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Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams

Breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams

Creating meaningful connection can be difficult in larger group settings. Breakout rooms allow organizers to divide the meeting into sub-groups to facilitate discussions and brainstorming sessions


The meeting organizer can create up to 50 breakout rooms and choose to automatically or manually assign participants into rooms. The organizer can start a breakout room in a Teams meeting or a Teams channel meeting, allowing greater flexibility on how you want to meet.

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Using the breakout room settings, the meeting organizer can choose to allow participants to come back to the main meeting at any time, then return to the assigned breakout room. This way participants can ask a clarifying question without disturbing the breakout room discussions.

Also, organizers can use the setting to re-create breakout rooms in the same meeting. This allows them to assign participants into new room setups.

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The meeting organizer can create, rename, and delete rooms as needed.

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Once the breakout rooms are open, meeting organizers can join any of the breakout sessions. And should the need arise, you can quickly switch attendees in between breakout rooms.

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Organizers can send announcements to the breakout rooms, and recall all participants back to the main meeting at any time.

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Since breakout rooms are Teams meetings, all the innovation that makes Teams meetings inclusive, interactive, and intelligent are available within. Attendees can discuss a topic in their breakout room while in a virtual coffee shop in Together mode. Or students can bring up the Microsoft Whiteboard and draw out their ideas. This is also true of our security features that help make your Teams meetings a safe and secure place to meet.

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Any files from the breakout rooms can be shared in the main meeting once everyone is back together and will be available afterwards in the meeting chat.

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Who can start a breakout room?

  • Only the meeting organizer can start breakout rooms.

How can I use breakout rooms?

  • The meeting organizer can start a breakout room on the desktop client only.
  • Participants can join a breakout room from desktop, web or mobile. Microsoft Teams Rooms do not have breakout room capabilities yet.
  • Participants logged in from multiple devices will have all end points join the same breakout room.

How do I make sure I can start using breakout rooms?

I’m an educator, what will my students be able to do?

  • Educators will have the option to push students into the breakout rooms and pull them back to the main meeting, without any additional action needed by the student.
  • Students can be assigned to breakout rooms, join breakout rooms, use the whiteboard or screen share if allowed to in normal school meetings, re-join the main meeting, and see their breakout room chat.
  • Since breakout rooms are Teams meetings, the same security policies and options apply to the breakout room.
  • Learn more about using breakout rooms at your school or university here.

Collaboration Bars in Teams

The first collaboration bar for Microsoft Teams is now available!

We are thrilled to announce the general availability of the first collaboration bar-certified for Microsoft Teams! As the number of smaller meeting spaces continues to grow, our customers need videoconferencing solutions purpose-built for smaller meeting spaces like focus rooms, huddle spaces, and conference rooms designed for one to five people. Nevertheless, they don’t want to compromise great meeting experiences. For these scenarios, we are excited to introduce collaboration bars for Microsoft Teams.

Skype for Business Online retirement FAQs

Skype for Business Online retirement FAQs

Last year, Microsoft announced the retirement of Skype for Business in July 2021. If you’re a current Skype for Business Online customer, start planning your migration to Teams today. We’re excited for you to experience its powerful communication and collaboration capabilities, and we’re committed to helping along the way.

Will current Skype for Business Online customers be able to add new seats to their tenant?

Yes. Current Skype for Business Online customers may add new seats to their tenant with the understanding they will eventually need to transition these users to Microsoft Teams.

What is the future of Skype for Business Server?

We recognize customers are using Skype for Business Server and many need to continue to use Skype for Business Server for some users or geographies due to their requirements. In these instances, we encourage organizations to adopt Teams along with Skype for Business Server to drive teamwork and collaboration. The latest version of Skype for Business Server 2019 was released in October 2018 with Mainstream Support planned through January 9, 2024.

What does this mean for the Skype consumer service?

The retirement of Skype for Business Online will not impact the Skype consumer service.

What does this mean for existing Microsoft 365 customers?

We’ve brought the key set of Skype for Business Online capabilities into Teams along with new voice, video, and meetings innovation. We encourage all Microsoft 365 customers to start using Teams today within their organization, independently or side by side with Skype for Business Online and/or Skype for Business Server.

Will you continue to invest in improving Skype for Business Online?

