How to add external users to a channel within a Team: Microsoft Teams

While you cannot add a non-member to a Teams’ channel without adding them to the team, you can instead utilize standard chats. While more limited than a channel, standard chats allow you to communicate and share files with external users. Fortunately, you can do this without the approval of your Teams’ owner.

You cannot add external users to your teams’ channels unless you first add them to the team. Users can instead invite external users to one-to-one chats or group chats.

Below, you will find a step-by-step guide on creating a one-to-one chat with an external user, as well as instructions on using the same process to create group chats for multiple external users. Lastly, we’ll briefly discuss why we’re writing about this particular workaround, as opposed to speaking about guest members (who’re still members).


How to create a chat with an external user in Microsoft Teams

One-to-one chats in Microsoft Teams allow you to communicate with internal or external users regardless of their membership within your team. In addition, these basic chats are much faster to create than an entire team.

Step 1 – Open Microsoft Teams

To begin, head over to the Microsoft Teams; the desktop and browser versions should both work fine. The process remains the same.

Step 2 – Head to the chat page

To proceed, you’ll need to open Teams’ chat page. You can find the chat button in the left sidebar– it resembles a speech bubble containing two parallel lines. Next, click the “New chat” icon in the upper right of the Chat panel or use the Ctrl+N shortcut.

Step 3 – Enter your external recipients email

When creating a new chat, Teams will expect you to enter your intended correspondent’s email. You will find Microsoft Teams is unable to find your external user and will need to review external results. Click the resulting field to do so.

Step 4 – Select your contact

If you enter a valid email, you will see one or more results. Select the result matching your contact’s details and avoid results with a Skype icon.

Step 5 – Send a message

Try sending a message to your external contact. It would be a bad idea to depend on a means of communication without first ensuring it works.

How to create a group chat with external users in Microsoft Teams

Creating a group chat in Teams is achieved almost precisely the same way you make a one-to-one chat. The differences lie in steps four through five. Add your additional recipients after adding your first external user as a recipient.

Afterward, when attempting to compose the group’s first message, you will notice you’re able to set a group name– I recommend doing so.

How to add an external user to an existing group chat in Microsoft Teams

Group chats are functionally the same as one-to-one chats- the only discernable difference being that group chats can have a custom name, image, and multiple members. If you’ve already got a group chat ready, there’s no need to create another; add your external users to the existing group.

Step 1 – Open your groupchat’s member list

You can view a Microsoft Teams group chat member list via the chat’s top right “peopleicon. After clicking the icon, look for “Add people” in its dropdown- you need to click that too.

Step 2 – Add the external user(s)

You should now see a pop-out menu. Select its text field and enter your contact’s email address. Once prompted, you will need to specify they’re an external user. Afterward, hit “Add” to complete the process and return to your chat.

Step 3 – Ensure everything worked correctly

Assuming you followed along with me okay, you should now see one of two messages from Microsoft Teams.

<your username> invited 1 person to the group. Invited members will not see any history until after they have joined Teams.

Teams chat message: Invited member does not yet have Teams.

<your username> added <external user> to the chat.

Teams chat message: Successfully added new chat member.

Why I cannot add external users to a channel in Microsoft Teams

You can… however

Before you can add a user to a Teams’ channel, you must first grant them some form of team membership. Team membership comes in the form of being a team member or guest within the team- however, in this regard, you’re no longer an external member, hence why I’ve neglected to discuss the topic. I have instead favored solutions more relevant to the initial question- regarding external users.

Post recap

Only members of a team can access a team’s channels. If you want to communicate with your team and an external user, you may consider group chats or one-to-one chats within Microsoft Teams. While such chats have fewer features than a channel, they still support all the essential chat features needed to communicate sufficiently.

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Jack Mitchell

Jack Mitchell has been the Operations manager at telecoms and MSP Optionbox for more than 4 years. He has played a crucial role in the company, from marketing to helpdesk, and ensures that the IT requirements of over 300 clients are continuously met. With his innate passion for technology and troubleshooting and a particular interest in Apple products, Jack now delivers the most comprehensive tech guides to make your life easier. You can connect with Jack on LinkedIn.

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