantage.

In Part II, we'll cover unique and innovative ways of getting work done with apps and integrations.


Part I

Microsoft Teams:
Core Concepts
Core concepts


A Quick Overview

This guide will cover high-level concepts but won’t dive through an exhaustive list of Microsoft Teams features. Microsoft already published an excellent set of in-depth usage guides and other training assets for you. 

Instead, we’ll share practical tips and practices for getting work done in Teams that we’ve learned through our combined experience as builders and users. We also included additional resources we found helpful that you can use to further your knowledge of Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams Basics

How does Microsoft Teams work? If you’ve used a chat application in the past, the Teams interface should feel familiar; however, Teams offers several additional features beyond chat.

There are a few critical areas in Microsoft Teams to familiarize yourself with. You can skip ahead to any of these areas by following the links below:

One of the most significant benefits of Teams is its ability to combine these key elements into a cohesive, contextual experience

The Microsoft Teams Interface

The Teams interface follows a familiar pattern if you've used chat applications in the past. Your most important people and tools sit to the left, while additional tools like calling and files live up top.

The Command Box

The command box separates Microsoft Teams from other applications in a few ways, while keeping some familiar standards—it's your quick, contextual path to search, actions, and apps. There are several actions you can perform directly from the Command Box.


You can use the command box to search for all kinds of things like files, teams, groups, colleagues, and conversations. 

Quick Actions

You can also use the Command Box to run simple tasks like checking the weather or sending a direct message to a colleague.

Launch apps

You can also launch apps (like Polly!) and trigger their functionality from the Command Box with slash commands.

Your Profile

Compared to other similar tools, profiles in Microsoft Teams are somewhat bare; however, this might come as a comfort if you’re usually the type to let your profile sit at its default settings.


Because the Teams platform connects to other Microsoft services, your avatar is determined by the avatar you choose for your Microsoft account.

In some cases, your organization’s IT or Human Resources department administers your avatar and other profile information. 

Communication & Collaboration

Communication and collaboration are the most fundamental features in Microsoft Teams. As such, learning the basics of communication and collaboration in Teams will make any advanced tools and techniques easier to employ.


Statuses in Microsoft Teams are a quick way to give your colleagues some context as to what you’re up to. This context is essential when many of us aren’t working in a co-located office. 

There’s one notable difference in the way Teams approaches status compared to most tools: you can tag a colleague as part of your status. 


Of all the features in Microsoft Teams, chat is probably the most recognizable feature, whether you’re new to enterprise communication or you’re migrating over from another similar tool like Slack or Skype for Business. 

In Teams, you can start a chat with anyone in your organization by clicking the compose icon in your chat pane.


Groups are an excellent tool for bringing multiple members of your team together for private, one-off conversations focused on a centralized theme that don’t warrant creating a team.

If you find yourself chatting with the same people more often than others, you can create a group to make sure they’re easy to reach with a single click.


With Teams, you can kick off an audio or video call simply by clicking the phone or video camera button while you’re in a chat with someone. 

If you haven’t already granted Teams access to your mic/webcam, it’ll ask. Unless you don’t want to have audio/video calls over Microsoft Teams, SAY YES!

If you deny access, you can still dig into your device’s settings to fix it later.

Screen Sharing

In addition to chats and calls, you can kick off a quick screen sharing session directly in Microsoft Teams with a colleague from the chat feed by clicking the share screen button. This feature can be handy if you need to share something with someone in real-time, but a screencap isn’t good enough. 

Just like with calls, if you haven’t granted Teams access to the requisite controls, it’ll ask for it the first time you attempt this.


How to join a Microsoft Teams meeting

There are several ways to join a meeting in Teams. You can be invited through email, a calendar invite, or if there’s already a meeting going in your team, you can hop right in.

You can start a Teams meeting by clicking the video camera button in that team’s feed. Simply type in a quick meeting topic (or don’t) and hit ‘Meet Now.’ Teams will notify everyone in the team that you kicked off a meeting. 

It can be useful to kick off quick, informal meetings without planning it out in advance like you might occasionally do in person. Just make sure you and your team are all on the same page about how informal meetings should work.

How to change your background in Microsoft Teams

There are a number of reasons you might want to obscure the view behind you during a meeting. Doing so can help bring more attention to the main subject (you). 

Microsoft Teams provides an easy way to either blur your current background or add one in behind you.

To change your background, click “Background Filters” next to the video on/off button. Microsoft includes several built-in background filters for you, including a simple gaussian blur. Select the background you want, and it will instantly appear behind you. 

