If you are trying to engage a dozen or hundreds of people online AND interactively, all at once, you’re probably using virtual breakout rooms. Since that’s our specialty, we want to highlight and compare MaestroConference Video vs. Zoom breakouts.
As you might have seen, we polled zoom breakout users (500+ people responded, 200+ surveys submitted and still counting) about their biggest frustrations with zoom breakouts, and found that our platform already addresses 9 ½ of the top 10 concerns raised (with 9 already done, and the last one- customizable, visual timers- in development).
And an even more dramatic difference between zoom breakouts vs. MaestroConference Video is perhaps the crowning jewel for engaging many parallel groups, our new “Guided Breakouts.” This newest feature (which no other platform offers) can be used to guide each breakout group through a sequence of questions, activities, or video instructions as designed and programmed by the host in advance. (So, no more “what was the question again?” in your participant breakouts.)
Let’s first take a look at the top 10 complaints that Zoom breakout users have expressed, and how MaestroConference Video compares, and then we’ll introduce you to Guided Breakouts.
MaestroConference Video Vs. Zoom: Making / Changing Breakouts
Complaint #1: Difficulty creating breakout rooms (takes too much time on zoom)
Zoom allows random groups, or those groups tediously created by hand. Also, only the single host (and a co-host, if one is designated) can assign participants to breakout rooms.
MaestroConference offers a wide a variety of options with making and changing breakouts: the groups can be pre-set as well as random; breakouts can also be created using registration data, or via an API (among other options); in each case, options exist to keep people with similar data together, make equal sized groups with similar data, or distribute people among groups to mix them up. (Here are just a few of the many ways you can create breakouts in MaestroConference.)
Equally important, the responsibility of breakout creation and management can also be shared between hosts, presenters and/or assistants, so that these robust breakout configurations can be done live on the fly while the host or speaker is talking.
In fact, an independent facilitator recently told me his client needed him to use zoom for an event and the breakouts the client wanted took 50(!!!) minutes to create on zoom vs. 1-2 minutes it would have taken him to create those same breakouts on MaestroConference.
Complaint #2: Difficulty moving people between breakouts (takes too much time on zoom)
Zoom only gives the single host (and a co-host, if one’s assigned) the ability to move participants around breakout rooms.
With MaestroConference the host can give anyone privileges to be able to select individuals or groups and move them by hand or using rules or other criteria (e.g. registration data or hand raises).
Complaint #3: Reshuffling the breakouts with new people
When a host wants to move people from current groups to new groups with “new faces”, Zoom doesn’t have an easy, automatic option for this (it’s done completely by hand).
With MaestroConference, you can create the next round of breakouts to avoid people getting grouped with the same people they were previously, and you can do it with just a few clicks, even when you have hundreds of participants.
Complaint #4: Can’t merge breakout rooms
Zoom can’t combine groups (e.g. partners moving into groups of 4, preserving the partner pairing).
With MaestroConference, you can easily merge the different breakout groups (again, with a few simple clicks you can combine hundreds of people this way).
Complaint #5 (partially addressed now): Lack of participant control/freedom with breakout rooms (participants unable to create, self-select or move between groups)
(Oct 2020 Update: Several hosts listed this complaint- that participants are unable to choose their own breakouts, move between groups, create their own breakouts- but Zoom recently announced some upgrades that partially addressed this. Specifically, we’ve heard that participants can now self-select their own breakout, though no word on if participants can move between groups and they’re not able to create their own breakouts.
Curious- is that feature working in zoom breakouts as you need it to? We’d love to hear from you- as the leader in breakout capabilities we are responsive to your needs.)
MaestroConference hosts have the option to give their participants more choices and agency- the freedom to create their own breakouts, choose the breakout rooms they want to be in, and move between breakouts without waiting on the host or assistant. The “self-organizing” nature of MaestroConference Video is one of our biggest strengths. This lets people join the conversation topics that are most interesting to them.
