Microsoft Teams: Breakout rooms, performance improvements and more

Published: 08 October 2020

A huge number of new Teams features have been announced in the last month, many of which were revealed at Microsoft’s recent Ignite 2020 conference. Here’s a rundown of some key ones which we think are worth looking out for.

In a move which is clearly designed to compete with Zoom, there have been several new meetings features announced. These include: 

Breakout rooms

Zoom-style breakout rooms have been the most requested feature in Teams, and Microsoft has finally delivered. Launching this month, this feature enables larger meetings to split off into sub-groups to facilitate smaller discussions, with presenters able to move between rooms then bring everyone back to the main meeting room when needed.

Meeting recaps

Available later this year, the meeting recording, transcript, chat and shared files will be automatically shared afterwards in the meeting’s Chat tab, as well as being available in the Details tab and in the meeting event in your Outlook calendar. There will also be the ability to automatically store them on SharePoint. This will make it easier to catch up if you’re not able to attend a meeting, as well as providing information to refer back to if you need to check anything afterwards.

Together Mode scenes

Already available in preview for some users, this new feature is clearly designed to challenge Zoom’s reputation as a more fun video platform. Together Mode uses AI technology to place all members of the video call into one single background scene, such as a conference room or coffee shop. Designed to “help participants feel closer together” it’ll be interesting to see how this feature might be adopted by users, and whether it’ll ever be more than just a clever gimmick. 

7x7 grid views

Teams is rolling out 7x7 grid views, enabling simultaneous video streams of up to 49 participants via its new “multi-window meeting experience

Custom layouts

Providing more versatility for presentations, new features will include being able see the presenter’s video feed superimposed over the presentation slides, like when using a background, to help make presentations more engaging and better replicate a real-life presentation experience.

More to think about:

Upcoming Teams developments

So apart from new meetings features, what else is new? Here are our other top picks to look out for on Teams in the coming months. 

Webinars

New webinar registration functionality and reporting dashboards will start to be rolled out towards the end of the year, in response to Teams being increasingly used for hosting webinars as well as standard meetings. These new features should make it easier to sign participants up and understand engagement once the event has finished.

Channels features

Channels have been given an overhaul, with a new info pane providing a summary of active members, pinned post capability, and the ability to start new channel conversations rather than replying to existing ones.

Performance improvements

Microsoft has boosted the desktop launch time for Teams on Windows and macOS by up to 30% and is optimising the Android app for low bandwidth. Performance is also being improved with changes to video rendering and adjustments to how much compute power is used for key functions. For times when users are without a reliable network connection, messages can now be written when offline and automatically sent when network connectivity is resumed. The Teams iOS app has also been updated to significantly reduce battery consumption, with improvements of up to 40%.

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