How to add a custom background to Microsoft Teams

You can also add your own custom background by clicking the “+Add new” button above the default backgrounds. Custom backgrounds can be a fun way to liven up your experience, but please be courteous of others when selecting a custom background. Keep in mind that once you select your new background, it will be visible to everyone.

How to record a Microsoft Teams meeting

To record a meeting in Microsoft teams, all you need to do is click the overflow menu at the top of the meeting window and select “Start recording.” Before starting a recording, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone in the meeting is aware you’re doing this and that they’re comfortable with being recorded.

Using and sharing files

An exciting and useful native feature unique to Teams is the ability to launch and work collaboratively on an (Office Suite) document directly within the Teams platform. 

This feature has been beneficial for our team; however, its auto-save feature limits its ability to explicitly save changes, which can be problematic if your (or one of your colleagues’) internet connection is less than stellar. 


Teams are one of the areas where Microsoft Teams differs from other platforms.

A Team is a collection of users with a similar set of goals and objectives. Teams can be as large as organization-wide, or as small as a single user.

For more on Teams, plus tips and advice on organizing them check out the 'organizing your space' section.

Depending on your organizations settings, users may be able to create their own Teams at will, or may need assistance from an admin.  


Channels organize communications between members of a team. Each team can have multiple channels. By default, any newly-created team starts with a General channel. 

Guest access

Guest access is available in Microsoft Teams as well. Admins have control over what types of access guests get and what actions they can perform. If you need to invite a guest from outside your organization to collaborate in Teams, you'll need permission from an admin.

Organizing your space

Microsoft has some excellent documentation on collaborating and communicating in Teams but ultimately leaves some details up to users.

That’s great because all kinds of companies use Teams for a broad range of work; however, flexibility can become a challenge if everyone has different ideas of how to get work done in Teams.

In our experience, having a standardized way to communicate and organize your work makes a distinct difference in how easy it is to collaborate at scale.

Organizing teams

Because Microsoft Teams differentiates between channels and teams, it’s easy to organize work into a neat structure that helps team members find the information and conversations they need quickly.

Teams allows for multiple ‘Teams’ dedicated to smaller groups or finite projects. So while larger teams like the “Engineering Team” or “People Ops Team” would have large dedicated spaces with many members, a smaller subteam like “DevOps” or “Talent Acquisition” can be useful to help keep things organized and streamlined.

To manage Long-lived projects involving a mix of people across different teams and functional roles, create a dedicated “team” for that project to focus conversations.

Teams should be regularly groomed and archived if there is no activity or the purpose has changed.

Organizing channels

Channels are an excellent tool for further refining your organization and keeping your team conversations organized.

Tips for the general channel

In every newly-created team, a ‘General’ channel appears first.

General channels work best when reserved for teamwide announcements of some notable importance to the whole team.

Because Microsoft Teams encourages a structure separating teams by areas of focus, what’s appropriate in the General channel differs from team to team. An update on an outage might be critical enough information to share in the development team’s General channel or even the company team General channel, while an update on a minor hotfix would fit best in a more specific team or channel.

If your team is having difficulties determining where different types of updates belong, calling it out with specific examples can help.

Keeping the general channel focused

One of the most common complaints users of enterprise communications tools have is ‘general’ channel chaos. Their frustration is understandable because for many users, “general” might seem like the proper place to post certain content because it feels as though it’s of general interest to them. The problem is, what’s of general interest to them might not be of interest to their colleagues.

Microsoft Teams has powerful search functionality, but even the best search functionality will struggle to keep up with a chaotic workspace with no organization. Even in a small team, the general channel can fill up quickly. If you’re looking for information posted in there, it’s much easier to find when the general channel is focused.

To get ahead of this issue, you can create channels designated for miscellaneous topics and idle chatter. It’s going to happen regardless, so rather than struggling to dam the overflow of chatter, simply channel it by giving it a place to go.

Team/channel alignment

Organizing communications by team makes it easier to avoid channel bloat and keep the list of channels in any given team relevant to everyone on that team.

A few Team/channel alignment examples from our own ‘Teams Development’ team are ‘Development’ and ‘Ops.’

Separating these channels keeps tactical day-to-day bug bashing and performance conversations separate from strategic development discussions, even if some members belong to both channels.

You can subdivide teams and channels in any way you like, but it’s most helpful when everyone agrees on a specific structure and sticks to it.

Use groups for one-off, private conversations.

If you need to have a quick conversation with one or more of your colleagues that doesn’t fit within your team’s channels (or that you’d like to keep private), use the groups feature.

Apps, bots, and connectors

Microsoft Teams Bots and Apps

Bots and apps can help you and your team interface with all sorts of third-party tools, from sales software to project management, engagement apps, and more.