Microsoft plans to support Skype for Business Online through the July 31, 2021 retirement date. However, with Microsoft Teams replacing Skype for Business Online as the core communications solution for Microsoft 365, it will continue to be where ongoing development and innovation is focused. Customers seeking the latest functionality and performance are encouraged to upgrade to Microsoft Teams.

What do you recommend for customers who are currently in the process of deploying — or planning to deploy — Skype for Business in Microsoft 365?

Customers currently deploying Skype for Business Online may continue to do so. We encourage all new Microsoft 365 customers to start using Teams, independently of or in parallel with Skype for Business and determine the path (coexistence or Teams Only) and timing that meets their business needs. Regardless of tenure with Skype for Business Online, customers will need to move to Teams before the Skype for Business Online retirement date.

What does this mean from a licensing perspective? How will customers pay for Intelligent Communications services in Teams?

Teams is available in many of the Microsoft 365 suites. Capabilities that are premium workloads in Skype for Business Online today will continue to be premium workloads in Teams. Existing licensing investments made by customers carry forward to Teams. For example, if a customer has purchased Audio Conferencing standalone or as part of E5 with Skype for Business, Audio Conferencing will be enabled in Teams as it’s available today.

Is Microsoft planning scheduled upgrades?

Currently, Microsoft has no plans to schedule upgrades for enterprise customers. Customers can choose to move to Teams as it makes sense for their organizations before the July 31, 2021 retirement date for Skype for Business Online.

How does the Skype for Business Online retirement announcement affect organisations with hybrid configurations (Skype for Business Online and Skype for Business Server)?

Hybrid customers with online and on-prem configurations will be required to transition users from Skype for Business Online to Microsoft Teams by the July 31, 2021 retirement date. Upgrade paths for hybrid configurations built around principles of coexistence and interoperability will remain after the retirement of Skype for Business Online.

Five9 Breakthrough Partner of the Year

We’re delighted to be awarded Breakthrough Partner of the Year by Five9

Breakthrough partners of the year represent global partners of all sizes and types who have made substantial market-impacting moves over the past year in partnership with Five9 to capture new customers and deliver excellence.

“Exactive is extremely deserving of the Breakthrough Partner of the Year award. Their innovative spirit is inspirational and their leadership is paying dividends. Exactive is always looking to stay at the forefront of cutting-edge technology within the UCaaS and CCaaS market, as evidenced by the Five9 integration with Microsoft Teams that is in huge demand in the UK. This success is no surprise given the calibre of the team within Exactive that is definitely ‘one to watch’ as the partnership progresses.”

– Gemma Ayres, Five9 Channel Sales Director, EMEA, Exactive

View Five9 Awards Press Release here

The UC Success Wheel Portal

The UC Success Wheel Portal

We’re excited to release our Unified Communications Success Wheel (UCSW) Portal. The UCSW was developed to enable our clients to succeed in their digital transformations, and the portal provides access to individualised results and resources to help our clients best achieve their vision and goals. We are thrilled about the release and the benefit it will have for our clients.

What is the UC Success Wheel?

At Exactive, we believe in putting people first in a cloud-first world. Our years of experience give us absolute confidence that if a truly sustainable transformation of an organisation’s productivity is to happen, people need to be first – technology will not deliver results on its own.

We understand what a successful digital transformation looks like and have developed our UC Success Wheel to help our clients deliver results, reduce the risk of failure and overcome resistance to change. It brings together over 12 years of our experience in business digital transformation to create a framework that enables our clients to thrive in mission-critical projects.

Each section of the wheel is an important stage of a business’s digital transformation. From Culture & Vision to Aftercare, it enables us to be confident in our process. Using the wheel as our guide, we structure conversations and actions with our clients ensuring a consistent approach and better results. Specifically, it allows a thorough examination of everything our clients will need to plan and do, makes certain they will have a successful project and positions the technology to best deliver the results our clients expect and want.

What is the UC Success Wheel Portal?

The UC Success Wheel Portal is an exciting step forward in our client enablement journey. The portal allows users to view the UC Success Wheel from an end-user perspective, assessing and advising, wherever they are on their digital transformation journey.

Example page on the USCW Portal while completing our Digital Transformation Readiness Assessment, showing the section of the wheel just examined and the resultant score.

Once on the portal, our clients have access to our Digital Transformation Readiness Assessment.

