Microsoft Teams is now 3 years old and is almost the longest serving Microsoft Unified Communications platform that has ever been, by product name at least!
The Microsoft Teams Product Group has been busy making sure that Teams is ready for its adult life by releasing a birthday update package that is packed full to the rafters of useful features.
But wait! Teams is 3 years old? Yes, well an App Year is measured in Quarters of Earth Years, so this makes Microsoft Teams 16 in App Years!
One of the most anticipated, if not overdue features is the ability to show more than 4 people's video on your screen at any one time. Zoom has the astonishing ability to have up to 50 video tiles since what seems like forever. Why has Microsoft Teams taken so long to catch up?
Well, from this month Microsoft Teams will support up to 9 video tiles in presenter view. Not quite the 50 of Zoom, but it should offer significant improvements to meeting engagements.
Do We Need More?
There is some debate amongst people whether 9 video tiles is enough in a meeting. Some think that it would be distracting to see more than 9, whilst others want to see everyone.
The ability to see everyone in a meeting obviously depends on everyone turning their video on. Video, although being more widely adopted is still feared by many and seeing real estate taken up by avatars and empty space would reduce the impact and purpose of having a large number of video tiles on screen at once.
That being said, the majority of people will follow the precedent set by the majority of their peers. So seeing more people actively participating in a meeting will encourage video adoption as people's fear of being seen will be overridden by people's fear of not being seen to be like everyone else. So in summary, large number of tiles will act as a subliminal adoption technique that be the single biggest factor in promoting video in meetings.
Making Video Useful
Video though has to be useful to a meeting and while many tiles being on screen will undoubtedly help the adoption of video needs to be used in the right way. Too much video, leads to distractions away from the purpose of the meeting, especially if the content is more formal vs conversational. Therefore, the ability for the presenter to choose the appropriate layout for a meeting is essential.
Currently, there is no way to choose a video layout in a Microsoft Teams Meeting. It will be set to dynamic, so this means that in a 2-person call, video will be split 2 x 1, 3 people 1 x 2, 4 people 2 x 2 before breaking out into 3 x 3 tile grid layout. Teams does however, have the ability to spotlight a video stream to make it the dominant video in the meeting. This is currently not adhered to with Stream recording, that will still record in the default video layout. This also needs to change.
Personally, 3 x 3 layout is a much friendlier layout for people to have effective video based meetings vs 50 person layout. The human brain can only process so much information before it will ignore or change focus. Sometimes, technology shouldn't be implemented just because it can. In this case Microsoft have got it right with 3 x 3. It is perfect for the majority of enterprise video based meetings that balances adoption encouragement and meeting productivity in the right proportions.