Microsoft Teams Connectors

Think of connectors as a one-way feed of information from a service to your team. For example, Dev teams might have an “Ops” channel with a connector feeding information about app health.


Tabs are a big deal in Microsoft Teams. They’re a significant part of what separates its basic functionality from all the other communication and collaboration tools available right now. 

Tabs bring rich, interactive content from apps right to your conversation. They can be added to channels and chats. 

Microsoft Teams API

The Teams API is robust and continues to grow and evolve as more and more developers (like us!) join on and start building for the platform. It also opens the door for users to customize their experience.

Accessing Microsoft Teams

Microsoft’s goal for Teams is to be a ubiquitous cross-platform tool. As such, it built Teams applications for nearly every modern operating system—most of which are almost identical; however, there are a few differences we’ll call out below.

When you’re ready, you can download Microsoft Teams here.

Microsoft Teams Online

Installing desktop versions of Microsoft Teams has benefits, but it’s not strictly necessary. All you need to access Microsoft Teams is a modern web browser. 

Until recently, this was the most common way for users of Linux or Chromebooks to access teams. The Teams web app is nearly identical to the desktop app; however, there are a couple of minute differences.

The browser version of Microsoft Teams doesn’t allow for screen sharing in video calls. It does enable tabbed browsing across different tenants, though, which can be incredibly useful for contractors or other workers who might belong to multiple MS Teams tenants as a guest (or a full user).

Microsoft Teams for Windows

While it might seem like this would be the ultimate expression of the platform, Microsoft has done a commendable job of porting Teams across many different operating systems seamlessly enough that you’ll be hard-pressed to find any differences between versions.

Microsoft Teams for Mac

Microsoft Teams for Mac is nearly indistinguishable from Teams for Windows. The most meaningful difference between Teams for Mac and Teams for Windows is the placement of window controls and the system requirements. As of this writing, the macOS version requires about half the hard drive space Windows or Linux versions require.

Microsoft Teams for Linux

Yes, it’s true! Microsoft published a version of Teams for Linux. Many folks who would otherwise be relegated to using their browser to interact in Teams now have a fully-featured desktop app to work with.

Microsoft Teams for mobile (iOS and Android)

Microsoft offers full-featured mobile versions of Teams for both iOS and Android platforms as well. You can find them in the App Store or Google Play store, respectively.


Part II

Getting Work Done
in Microsoft Teams
Top of the line Equipment + Star


You can use Microsoft Teams in a variety of ways, not only to improve how you communicate and collaborate as a team, but also how you get work done as an organization. 

In this section, we'll cover some essential ways you can extend Teams beyond the basics to bring greater engagement and efficiency to current processes while offering new possibilities you may not have anticipated.

Lead better meetings

Meetings are an instrumental place you can improve the experience for yourself and your colleagues with Microsoft Teams. 

Fine-tune your agenda

One of the quickest, easiest ways to improve your team meetings is to start with an agenda guided by advance input from stakeholders. This small effort pays big dividends by allowing you to tune the presentation to hit the mark square on every time.

There are few worse feelings than presenting to a group of colleagues who have little or no interest in the material you’re presenting. You may find your audience has many questions about an area in your presentation you didn’t plan to spend much time on.

Teams makes collecting this input easy, especially with third-party apps (like Polly!).

Engage your audience

A one-way presentation to your audience and a two-way conversation with them are two entirely different experiences. The key to getting the most from these interactions without the meeting becoming a free-for-all is to plan some questions and audience involvement in advance.

Similar to coaxing the flood of conversations in your General channel into appropriate sub-channels, this is a chance to guide spoken and unspoken audience questions more productively and predictably.

With Polly, you can queue up questions in advance of your meeting, send them out one-by-one at the perfect time, or engage your audience with questions on the fly.

Post-meeting feedback

Want to improve every meeting you lead? Start asking for post-meeting feedback.

You can ask for qualitative feedback from your attendees right in the same team you held the meeting. Doing so helps maintain context and might even spark some great offline discussions.

The responses you receive are like meeting gold, so capturing them in a way you can easily refer back to is crucial. How you ask is equally important because the easier it is for your audience to give substantive feedback, the more likely they are to give it. Teams has some built-in tools for gathering feedback, or you can use a tool like Polly to instantly capture, share, and review responses.

Manage projects in Microsoft Teams

Apps and integrations

There are a number of tools you can use in Teams to help projects succeed. Microsoft's Office 365 suite is a great start, and it's automatically integrated into Teams. Dedicated third-party project management tools like Asana and Trello have Microsoft Teams integrations as well, so no matter what tools your colleagues use to get their work done, you can bring it all together in Teams.

