For some, life may have felt like it has been on a hold pattern during this pandemic but at Microsoft, they have been anything but on a hold pattern. They’ve been busy planning, strategizing, creating, designing, testing, and finalizing new features for many of their platforms, including Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams is the interface and platform for users within a corporation and their external clients to collaborate. Communications between team members and clients is smoother, easier, and more accessible because of Microsoft Teams. There are many new features being added, but the most anticipated, and possibly the biggest game changer, is Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms.
Similar to large in-person conferences and conventions, virtual team meetings can range from two participates to upwards of hundreds that gather in one large venue. Within this large venue, areas are broken down into zones. Within these zones will be kiosks or spaces, like rooms, that have specialized vendors, consultants or where specific types of training will take place. Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms are similar in that they provide a virtual space for smaller groups of people to gather, holding discussions on similar topics, or maybe one topic, brainstorm, and reach solutions.
On the participant side, they will be able to chat in the Breakout Room and share content from Whiteboards and PowerPoint. The chat will only be visible for participants in that particular Breakout Room and only they can participate in the chat, with the exception of the Administrator who is able to access and participate in all Breakout Rooms. Participants are not able to move freely between Breakout Rooms or the main meeting. They must wait until the administrator adds them back to the main meeting or re-assigns them to another Breakout Room. The participant, can however, request the administrator contact them.
What can participants do in the Breakout Room?
As part of the new features being added to Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms, managers that are selected and assigned to rooms by the administrator will now be able to manage rooms, open or close rooms, customize Microsoft Teams meeting settings, and set timers.
New features and abilities for participants include pinning a video on the front page of the Teams meeting, which will appear next to those of other participants.
Another highlight is the ability to turn off the self-view. This can be done from the meeting settings which will hide their own video preview, which appears on the bottom right of the meeting screen by default.
Tips, Tricks, and Suggestions for Breakout Rooms
As with any meeting or any interaction, it is best to be prepared to avoid any last-minute trouble that will impact the meeting.
If you ask any professional administrative assistant, they will tell you having a dry run is vital in ensuring a smooth, and trouble-free meeting. Having materials prepared ahead of time and distributed to the attendees so they can prepare in advance will not only help them understand the agenda, but this will save time once they are assigned to their Breakout Rooms as they immediately dive into the task at hand.
As you prepare to break the large group into smaller groups, delegate responsibilities, including assigning a group leader or room manger who is responsible for monitoring the chat to capture announcements and inform the group of these announcements and is the lead on monitoring chat activity. Having announcements prepared beforehand will help the administrator to deliver these effortlessly, on time, and clearly. Additionally, the administrator could provide a link to documents those participants may need access to for collaborating in their Breakout Room.
Another beneficial tip is to make an announcement at the beginning of the session indicating when the session wraps up, and then five minutes before the wrap up time, send a warning announcement so the participants can begin their preparations for ending their session.
Microsoft Teams is evolving quickly as it adapts and flexes with the needs of its users who are comprised of users who are remote, onsite, or a combination of remote and onsite. With Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms, meetings that involve numerous people can now be held as one large meeting with smaller discussion that focus on specific topics that make up the whole of the project. Coming back together in the main meeting, participants can share their findings and proposals after brainstorming in the smaller groups. Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms provides efficient, simplified, and real-time collaboration.