Christmas comes early for Microsoft users with the roll-out of breakout rooms and holiday-themed Together mode scenes.

Suite of new features released this week

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Announced earlier this year, we knew it was only a matter of time before breakout rooms came to Microsoft Teams. This week, the feature was rolled out to all Microsoft 365 users.

Available for general use immediately, up to 50 breakout rooms can be created by an organiser, who can choose to either manually assign people to individual rooms or have it them automatically assigned by Microsoft Teams.

The organiser can join each breakout room, send announcements to each group and rename or reassign rooms throughout the meeting. Participants can join a breakout room from desktop, web or mobile.

For those of us who have been organising and hosting virtual events and workshops, this development is very much welcome. In addition, they have also announced the introduction of Large Gallery that displays 49 participants on a single screen. 

Nicole Herskowitz, Microsoft Teams General Manager said: “Organisers can jump in between meetings on their own, deliver announcements to all breakout rooms at once, and bring everyone back to the main meeting at any time. And unique to Microsoft Teams, breakout rooms can be initiated both in Microsoft Teams channels and in Microsoft Teams meetings to give you flexibility on how you want to meet.”

In addition to breakout rooms, Microsoft has also released a series of new Together mode scenes including winter wonderland backdrops, coffee shop, classroom and more – but you will need more than five people in the meeting for this feature to be enabled.

Lisa Pantelli, head of content and community at simplycommunicate said: "This has been a key missing feature from Microsoft. We've talked a lot about how the use of technology during pandemic has democratised the (virtual) workplace, but the inability to host breakout rooms has been felt by many. The additional options of seeing more people on your screen simultaneously and holding multiple breakout rooms is very welcome!"

The Large Gallery and Together Mode are available in Teams for the latest versions of Google Chrome and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge. Microsoft notes that virtual desktops like VMWare, Citrix are not fully supported.

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