All you need to know about using Zoom breakout rooms
Breakout rooms are one of the most popular features in Zoom Meetings, creating a more dynamic experience by allowing you to break into groups for smaller, focused discussions.
From creating breakout rooms based on poll results to broadcasting a message to all breakout rooms, see what kinds of cool things you can do with this powerful collaboration feature. Here’s everything you need to know to use Zoom breakout rooms in your next virtual meeting or class.
This blog post will cover:
- How to do breakout rooms in Zoom (Get the basics here!)
- How to create breakout rooms before a meeting
- Can you create breakout rooms during a meeting? (Yes, you can!)
- Inside the breakout room: Cool features to use
- What to know if you’re a breakout room participant
How to do breakout rooms in Zoom
If you’re going to be hosting a meeting and you’ve never used breakout rooms before, here’s a quick primer.
Breakout rooms are a great option for meetings where you want to have close collaboration and small-group discussions. You can create as many as 50 separate breakout sessions at once. There are lots of ways for you as the host to place people into rooms and create a fun meeting experience for them.
Here are a few ideas for using Zoom breakout rooms:
- Icebreakers during new-hire or student orientations
- Discussion groups during class or training
- Brainstorming and design thinking sessions
- Mentoring sessions (you can bring together a larger group of mentors and mentees to start, then split each pair into a separate breakout room for one-on-one discussions)
- Office hours (allow people to drop into your meeting and if you need to discuss something more privately, create an ad hoc breakout room for you and one other person)
- Team bonding trivia or other activities
Before you start creating breakout rooms, you might need to enable the breakout room feature in your meeting settings.
Once enabled, you can create and manage breakouts during your meetings by clicking on the “breakout rooms” icon in the lower right-hand side of your toolbar.
If you want to record your meeting, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- If you’re recording to the cloud, it will only record the main room, regardless of what room you’re in as the meeting host. No breakout sessions will be recorded.
- If local recording is being used, it will record the room the participant who is recording is in. Multiple participants can record locally.
How to create breakout rooms before a meeting
Zoom breakout rooms are easy to set up during a meeting, but there may be times when you want to plan in advance and put more thought into how to split people up. Here are some ways you can create breakout room assignments before your meeting starts.
- Pre-assign breakout rooms during scheduling. The meeting host can pre-assign attendees to breakout rooms when scheduling a meeting. This option is great if you already know how you want to group your participants — like if you’re hosting a new hire orientation and want to put people in rooms based on the department they’re in. And if you’re hosting a recurring meeting, you can even save these breakout room assignments for future use (a useful feature for educators who want to have students meet in the same groups throughout the semester).
- Create rooms based on poll results. Before your meeting, you can set up a poll and choose to split participants into their breakout rooms based on the results of that poll. Use this for creating groups based on similar interests or levels of understanding on a topic.
Can you create breakout rooms during a meeting?
Yes! Creating breakout rooms during a meeting is quick and easy, and you have several options for choosing how participants get split up into their rooms:
- Automatically. Participants will be placed into rooms randomly.
- Manually. You can create each room and assign participants to rooms individually. If you need to control which participants get placed together, this is the option for you.
- Participants’ choice. Give participants the ability to select which room they would like to join. You can name rooms based on topics of discussion and allow participants to choose which room they prefer — they can even move between rooms on their own.
The Zoom breakout room icon also allows you to:
- Move or exchange participants. Simply select the participant’s name and assign them to a different room, or select a second participant to swap them with.
- Delete rooms. Get rid of rooms you no longer need.
- Recreate your rooms. Start from scratch by deleting your existing breakout rooms and randomly recreating new ones, or go back to your pre-assigned rooms (if you’ve set that up beforehand).
Cool features for breakout sessions
Now that you’ve opened your breakout rooms and your participants are busy discussing and collaborating in their groups, here are a few ways to manage the experience for everyone.
- Broadcast content and audio to all breakout rooms. As the host, you can share your screen in the main session so participants in all active breakout rooms can see. So, if you want to play a video that people can discuss in their small groups, simply share your screen with audio as you normally would — you don’t have to bring people back to the main session or play the video before people break up into groups.
- Broadcast messages to all breakout rooms. If everyone is in their rooms and you want to let them know they’ve got a few minutes left to finish up their discussion, you can talk or type a message that will reach all participants in their breakouts at once.
- Search breakout rooms. Want to quickly move a person to another room? If you have more than seven people in your meeting, you can search by name to find a participant.
- View participants’ status from the main session. Want to see if your participants are on track and actively participating? View the list of open breakout rooms and you’ll see participants’ video and audio status, whether they are sharing their screen, and any active reactions or nonverbal feedback.
- Hop into a room. As the host, you can join any breakout rooms as needed to answer questions or see if your groups are engaged in discussion.
- 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.
- Join from a Zoom Rooms appliance. If you’re in a Zoom Room, you can join and leave the session from a Zoom Rooms appliance. This is especially helpful for educators using Zoom Rooms-enabled classrooms who want to leverage the breakout rooms feature for group activities.
Participating in a Zoom breakout room
If you’re a participant in a meeting with breakout rooms, here are a few features that might come in handy.
- Self-select your breakout room. If your host has selected this option, you can choose your breakout room and move freely between rooms.
- Screen sharing. If your host has enabled this feature, you can share your screen in a breakout room just as you would in a regular meeting.
- In-meeting chat. You can use the chat function within your breakout room to message other participants in the room or share links, content, and ideas.
- Ask the host for help. This feature 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.
Make sure your Zoom client is up to date so you have all these features available at your fingertips during your next meeting.
Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in September 2020 and has been updated in May 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.