We formulated this tool, using our extensive experience, to help clients gauge how prepared they are for their planned Digital Transformation.  On top of this, there are pre and post engagement resources to allow real data on the success of our client’s transformations, whitepapers on digital transformation culture, and business outcome exercises.

Clients also get tailored recommendations for packaged services pertaining to their unique answers on their assessments, and this is just the beginning of the portal’s planned functionality for the future.  We are thrilled to release this portal and we believe it holds tremendous value for our clients to best enable Microsoft Teams to succeed in their organisation.

You can visit and register for our UC Success Wheel Portal here.  If you want a successful digital transformation, chat with us or book a consultation about how to get started.

Free Microsoft Teams training for over 1000 new end-users

Free Microsoft Teams training for over 1000 new end-users

How we helped to equip the new remote workforce during COVID-19

Our resident Microsoft Teams expert and Solutions Architect at Exactive, Callum Hardie, has provided free Teams training for new end-users during the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 1000 people signing up. The webinars were designed to help equip the new remote workforce that emerged almost instantly at the beginning of the pandemic. Millions of new daily active users started using Microsoft Teams and many found themselves plunged at the deep end with no clue how to use the technology effectively.

This steep increase in daily active users is likely due to many organisations already having access to Teams within their Office365 licencing but were not yet using it as their main collaborative tool or as their telephone system.

At Exactive, we understand that training and adoption of new technology is vital to its success, and although Teams is very intuitive and user-friendly, it’s essential for end-users to know how to use it to maximise its capabilities to truly feel connected to their colleagues and external contacts when working remotely.

Our free Microsoft Teams online training webinars were launched in April to help meet this need and were designed to help people make the most of the technology available to them. Callum’s webinars included a tour of Teams, sharing tips and tricks, and an overview of how to get the most out of Teams features and functionality.

To date, Exactive has delivered 14 free training events and you can visit this page to view a recording of one of our end-user training sessions.

We’re also currently running free training webinars – Teams Admin 101.  This is a session designed for technical admin teams/first-line support to run through ‘business as usual’ activities and the management platform for their new UC estate. Specific requests include handling of common issues such as call quality and an overview of the Teams Admin Portal.  You can view more of the topics that will be covered and register here.

Next month we’ll also be running webinars on Teams Reception Admin 101. Please mail if you’d like to be informed when these webinars are open for registration.

Use live captions in a Teams meeting

Use live captions in a Teams meeting

Teams can detect what’s said in a meeting and present real-time captions.


  • Live captions are a preview feature in Microsoft Teams, and they’re only available in English (US) for now. Enjoy your sneak peek!
  • Captions aren’t yet available in government clouds.

Live captions can make your meeting more inclusive to participants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, people with different levels of language proficiency, and participants in loud places by giving them another way to follow along.

Note: Teams doesn’t save captions.

Turn captions on and off

To use live captions in a meeting, go to your meeting controls and select More options > Turn on live captions (preview).

To stop using live captions, go to the meeting controls and select More options > Turn off live captions (preview).

Get the most out of your captions

To make sure your live captions are as accurate as possible, try to follow these best practices:

  • Speak clearly, slowly, and directly into the mic. As your distance from the mic increases, captions may become less accurate.
  • Avoid locations with background noise.
  • Avoid having multiple people speak at the same time.
  • Use the highest-quality Teams-certified equipment available to you.


  • If someone is speaking with an accent, captions may be less accurate.
  • Obscenities will be starred out.


Where does Teams process the data it uses to provide live captions?

We process the data in the geographical region where your organization is based.

What data does Teams use to create the captions?

The Microsoft Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology service, which generates Teams meeting captions, may use a meeting’s subject, invitation, participant names, attachments, and recent emails of the participants to improve the accuracy of captions.

Who has access to this data?

No one. Microsoft ASR involves no human intervention, and no one can access the meeting audio or any other meeting information at any time.

Does Teams store any caption data?

Caption data is stored for about 30 minutes after a meeting and then permanently deleted.

If I don’t want Teams to process this data to begin with, can I prevent it?

Yes. Simply don’t turn on live captions. Your admin can also disable the feature altogether. Go here for more info about how to do that.

Important: Microsoft reserves the right to restrict transcription and translation services, with reasonable notice, in order to limit excessive use and/or fraud, and to maintain service performance. These services include live captions, subtitles, and transcription functionality available across Office 365 products like Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, Stream, and others.

