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All You Need to Know About Using Zoom Breakout Rooms

All You Need to Know About Using Zoom Breakout Rooms

The ability to self-select a Breakout Room is now available, allowing participants to move freely among rooms

Breaking into groups for smaller, focused discussions is a hallmark of the in-person meeting experience, and with Zoom’s Breakout Rooms feature, you can bring that same dynamic meeting structure to the digital space.

Breakout Rooms is one of the most popular features in Zoom Meetings, and we’re constantly adding functionality to provide the best experience for our users. We recently added the option for meeting participants to self-select which video Breakout Room they would like to join.

Previously, the meeting host had to assign a participant to a Breakout Room. Now, when the Self-Select Breakout Rooms option is enabled by the host (and when the host and participants are on Zoom 5.3.0 or later), participants can move freely between Breakout Rooms without needing the host’s help. 

That’s just one of the latest and greatest updates to Zoom’s Breakout Rooms. There’s a ton of other really cool capabilities built into this powerful collaboration feature. To get better acquainted with Breakout Rooms, here’s all you need to know to successfully use them in your next Zoom class or meeting.

Enabling Breakout Rooms in your account

Zoom natively allows you to create as many as 50 separate breakout sessions for close collaboration and small-group discussion. 

Go to, sign into your account using your Zoom credentials, and navigate to your Account Settings. Under In Meeting (Advanced), you can enable the Breakout Room feature. Once enabled, you can create breakouts during your meetings by clicking on the “Breakout Rooms” icon in the lower right-hand side of your toolbar. If you cannot access the option to enable Breakout Rooms, contact your system admin and request that they enable it.  

Pre-assigning Breakout Rooms during scheduling

The meeting host can be allowed to pre-assign Breakout Rooms when scheduling a meeting.  This option is great for hosts who already know how they want to group their participants.

To schedule a meeting with pre-assigned Breakout Rooms: 

  1. Ensure that the “Allow host to assign participants to Breakout Rooms when scheduling” option is enabled. 
  2. When scheduling a new meeting, navigate to Meeting Options and enable the “Breakout Rooms pre-assign” option.
  3. You can then select “Create Rooms” to set up rooms and assign participants manually using their email address or “Import from CSV,” which provides you with a CSV template to which you can add your Breakout Rooms and participants.
  4. Want to title each Breakout Room? Click on the Breakout Room of your choice and then click the pencil icon, which will allow you to rename the room. 
  5. Once you’ve created your Breakout Rooms and assigned your participants, click Save before continuing to schedule your meeting. 

Creating Breakout Rooms within a meeting

In the meeting toolbar, the host or co-host can click on the Breakout Rooms icon and access the following options to manage Breakout Rooms:

  • Automatic vs. manual room creation – Automatic room creation will create your Breakout Rooms automatically, placing participants into rooms randomly or placing them into their pre-assigned rooms. Manual room creation will allow you to create each room and assign participants to each room individually.
  • Move participants – To move a participant, simply select the participant’s name and assign them to a different room. 
  • Delete room – This option will delete the Breakout Room you have selected. However, it does not remove the participants in that room from the meeting. Once a room is deleted, its participants will be placed back into the queue to be placed into another Breakout Room.
  • Recreate – This option allows you to start from scratch by randomly recreating your Breakout Rooms and placing participants into rooms automatically. Or you can manually recreate the Breakout Rooms. 

Setting Breakout Room options

Inside the Breakout Room panel there is an Options menu with features to help you shape the Breakout Room experience. These options include:

  • Move all participants to Breakout Rooms – This option automatically moves all participants to a Breakout Room when you select the Open All Rooms option, allowing you to create Breakout Rooms on the fly. 
  • Set a timer –  You can put your Breakout Rooms on a timer that forces everyone to return to the main session when the timer expires. This option is great for group activities or brainstorming sessions.
  • Countdown after closing Breakout Rooms – This option gives participants in Breakout Rooms a visible countdown to when they will return to the main session, giving participants the time they need to wrap up the discussion. 
  • Allow participants to return to the main session at any time – This option gives participants the ability to return to the main session without any time constraints.

Managing Breakout Rooms 

Once all your participants are in their Breakout Rooms, these features can help you manage the pace and flow of the sessions:

  • Self-select a Breakout Room (NEW) – A host can create Breakout Rooms and, within their meeting, giving participants the ability to self-select which room they would like to join without needing intervention from the host.
  • Co-hosting a Breakout Room (NEW) – Co-hosts now have full host privileges in Breakout Rooms, including the ability to assign, start, and end Breakout Rooms, as well as the ability to move between Breakout Rooms and broadcast messages to all members of a Breakout Room.
  • Visiting rooms – As a host or a co-host you can jump between different Breakout Rooms. 
  • Broadcasting a message –  Send a message to every Breakout Room. This feature is useful if you want to give your participants a warning to wrap up their discussions, for example. 
  • Closing all rooms – When you are ready to conclude your breakout sessions, you can click “Close Rooms,” which will give participants notification to rejoin the main session. 
  • Sending participants back to breakouts – Once you close a breakout session, you can always decide to break your participants up again. This is useful for longer classes or events, because you can split your participants up as many times as you would like. 
  • Responding to help requests – Breakout participants can click the “Ask for Help” icon to invite the host to join your breakout for assistance. The host will get a notification and can jump into that session.  

It is also important to remember that if the virtual meeting is being recorded to the cloud, it will only record the main room, regardless of what room the meeting host is in. If local recording is being used, it will record the room the participant who is recording is in. Multiple participants can record locally.

The maximum number of participants in a single Breakout Room depends on the meeting capacity, number of Breakout Rooms created, and whether participants are assigned during the meeting or before the meeting.

Participating in a Breakout Room 

As a participant in a Breakout Room, you have similar capabilities as you would in a regular meeting. These include:

  • Self-select your Breakout Room – You can now select which Breakout Room you would like to join, if the host has enabled this feature. This means meeting participants can move freely between Breakout Rooms without the host having to assign them one. Note: Both the meeting host and participants need to be on Zoom 5.3.0 or later to self-select Breakout Rooms.
  • Screen sharing – You can share your screen in a Breakout Room just as you would in a regular meeting. However, the host must enable participants to share their screens in Breakout Rooms.
  • In-meeting chat – You can also use the chat function within your Breakout Room to message other participants in the room or share links, content, and ideas. 
  • Asking the host for help – This feature is unique to Breakout Rooms, and allows you to contact the host to let them know you need help within your Breakout Room. The host can respond immediately by joining the Breakout Room or send a message to participants informing them they will help when they become available. 

Join from a Zoom Rooms Appliance

We also just added the ability to join Breakout Rooms from your Zoom Rooms Appliances. While Zoom Rooms cannot initiate Breakout Room sessions, they can be added as Breakout Rooms participants when a host starts a breakout session. Zoom Rooms participants can join and leave the session and see who else is in their breakout.

This is especially helpful for educators using Zoom Rooms-enabled classrooms and want to leverage the Breakout Rooms feature for group activities. We also plan to support Breakout Rooms on Zoom Rooms for Windows, Mac, and Zoom Rooms for Touch later this year.

Additional Breakout Rooms capacity

Organizations seeking additional Breakout Rooms capacity should contact their Zoom account representative to access Breakout Rooms with 100-room capacity in a meeting and the ability to assign up to 1,000 people between those rooms.

To learn more about how to use Breakout Rooms, please visit our support page, or check out our on-demand webinar on how to use Breakout Rooms

Editor’s note 2/3/2021: We have updated this blog with additional Breakout Room functionality.

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