MaestroConference Vs. Zoom: Monitoring Breakouts
Complaint #6: Host can’t monitor the breakouts nor “walk the room” without interrupting/joining each group (which itself is also a very slow process in zoom)
With MaestroConference, hosts can silently/invisibly monitor groups and “walk the room” to get a feel for how discussions are going; switching is instant with a single click. This isn’t possible with Zoom.
And hosts report that it’s incredibly useful to know when groups are stuck and need help, which they can see and hear with MaestroConference Video. Hosts then have the option to “drop in” to a single group, or make broad announcements to clarify confusing points.
MaestroConference Vs. Zoom: Communicating with Breakouts
Complaint #7: Host can’t chat to participants in breakouts, and vice versa
Zoom breakout chat is limited strictly to those participants in that breakout group, the host cannot access or respond to the group’s chat.
MaestroConference allows anyone to chat to the host at any time (chat options include host chat, everyone chat and breakout chat), and hosts can send chats to breakouts. And in MaestroConference’s new Guided Breakouts, the host can chat with a particular breakout having questions or stuck on an issue. (See “No Guidance within Breakouts” below for details announcing our biggest, most significant new capability for video breakouts.)
Complaint #8: Can’t speak into, interact with, broadcast a message/instructions to breakout rooms
This is easily one of the most frequently cited frustrations/limitations from zoom breakouts- the host’s/facilitator’s inability to speak into breakouts to offer guidance and instruction.
In zoom, the host cannot send voice and video announcements to the breakouts- the host’s sole option to instruct the breakout groups is to broadcast a short, written text message that appears on screen for ~15 seconds. Any written instructions fade too quickly and are very easily missed- and when participants miss those written instructions, the group doesn’t have the guidance needed for a productive, effective session.
With MaestroConference, the host can SPEAK INTO groups via written text, audio or video. Written text messages stay on screen until you choose to remove them. Even better, hosts can make audio or video announcements to all the rooms (e.g. “We have about 5 more minutes”) or even do video Q&A while participants are still in breakouts. Everyone in the breakout groups will see you and hear you.
So you as the host can give instructions into the breakouts or tell people to switch to another exercise or give them a new prompt or a new sentence stem. (Note: I’ve personally heard from multiple facilitators this is “something, I really do miss.”)
And finally, see below for details about the even more powerful Guided Breakouts, our newest feature that takes instructing and communicating with your breakouts to a whole new level.
MaestroConference Vs. Zoom: Interactivity + Collaboration in Breakouts
Complaint #9: (addressed recently): No presentations, shared documents, or attachments in the breakout rooms
(Oct 2020 Update: Several hosts listed this complaint- that there are no collaborative docs or apps within the breakouts, that participants had to have separate tabs, one for zoom video and a second tab for the collaboration tool, such as Mural or Miro- but zoom recently announced some new developments that will be rolling out next year to address this limitation.)
With MaestroConference, hosts can offer a shared notes document at the whole conference or breakout level. Hosts can also integrate other cloud-based apps in their events- again, at the conference and/or breakout group level- to enable participants to collaborate together in real-time, live, alongside the videos of their fellow participants in their breakout group, all within a single tab in-browser. Hosts can share their screen to a slide, while allowing participants to speak within their breakout rooms.
Complaint #10: Polling limited to up/down
Zoom polling consists of a binary up/down choice for polls, whereas MaestroConference offers the options of 5 different positions (“press 1-5 on your computer or phone”), which is used extensively by hosts.
Also, as mentioned above, the host can also use those poll results (hand positions) to inform breakout assignments e.g. everyone who pushed 1 to express interest in the climate change topic are grouped in the climate change breakout. One of our facilitators said that this is “worth its weight in spades” when hosting and facilitating events with breakout rooms.
And THE #1 Complaint from PARTICIPANTS: No Guidance Within Breakouts
Start a typical Zoom breakout, and the first thing you’re likely to hear is: “What was the question again”? It’s just hard or impossible for people to remember what is usually a series of linked questions, and likely, the newness of meeting new people in your breakout group becomes the focus. So when it comes time to move into discussion or action, participants are often confused or have forgotten the instructions. And unless the host is in the group or a facilitator has been assigned to each breakout, the group is often left without the guidance needed for an effective, productive, engaging breakout session.
