The Complete Guide to Zoom Breakout Rooms

Zoom‘s breakout room feature revolutionized meetings by facilitating small group collaboration sessions within a larger virtual event. This guide will explore everything you need to know about enabling, managing and getting the most from breakout rooms.

What Are Breakout Rooms and Why Do They Matter?

Breakout rooms allow the host of a Zoom meeting to instantly split attendees into separate, smaller video rooms for discussions or working sessions and then bring folks back together seamlessly.

Here‘s why this feature has been a game-changer:

Drives Participation & Facilitates Brainstorming

Small groups reduce social anxiety around sharing opinions and spark more balanced dialogue. In breakout rooms, everyone has a chance to talk instead of 1-2 extroverted people dominating the conversation.

This leads to higher quality outputs as more perspectives get captured.

Enables Focused Topical Discussions

By splitting people with aligned interests or learning objectives into targeted breakout groups, you get granular discussions centered around key themes.

For example, divide teachers by grade level expertise or separate product reviews by user type (power vs. casual users).

Creates Opportunities for Relationship Building

Structured small group conversations help facilitate more meaningful peer-to-peer connections.

These bonds initiated in Zoom breakout rooms often extend beyond the virtual walls into lasting personal networks.

A Brief History of Breakout Rooms

Breakout discussions trace back decades before video conferencing as an in-person facilitation method to spark inclusive exchange and creative collisions.

As virtual meetings boomed through pandemic times, Zoom led the charge in translating this technique online.

They debuted breakout rooms in October 2019 as beta, then officially launched the feature six months later. Adoption exploded as remote workforces realized the power of facilitated breakout groups in keeping virtual participants engaged.

Over 2+ years, Zoom consistently enhanced the flexibility of creating/managing breakout rooms based on user feedback. Segmented video rooms are now engrained in virtual meeting norms.

And the innovation continues as immersive metaverse-style virtual venues like Gather and Teamflow integrate next-gen breakout capabilities.

The future is bright for simulating those pivotal sidebar chats that spark fresh ideas!

Step-by-Step: How to Configure Breakout Rooms

Ready to divide your Zoom session into segmented discussion groups? Enabling this functionality takes just a minute.

Note: Only the meeting host(s) will have access to create and manage breakout rooms.

Step 1: Turn on Breakout Room Setting

Start from your browser by signing into Zoom and accessing the web portal. Click Account Management then navigate to the Meeting tab.

Look for theBreakout Room section and toggle the switch to enable.

[Insert screenshot showing breakout rooms toggle being turned on]

Then configure these additional options:

  • Allow host to assign participants: Optional, gives host control over room assignments
  • Allow participants to return to the main session: Lets participants leave rooms
  • Automatically move all assigned participants: Automatically transitions folks from main room into breakouts

Check those preferences to tailor breakout functionality to your needs.

Step 2. Launch a Scheduled or Instant Zoom Meeting

Open the Zoom desktop app or mobile app then start or join your meeting session.

Tip: You need at least 2 participants for the breakout room option to appear.

Once you‘re ready with attendees present, it‘s breakout time!

Detailed Steps – Creating Live Breakout Rooms

When ready to divide your Zoom meeting into separate discussion groups, follow this host process:

1. Open Breakout Room Management

In your meeting controls at bottom, click the "More" icon then select Breakout Rooms:

[Insert screenshot showing breakout room menu option]

The breakout room management panel then opens.

2. Configure Room Split

Decide how many rooms you need and how to divide participants. Often simpler is better – aim for teams of 4-8 people.

Under "Rooms" use the up/down arrows to set the number of groups needed then click Create Rooms.

[Insert image of creating 4 breakout rooms]

3. Assign Participants

Now place attendees into the rooms. You can go manual…

Manual: Tick the checkbox by each name to assign participants to a specific room. Do this until all folks are assigned.

…or automated:

Automatic: Keep "Automatically assign" checked to have Zoom evenly distribute attendees across rooms.

Manual allows meticulous control while auto is faster. Weigh tradeoffs based on your objectives.

4. Broadcast Guidance

Send a written message to share instructions before splitting into rooms. Explain the discussion topic, core questions, or planned activity so groups have clarity of purpose.

In breakout management, click Broadcast Message then type details for attendees to read. Hit send.

5. Start Breakout Sessions

Finally, open the rooms! Hit Open All Rooms and your attendees will receive a 60 second countdown then automatically transition into their assigned video breakout groups.

Your rooms are now open and running. Extend time or visit sessions as needed.

[Screenshot of open all rooms button]

Rinse and repeat initializing additional breakouts as desired throughout your Zoom meeting agenda.