Getting the most out of Microsoft Teams as your phone system

Getting the most out of Microsoft Teams as your phone system

Microsoft Teams can be easy to deploy in an organisation – but it’s not easy to deploy well.

It takes planning, strategy, good project management, network assessments and a clear vision. For businesses in the current age of the remote worker, it’s common to want to enable Teams to act as a phone system, but enabling this without proper planning often leads to significant challenges, from poor technology uptake to an outright digital transformation failure.

The world of technology can be incredibly complex and getting a helping hand in using Teams to its full potential isn’t a waste of money or a failure of the IT department. Quite the contrary – it just makes sense.

It can be hard to grasp your options when it comes to using Teams as a phone system and sometimes you need expert help. Exactive have years of experience in this field, and we can provide you with an overview of what your options are, why you should consider talking to professionals, and what areas are most important for professionals to help you with. Finally, we tell you why we think Exactive could be the right choice for you.

What are my options?

Teams acting as a phone system is highly desirable for businesses. It can be highly flexible, cost-effective and it enables Teams to be more integrated as a true unified communications solution. There are multiple ways a business can enable Teams to be their phone system though, and knowing what is right for your business can be hard.

Microsoft offers a way to allow Teams to act as a phone system, a Microsoft Calling Plan. It works by using Microsoft’s own infrastructure to place calls and enable telephony with a fixed number of minutes and call enablement. However, this method has its flaws. Calling plans are relatively expensive and provide low numbers of minutes, making them largely cost-prohibitive and too inflexible for any business more than a hundred people strong. They are only available in a few countries worldwide and are not the most resilient option, as all services are with a single company, Microsoft.

The other option is Direct Routing (DR). In basic terms, DR is linking Microsoft Teams to the telephony system, the Public Switch Telephony Network (PSTN). Calling Plans from Microsoft do this too, but the difference is that DR uses other provider’s infrastructure, not just Microsoft’s.

Implementing DR does not have to mean starting your communications system from scratch. Some businesses want to retain their legacy phone (PBX) system and integrate it into the new DR solution. Some businesses want to keep their telephony contract running, thus keeping their current numbers. Some businesses have a cloud-first strategy and others would prefer everything to stay on site. Direct Routing offers flexibility to integrate with PBX or keep your telecoms provider.

Why should I consult experts and how do I choose?

Without expert help, the myriad of Teams telephony enablement options can easily overwhelm even the most seasoned IT professional.

Enabling Teams telephony is not as simple as flipping a switch – doing it wrong can undo the positives it can bring.

When looking for a solution for your business, Exactive recommend considering every aspect of your solution in detail. Company support, planning and cultural change are the three most common sticking points we see that can lead to an unsuccessful transformation. We recommend asking questions of Teams Partners to know what they can provide in these areas, and how they can help you.

Regarding support, you should closely examine the areas that a potential provider can support you with. Some only deal with issues with the telephony system, some don’t deal with Teams problems, and some don’t give much flexibility in their offering of DR. You won’t want to be wondering which company to call if there are issues with call quality later down the line.

When it comes to planning, take the time to find the solution that is right for your business, instead of making your business fit to a solution that isn’t right for you. Ask about project management, e.g. how long does a typical deployment take? Pay attention to statistics like their Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction. You’ll be working with this company for a long time and you should feel comfortable to ask any question at almost any time. Will there be a dedicated account manager on your account? How much experience does the company have?

Last but not least, cultural change. A Teams Partner worth it’s salt will know that end to end management of your solution includes assessing your company’s readiness for the transformation you’re considering. Do they provide training and cultural assessment? If not, where will you get that from? End to end support from a single provider is highly desirable, saving your time and money and really will make the world of difference when it comes to the success of your solution.

Why Exactive?

At Exactive, we use our bespoke UC Success Wheel, to plan your deployment in a repeatable systematic fashion to ensure every I is dotted and every T is crossed, and that your staff understand and engage with the change.

We have a deep vertical specialism and have sat in the converging IT and Telecoms markets for 15 years. We possess support specialists in all spheres from the PSTN, to Teams, to SIP Trunks. With our combined expertise we routinely complete incredibly complex builds and solve challenging tickets, a feat many companies can’t achieve. Believe us, we have probably seen your situation before.