Which is why MaestroConference is now proud to introduce “Guided Breakouts.”
With MaestroConference’s Guided Breakouts, the host can set up a series of instructions in advance- e.g. discussion questions, video content, web applications, slides, timed reminders, a set of paths that the group can choose from, and much more; each group advances through the pre-recorded guidance, not as an individual but as a group, navigating through instructions and actions at their own pace. There’s no missing “what the question is” at this moment because it’s highlighted and even animated for the group. The breakout groups are “guided” by the platform, making for a far more effective, intuitive, engaging experience for participants.
Now Introducing No-Host, Autonomous Guided Breakouts To Go Beyond The “Conference”
Our new Guided Breakouts feature is incredibly powerful, and offers the option to go beyond traditional “Conferencing”, which requires everyone to be present at the same time. Guided Breakouts can either be incorporated into a live MaestroConference Video event OR those same Guided Breakouts can be autonomous (fully standalone), without the host attending, and take place any time, even after the live event is over. Your audience can still jump into and participate in the Guided Breakouts the day (or week or month or year) after the live conference has wrapped.
These No-Host, Autonomous Guided Breakouts serve to break the time constraint, meaning each group can be doing their breakout discussion, guided by your recorded content, in their own time zone or when they are invited, the host does not have to attend. With No-Host, Autonomous Breakouts, hundreds or thousands of people can have productive conversations without the host needing to participate and facilitate the breakout groups.
With the introduction of Guided Breakouts + No-Host, Autonomous Breakouts, hosts now have a unique solution (the only one in existence) that combines live events featuring the most robust video breakouts on the market PLUS pre-recorded options for asynchronous sessions so that orgs can deeply engage groups of people on their own schedule (24/7) without requiring a host to attend and lead every event.
Final Word on MaestroConference Video vs. Zoom
Originally, zoom was built as a basic communication tool- a simple (albeit reliable and easy to use) way to connect people through video when they couldn’t be together in person. And it’s obviously done a significant job of that- keeping the world connected through video- during the pandemic. Breakout capability was an afterthought, only tacked onto the zoom meeting platform as a feature several years after it was launched (as evidenced by zoom webinar still being without breakouts until sometime next year).
Fundamentally, we built MaestroConference at its core for large groups of people to be able to have deep, meaningful conversations in many parallel small groups. And no one has specialized in creating productive and effective breakouts the way MaestroConference has. Ours was one of the first platforms to introduce virtual breakouts 8+ years ago- when we first launched breakouts, most people didn’t understand the concept and explaining the need for virtual breakouts was not easy. Fast forward to today, many people know, have used or been in, and understand the value of virtual breakouts.
For context, if you don’t know or remember MaestroConference, we earn trust with innovative and reliable technology dedicated to lighting up the world with powerful conversations since 2009. Our platform has hosted over 9MM+ participants and earned 100k+ positive reviews for its ability to progress from a webinar/conference call into small breakouts. And our customers have included the Obama White House (and Obama Foundation), President-Elect Joe Biden, Airbnb, Stanford University, and the World Bank.
Now, our new MaestroConference Video product has incorporated everything the millions of MaestroConference users have come to love plus video feeds for hosts, assistants and all participants.
AND with the launch of the new Guided Breakouts + No-Host, Autonomous Breakouts, we’re introducing breakout capabilities that only MaestroConference delivers and taking virtual breakouts to an entirely new plane at a time when more and more people understand the need for these deep, meaningful small group conversations (participants have described the breakout experience as “magic” and “amazing”).
We’ll soon be offering a limited number of highly discounted subscriptions to launch MaestroConference Video- with a 45-day free trial and a bunch of added bonuses. For the launch, we want an enthusiastic group of early customers to dive in, use it for your events, request features you need, so that we can continue to build the platform based on real customers’ needs rather than what we think our customers need. We did this when we first launched the MaestroConference brand- and some of those first customers are still with us on the same $ subscription, 10+ years later. We invite you to get on the list for launch-only pricing today.