We got you covered with this comprehensive comparison of breakout features for Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, and Butter!
We’ll explore their breakout room functionalities, customization options, user experience, and overall suitability for different types of scenarios. We want you to have a clearer understanding of why breakouts are useful, what to consider when running breakouts, and know which platform aligns best with your requirements.
What are breakouts and why are they useful?
Breakouts are virtual spaces where participants can engage in smaller group discussions or activities during a larger meeting or event. Think of them as mini-meeting groups within larger online meetings!
They are ideal for fostering collaboration, brainstorming ideas, or creating more intimate and focused conversations. Breakout rooms provide participants an opportunity to engage more actively and ensure everyone has a chance to contribute.
However, facilitating breakout rooms comes with its own set of challenges. 😅
Coordinating and managing multiple breakout rooms can be a daunting task, especially for large meetings or events. Facilitators need to ensure smooth transitions between rooms, assign participants efficiently, and address any technical issues that may arise. They need to give clear instructions so people are guided throughout the activities.
Maintaining engagement and participation across breakout rooms can also be difficult, as it requires someone to actively facilitate the discussions! This can be extra hard when participants don’t know what to do or feel shy around each other - and can lead to extremely awkward (and silent) breakout encounters.
With that in mind, let's get to the nitty-gritty of evaluating the most popular video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meets compare against Butter.
1. Breakout capacity
The number of people in your session and the type of activity you want to run matter when choosing which tool to go with. You need to consider the dynamics each situation needs - are you planning to run a conference, a networking session, a 1-2-4-all activity? This will help you determine the right tool for you.
Zoom: Zoom allows hosts to create a 50 breakout rooms max, accommodating various group sizes.
MS Teams: MS Teams caps it at 50 breakout rooms if you have less than 300 participants. The maximum number of participants per breakout is a bit of a mystery though!
Google Meets: Google Meets allows up to 100 breakout rooms for 100 participants.
Butter: Butter flexes its muscles by allowing an unlimited number of breakout rooms, for up to 200 participants. Yes, you read that right, unlimited!
2. Pre-meeting prep & creating breakouts
All of the tools get a gold star for letting you prepare breakout rooms before the meeting. You can assign co-faciltators or co-hosts, and rename rooms as needed.
A little prep can go a long way in running a smooth show during breakouts, so here are some things worth noting for the pre-meeting edge for Zoom and Butter:
Zoom: Has an edge when it comes to pre-assigning people into breakout rooms before the event - it’s currently the only tool that allows for this! However, it’s important to note that if participants don’t join the Zoom call from the email address they’ve used for pre-assignment, Zoom won’t recognize them!
Butter: It wins for the level of detailed preparation you can do ahead for breakouts. It allows you to assign tasks for each of the rooms which acts as a virtual checklist for participants during breakouts. Additionally, you can assign tools ahead of time - like Miro or Google Docs that participants can work through during breakouts, or flashcards to help the conversation get going.
🧈Butter tip: Check out our template gallery for plug-and-play breakout activities that you can use for your next session!
3. Managing breakouts
All platforms get a thumbs-up for allowing you to assign people both manually and automatically. Flexibility for the win!
However, only Zoom and Butter allow participants to choose which breakout room they want to join - which can be helpful for activities like open networking sessions, world cafes, and the like. Participants can also move freely from room to room in both tools.
Need to keep your breakout sessions on a tight leash? You can set time limits and end breakout sessions to bring participants back to the main meeting in all of the tools.
However, there’s a big difference in how easily you can manage breakouts AND adjust breakouts on the fly for each of them:
Zoom: Zoom provides comprehensive breakout room management tools for hosts. Hosts can monitor breakout room activities, jump between rooms for assistance, and even join breakout rooms if necessary.
MS Teams: MS Teams offers basic breakout room management functionalities. Hosts can move between breakout rooms to check on participants, and reassign participants if needed.
Google Meets: Google Meets allows hosts to visit breakout rooms and participate in discussions. However, managing breakout rooms may be more limited compared to other platforms.
Butter: Butter takes the cake for managing breakouts easily and on-the-fly adjustments. Facilitators can keep tabs and feel in the loop on what’s happening during breakouts through an overview feature, and observe individual breakout rooms without joining (think of it like ‘peeking’ into rooms without jumping in). They can join any breakout room seamlessly, and even adjust room assignments on the fly.
Got a participant struggling with a tech issue or an instruction? Butter also lets participants send an SOS with a Help feature for breakouts, which alerts facilitators immediately.
4. Communicating, screen- and file-sharing during breakouts
All of the platforms offer robust file-sharing and screensharing capabilities within breakout rooms. Facilitators and participants can easily share files, collaborate on documents, and share their screens for presentations or demonstrations.
With the exception of Google Meets, all platforms allow you to broadcast text messages to everyone during breakouts. However, there are some other things you can do on Zoom or MS Teams:
Zoom: It pulls ahead by also offering the ability to broadcast voice messages.
MS Teams: If you need to capture what happens in breakouts, then MS Teams might be for you. It lets you record in breakout rooms, but only if the host manually starts it in each room.
5. Collaborating on productivity tools during breakouts
When it comes to leveling up the collaboration during breakouts, Butter is the undisputed champ.
It allows you to set up breakout tasks and collaborative tools ahead, which helps ensure more streamlined collaboration and conversations.
You can add anything from Miro, MURAL, Google Doc/Slides/Sheets or whiteboards for participants to work on during breakouts - or flashcards to help spark conversations!
💡 Need more inspiration on how to make your workshops, trainings or meetings more collaborative? Line Vestergaard & Theresa Lauritsen shares their tips on designing more engaging workshops here.
Breakout capabilities at a glance
Conclusion: The breakout room rundown 🏁
Each platform—Zoom, MS Teams, Google Meets, and Butter—offers unique features and functionalities when it comes to breakout sessions. Choosing between them ultimately boils down to your specific needs! You need to consider the participants’ experience, scalability, pricing, and how well it integrates with your tools or your clients.
All platforms offer a wealth of features, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.
If 50 rooms are more than enough for your needs and you value voice broadcasting, Zoom may be your perfect match.
If you prefer a structured environment with a side of recording capabilities, then you could be cheering for MS Teams. If you need unlimited breakout rooms, full control over room adjustments during a meeting, and more facilitation-friendly features, then Butter's your tool.
And remember: the success of breakout sessions relies not only on the platform's features, but also on your facilitation skills and ability to create an inclusive and collaborative environment!
Experiment with different platforms, explore their breakout features, then select the one that enhances the way you facilitate and meets the unique needs of your participants.
But wait… We’re not entirely done here!
Adding the fun factor: Why Butter might be your best bet 🥳
Let's slide one more reason onto the table for you to consider going with Butter – the fun factor!
Butter combines fun and functional - and helps you turn sessions into livelier affairs! It's not just about meetings and discussions; it's also about engagement and enjoyment.
Butter offers cool engagement features like waiting room elevator music, GIFs in the chat, emoji reactions, and a soundboard. These features take the usual virtual meet-up and dials it up to a full-blown engaging and interactive experience. Imagine getting a round of applause or a drumroll during a presentation. Adds a bit of spice, doesn't it?
These tools not only break the monotony of virtual meetings but also boost participant interaction, making virtual sessions as engaging than in-person ones (if not more)!
So if you're after a balance between productivity and enjoyment, then Butter might be the best pick!
Plan, run and recap more engaging and effective sessions on Butter
If you want to boost engagement and get energy levels up in your next online session, try Butter for free.
To browse our entire collection of meeting templates, check out the Butter Template Gallery.
To keep learning about how to level up your facilitation game, join the Butter Community!