Get in touch if you need any advice, the door is always open.

Design your remote work culture with Microsoft Teams apps

Design your remote work culture with Microsoft Teams apps

Microsoft Teams is best known for group channels, chat conversations, meetings, and calendars all in one place, making team collaboration easier within a unified hub. But beyond this – by providing many ways that apps can integrate, Microsoft Teams is designed to be highly tailored. It can become a customized digital home for your team, well suited for remote work scenarios. Many teams are now fully working remotely. As they adapt, it’s important to keep experimenting in customizing the mix of communication styles and applications to find the right balance for your team.

Many of the app integrations for Microsoft Team focus on connecting with the apps you’re already using, like ADP or Adobe Creative Cloud. As you design and iterate on remote working to further keep your team culture together and integrated, many solutions within the Microsoft Teams Store are specifically designed to help keep teams working together.

Over the following weeks, we’ll highlight several categories of applications across whiteboarding, design, development, learning, and more that you can use to keep connected. This week, we’ll cover pulse surveys as a communication style.

Taking a pulse of the team

In-person work provides many informal ways to connect and keep connected – from hallway conversations and watercoolers, to 60 person team meetings where you can ask for formal Q&A. 1 to 1 and group chat can facilitate many of these opportunities, but you may want to consider additional tools to ensure every voice is heard.

One technique is to consider pulse surveys – small one or two question surveys that are easy to fill out. In v-team meetings that can involve many, a quick poll can provide a low impact way to get the sense of your team – providing the virtual equivalent of taking stock of a room.

Partner applications integrate with Microsoft Teams capabilities including chat and team spaces to make creating a poll possible in as few as three clicks. Through the compose bar within Microsoft Teams, you can add a quick poll for your team, within your channel and meeting conversations. A quick, non-intrusive poll will frequently elicit responses a normal chat conversation may not. Common applications for quick polling functionality can include Polly, SurveyMonkey, Open Agora, TinyPULSE, and more.

These applications are becoming more tailored for gathering quick feedback in real-time – SurveyMonkey, for example, has released several updates recently to make their surveys, polls and quizzes even more dynamic and accessible within Microsoft Teams. With multiple question types and live previewing during survey creation, users can launch surveys seamlessly and with the flexibility they need. In addition to powerful analytics within the SurveyMonkey app, you can now access results within Teams channels.

Pulse surveys from SurveyMonkey within Microsoft Teams

Polly also makes it easy to get started with a pulse survey habit – simply add the Polly app to an existing site. Within the compose bar, you can gather quick feedback within your team using Polly.

Staying connected to your team is more important than ever. As with meetings, you can use Polly’s pulse surveys to regularly check in with your team in-channel – for example, a weekly pulse survey at the start or end of week that captures the week’s goals and overall sentiment.

One common suggestion is to use a rotation of common “pulse” questions for your team, including:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What’s your primary focus this week?
  • Is anyone blocked in taking their next step?
  • What are folks doing to learn and grow more this week?
  • Are there any challenges you’d need help with?

The simplest kind of pulse survey is one that simply asks for peoples’ outlook and perspective – for example, Are people are feeling Great/Good/OK/Bad. When asked consistently, week over week this can help provide a perspective around “changes in temperature”.

Qubie is one application that provides a concise and focused team feedback experience along these lines. Its design as a Team Coach app focuses on delivering a concise input experience – just pick from a status emoji – and channels that feedback into overall team assessments with details and analytics for team leaders.

Whether you are designing your own weekly polls within polling applications, or using an app like Qubie, these questions can be rolled into a weekly assessment for your team, to help foster a habit around team connection and overall feedback assessment.

As part of connecting teams together, get started in your meetings and team channels to take the pulse of your team. This will help you get a better sense of how your team is doing, and provide ways to collect input from all voices on the team. Within Microsoft Teams, several applications – including SurveyMonkey, Polly, and Qubie – provide a streamlined path to quick Q&A. The diversity and power of these applications will make it easy for you to find just the right style of communication with your team.


Learn more!

If you would like to learn how to better use apps in Teams to enhance remote work, see these remote work Teams apps site with more use cases and ideas, and take advantage of the free virtual training events each week.

For Teams end-users:

For Teams Admins:

  • Join the Chalk Talk series, where members of Teams engineering walk through the security, deployment, and management of third-party integrations.