Scott Hanselman

Can you hear me now? Unmute your microphone

September 05, 2014 Comment on this post [25] Posted in Tools
Sponsored By

I've been working remotely now, from home, for over half a decade. I work in my home office, from cafes, from my tethered mobile, basically anywhere I can be productive and not feel like a phony.

Here's the thing, though. I have to go to meetings, and I spend 15 minutes of those meetings waiting for YOU (yes, you, there) to unmute your mic, setup your cam, mess around with your internet, and generally waste the remote worker's (yes, me, here) time.

UPDATE: I'm putting this over on GitHub for you to improve!

So, as a customer service to the internet, I present.

That domain points directly to this post. Please, tell your friends family and clients.

Why not include as a link in your meetings?

Is your mic muted?

Using Skype?


See that circled icon? That's a muted microphone. Click to unmute.

Using Lync?

In Lync, this means your phone and mic are turned off.


Click the left one to unmute! Click the right one to turn on your cam! You can also use the "Win+F4" global hotkey to unmute Lync.

Using Google Hangouts?

The unmute button is at the top of the hangout.


Click the little Settings Gear to select your microphone and speakers from within Google Hangouts.


Using Some Weird old Adobe Flash-based Web Conferencing Thing?

Seriously, stop. What's wrong with you? Then, right click on the box where the app is running and click Settings...


You can select your Microphone and see the bar move on the right, indicating it can hear you.

Wait, did you select the right microphone globally?

Most apps let you select microphones within the app. You can also set your preferred mic globally.

Which mic am I using? Right click on the little speaker near the clock and select "Recording Devices."


Some machines have more than one microphone. Windows lets you set a "Default Communications Device" for calls like Skype, and this is different from the "Default Device" for regular audio apps like Audacity. Right click to set your default.


PRO TIP: Tap your microphone (or where you think it is) to confirm where you THINK it is. Watch the green bars move.

Applications can also select their individual preferred microphone. Here's Tools | Options in Skype. See how I can select where I want my audio output to go? And where I want my input to come from?


Got a Mac?

That's cool. Type "Sound" into Spotlight and open your settings. Note you can see your input volume, your preferred input devices and preferred output device.


Got a physical phone?

There is VERY likely a microphone mute button on the phone. Familiarize yourself with the phone's buttons and try this one.


Maybe you have a headset? Does it have a mute button? Maybe you bumped it.



If you take 5 to 10 minutes NOW to make sure you know how to select your microphone and umute yourself, you will save remote workers everywhere 15 minutes for every 1 hour meeting.

Sponsor: Many thanks to Intersoft for sponsoring the feed this week! Enterprise cross-platform native apps development made painless with Intersoft Crosslight. Sounds too good to be true? See it for yourself and get started today!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Hosting By
Hosted in an Azure App Service
September 05, 2014 6:01
Man, this made me laugh. I can't put this into meeting invites though, many in my office already think I'm the annoying IT guy that's always telling people how to do things.

I patiently wait (lurk?) for someone to ask.
September 05, 2014 6:26
September 05, 2014 6:44
Maybe we can also educate people on WHEN to mute your microphone, especially when people are in a public or noisy place !
September 05, 2014 7:30
Ah, no - don't ever tap a microphone unless you want to damage it and everything it is connected to. Click your tongue or snap your fingers, but don't ever tap.

And, when using Skype, make sure the AGC setting on your microphone is off, otherwise the microphone will remain completely inactive until something very loud happens. If people can't hear you when you answer a call until you clap your hands in front of the microphone, this will likely be your problem.
September 05, 2014 9:41
In elementary school, I loved being and AV (audio-visual) library assistant and running the mimeograph machine. I knew all the tricks to getting that film strip projector to work. I was an expert overhead projector operator. And I could thread a 16mm projector faster than anyone.

I was the master of my domain. I was a geek before the pocket protector became the defacto standard geek identification badge.

Now we have buttons. Buttons for everything. We have buttons coming out of button holes. And despite the standard icons for buttons, we have yet to master the damned mute button. Will humanity survive? I don't know.

Anyone got a mimeograph?
September 05, 2014 9:53
Scott, another thing I spotted when working with Lync is that if you plug microphone or headphones during connection (and it happens esp. at the beginning), the connection is put on hold, which is not immediately obvious. You may want to include that info, too.
September 05, 2014 16:22
I can't echo Robert Slaney's comment above enough. There's far too many times people unmute themselves and then proceed to do things that they don't think about, but the microphone picks up.

You know how your headset has a microphone right there next to your face? Yeah, it picked up that you scratched your beard and now so did everybody in the meeting.

You don't have a headset handy, so you're using the built in speakers & microphone on your laptop? Yeah, more than likely you're the person on the call causing the feedback/echo in the meeting because a lot of laptops are poorly designed for meetings. Especially if you're typing notes during the meeting...

You know that fan you have blowing on you cause it's hot at your desk? To everybody in the meeting it sounds like you're driving down the freeway in a convertible going at least 60 MPH.