For example, your marketing team could use the Trello connector to keep track of all team’s projects right within Teams, so when a status changes, everyone knows the moment it happens.

Standup supplements

In-person (or at least live video) standup meetings are a standard in product development for a reason. They’re a great way to get everyone together, thinking about and working through challenges together in real-time. Unfortunately, the status report portion often takes up half or more of that valuable meeting time.

The easiest way around this is an automated standup supplement, sent out regularly before the meeting itself. Ask each member a series of simple questions:

  • What did they finish since the last meeting?
  • What they’re working on now?
  • Are they blocked?

If everyone joins the standup with a base understanding of where the rest of the team is at with their projects, it’s much easier to get straight to strategic thinking and creative problem-solving.

Asynchronous standups

Sometimes in-person or real-time video standups aren’t an option. When that’s the case, running an asynchronous standup in Teams can be an effective stopgap.

While it may not replace the valuable interactions in synchronous standups entirely, it can help teams working across timezones to make those time-bound meetings less frequent and more productive.

Sprint planning and issue sizing

Issue sizing is an integral element of sprint planning because without knowing the magnitude of work on your team’s plate, it’s hard to plan it effectively.

Sometimes when sizing issues, a developer might size differently based on the response they see from another team member they respect. To reach a more accurate consensus, many teams will participate in planning poker, where nobody knows how their colleagues sized an issue until everyone’s vote is cast.

Many teams use Microsoft Teams along with apps like Polly to gather votes and share results.

Tips for educators and presenters

There are several tools available for Microsoft Teams that can help educators understand how well students absorb the information they’re sharing in lessons.

Checking for Understanding (CFU)

Distance learning is a challenge for educators and students. While some students love to speak up during class when they know the answer to a question, others might stay silent and miss out on an opportunity to ask. In Teams, educators can ask CFU questions during their lessons in a fun, interactive way.


A lightweight quiz can be a great way to check in on students to make sure they’re absorbing the class material while identifying opportunities to support students who are struggling.

With third-party apps, you can bring quizzes directly into a Teams meeting in session without disrupting the flow of your lesson plan.

Lesson focus

It can be surprising sometimes which parts of a lesson or homework students found most challenging. Some educators use tools like Polly in advance of class to check in with students on which parts of their homework would be most valuable to cover in class.

Automate internal processes

Employee onboarding

As many organizations are still not working together in an office environment, it becomes even more important to make sure new team members experience a solid onboarding.

With Teams, it’s possible to use tools like Polly to send new employees automated check-ins regularly to make sure they’re supported, learning, and growing.

Daily/weekly check-ins and pulse surveys

With so many teams working remotely, frequent check-ins are a crucial part of staying connected and aligned. You can do these check-ins manually in Teams or opt for an engagement app that can manage the details for you.

Getting the most from Teams

As you continue to bring more work processes into Microsoft Teams and the platform evolves, you’ll likely find new ways of doing things and develop brand new processes that weren’t possible without it.

We hope you found this guide a helpful starting point for that journey.

We’ll close this guide now with a set of frequently asked questions and a list of additional resources you can use to further your knowledge of Teams and the world of possibilities it enables.


Part III

Frequently Asked Questions


How do I encourage employees to use Teams?

In short, make it irresistible to use.

It’s one thing to tell your team they need to use a tool, and another thing entirely to show them its value.

  • Bring mission-critical work and tools into Teams.
  • Add apps that will save time or improve the experience

One of the greatest advantages of tools like Microsoft Teams is its flexibility, so make Teams your own. If your colleagues have tools they already love to use, see if they’re available on Teams. There’s a world of new tools you can use to help make the work you do together more streamlined and enjoyable on Microsoft’s AppSource directory.

How do I stop teams from running on startup?

While it can be really helpful to have Teams launch on startup, there are legitimate reasons a user might not want it to. Luckily, it’s easy to adjust this setting:

Microsoft Teams for Windows: Right-click the app in the start menu, then Settings > Do Not Auto-Start Teams.

Microsoft Teams for Mac: Click your avatar at the top-right of the Teams app, then Settings. Under ‘application,’ un-check “Auto-start application.”

How to delete conversations in Microsoft Teams

You can delete or edit a message you’ve sent, but you can’t really delete conversations in Teams. If there’s a conversation you’d rather not see anymore, you can simply ‘hide’ it; however, you can use the command box to retrieve it anytime you need to refer back.

Additional knowledge + support

Microsoft Teams blog

Do it on Teams


Microsoft Teams Training/Tutorials

Quickstart guide

Free live trainings

Integrate apps into your business


Other resources

Polly blog

Polly's Microsoft Teams help center