So it's just as important to learn how to unmute yourself, but it's far more important how to learn to stay muted until you intend to talk as well as set up your environment so your microphone is only picking up you.
September 05, 2014 17:09
This goes both ways. I'm frequently in situations where I'm meeting with someone who decided to work from home or remotely only to wait for them to figure out their mic issues. We're now in a world where it often doesn't matter where you actually work from. Everyone needs to be cognizant of that and make sure they're setup to have virtual meetings whether in the office, home, or Jamba Juice.
September 05, 2014 17:15
On Mac OS X, if the speaker icon is visible in the menu bar ("Show volume in menu bar" must be selected in the Sound preferences menu--see the screen shot in this article), you can hold the Option key and click on the speaker icon to quickly select your input and output devices.
September 05, 2014 18:26
Point taken Scott. I laughed pretty hard on this one, but I think you should have waited till you were on vacation to write this. ;-) You sound too pissed off and condescending. Are you seriously going to share your howtounmute site with anyone you work with remotely!? Good luck.
September 05, 2014 19:16
I can sense an enormous amount of rage behind this post. Not generated all at once, but perhaps in small amounts over many many years. But still, in all, an enormous amount of rage.
September 05, 2014 19:50
Even if you are prepared there can be several things beyond your control that can go wrong. I find software updates most annoying. When Skype has an update, it shows a progress bar with the message "Just a moment, we're improving your Skype experience". I wish they didn't say "Just a moment"
September 05, 2014 21:49
Hi Scott,

as always you are pointing out the fundamental things. Everyone wants to have online meetings, but noone seems to care to be "ready" when the meeting starts.
If the people would do physical meetings they wouldn't start to get a coffee, a pad and a pencil as soon as the meeting starts. That would be considered disrespectful.

I can't count the online meetings people are late to arrive to, start messing around with their microphone, yelling some last minute things to other people etc.

As Robert Slaney already pointed out it is also extremely important for people to keep the mics muted in loud and busy environments.

Best regards,
September 06, 2014 0:51
If you haven't seen this video it's worth the 4 minute watch. Anyone that has ever been on a conference call can relate. Super funny - muted microphone scene too:
September 06, 2014 11:25
I'm going to third (fourth? fifth?) the sentiment that people not MUTING themselves is infinitely worse than unmuting.

I'm not sure I've ever encountered someone who had an issue figuring out how to unmute - rather, that they didn't realise they were muted.

But people are CONSTANTLY unmuted, and it eats well into 15-20 minutes of an hour-long meeting waiting for an unknown person's dog to stop barking, for the garbagemen to go by, for the truck to pass their car, for them to get out of the tunnel, etc.
September 06, 2014 15:58
So true, annother thing i tend to do if i setup a lync/cucm/asterisk meeting environment is have a hardcoded echo contact in the global contacts list (just like skype) that way support becomes: call the echo number, do you see your self?
no: enable cam,
yes: groovy,
can you hear your self?
no:turn volume up on headset and laptop,
still no joy then unmute in this order: headset,
yes: groovy,
no: unmute application (including checking the volume slider in some clients, one softphone i use doesnt indicate on the gui that audio is muted if the slider is all the way to the left 0_o)
yes: groovy,
no: check sound settings,

still no?, unplug headset and if it works then put in an order for a new headset/raise issue with support desk
September 06, 2014 23:06
WebEx is missing, that's where in my company a lot of people struggle and specially with the "call me" feature.
September 08, 2014 7:13
Sounds like an angry boss. I wonder whether you shout at your colleagues :(
September 08, 2014 18:14
While this gets a good laugh it's also true! We have a remote team member and for those of us at "home" we try and make sure to be at the meeting location ahead of time to make sure we can get started on time. Everything shown is spot on! I think I'll have to send this to the team. :-)
September 10, 2014 15:24
I believe this falls into the category of be prepared for your meeting.
I have wanted so badly to walk out of demos and sprint retrospective before plainly due to the fact that the presenter was still getting everything ready for the first 15 minutes of a meeting. Getting the service desk to trouble sheet the web conference or opening all his windows on the laptop or even waiting on the laptop to install updates.

If you have a meeting, be prepared.

If it is web be online and ready to rock. If it is in person have your stuff together and hit the ground running.
If you are presenting get there early and get everything turned on.
Check your equipment early in the day to make sure its ready and working.

The golden rule of meetings. Don't waste other peoples time.
Time is valuable to us all and you cant give it back. If I have to watch you fumble through your unpreparedness then you are stealing my time with your incompetence.
September 17, 2014 11:31
What about GoToMeeting? People really seem to struggle with GoToMeeting :(
September 17, 2014 15:32
Gr8 Going!!!!
People also struggles with windows live meeting that also you can add here..
September 28, 2014 1:48
I almost did a spit-take reading this. We spend endless hours teaching people in my community how to MUTE their microphones. We drag papers over the top of them. We have the worlds loudest sneezers amongst us. We have people that whistle. We have people that take a phone call, turn off the speakers so they can talk, but forget to turn off the microphone.
September 30, 2014 13:46
I would like to also point out, if you are using Skype, un-check those annoying boxes which say "Automatically adjust microphone/speaker settings". Have had a number issues all involving these two little gems.
October 08, 2014 1:53
If you are making this permanent, I have two suggestions:
1) Add an index.
2) Add a section showing how to test it.

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.