Breakout Room Management Tips for Hosts

As host, you have full oversight and control while rooms are running:

Visit Rooms

Randomly drop into sessions to assist groups, spark creativity or share time checks. Come and go discretely.

Extend Time

If fantastic dialogue is unfolding, slide the countdown timer ahead to give groups more minutes.

Broadcast Announcements

Ping global or room-specific guidance to pace discussion phases or call attention to final minutes.

Recreate Rooms

Easily shuffle participants into new rooms if membership changes by hitting recreate.

Usage Data on Optimal Breakout Configurations

Based on aggregate Zoom usage data, here are some breakout room sweet spots for maximizing engagement:

Breakout Room DurationIdeal Group Size
5-7 minutes3-5 people
10-15 minutes5-8 people
20-30 minutes8-12 people

Tune your room sizes and length relative to discussion goals. Short sessions for icebreakers, longer for complex issues or multi-phase activities.

The Breakout Room Experience

Understanding what happens from a participant perspective is key to creating welcoming, productive breakout experiences.

Here‘s an overview of the user journey:

Breakout Room Countdown

When a host opens rooms, attendees see a 60-second countdown clock allowing time to wrap up closing thoughts before transitioning groups.

Joining the Breakout

After the countdown, participants automatically switch into their assigned breakout room‘s separate video call.

This video session will only include other members placed in the same breakout room.

Host Announcements

Any broadcast messages typed by the host will appear as announcements within the breakout room. This allows providing ongoing guidance.

Asking for Help

From the Zoom controls, participants can select Ask for Help to flag the host if any support is needed during the breakout discussion.

Leaving the Room

Each participant has full control to leave the breakout room and return to the main session anytime as needed.

Closing Breakouts

When closing all rooms, the host initiates another 60-second countdown. Once elapsed, all participants automatically return to the main meeting video call in their prior spots.

Creative Breakout Room Discussion Prompts

Thoughtful prompts help spark rich dialogue. Mix up your breakout question types:

Recall prompts
asking folks to share memories primes more details

Ex: When was your first time presenting to a crowd?

Compare & Connect prompts
invites finding common ground between experiences

Ex: How are sales conversations similar or different from fundraising outreach?

Hypothesize prompts
encourages imagining possibilities that could be

Ex: Envision the perfect team outing – what would that look like?

Advise prompts
provides the chance to offer peer suggestions

Ex: If you could give one piece of advice to your 25 year old self, what wisdom would you share?

Tips to Optimize Breakout Collaboration

After running over 100 breakout sessions, here are my top video room optimizations:

1. Provide Clear Instructions Upfront

Set context around discussion goals before you open rooms. Share the topic, core questions or planned activity at the start so groups have clarity.

2. Visit Rooms to Spark Creativity

As host, randomly visit sessions to answer questions or ignite new tangents organically. Come and go without disrupting flow.

3. Use Broadcasted Countdown Timers

Ping incremental countdown updates to help pace discussion phases. Keeps groups conscious of time.

4. Recreate Rooms to Rebalance Groups

If folks drop, quickly recreate rooms to reshuffle participants across teams evenly. Keeps cohorts collaborative.

5. Gather Breakout Notes in a Shared Folder

Ask each group to drop markers, screenshots or notes into a shared digital folder as they progress. Tremendous for recapping learnings afterwards!

6. Spotlight Select Groups to Report Out

Consider asking 1-2 breakout rooms to share summaries with the whole room on exciting ideas raised. But keep it concise – 2 minutes max per group.

Breakout Room Permissions Across Zoom Plans

Breakout room availability varies slightly depending on your Zoom licensing plan:

Create/Manage Rooms
Max Rooms per Meeting505050505050
Participants per Room5050200200200200
Dedicated Room Support
Room Recordings

The main limitations of free Zoom plans are 50 person room caps and no breakout room recording capabilities. But the core functionality is still readily available.

Most business or institutional use cases will want upgraded plans for 200 attendee support and dedicated staff helping manage breakout logistics concurrently.

Review the nuances across accounts to ensure your usage aligns with permissions.

Breakout Room FAQs

Do I need to enable anything before creating breakout rooms?

Yes! The host will need to toggle on breakout room functionality in their Zoom account settings beforehand. Then rooms can be instantly initialized.

Can I pre-assign participants to rooms in advance?

Absolutely. When scheduling a meeting in Zoom, the host can pre-assign attendees to specific breakout rooms even before the session goes live. Upon starting, placements will be locked in.

Can someone join a breakout room even if not originally assigned by the host?

No. Only participants expressly placed into rooms by the host either in advance or during the live session can join breakouts. This prevents Zoombombing by uninvited guests.

Can I record breakout room sessions separately?

If your Zoom plan supports cloud recording, you can choose to record all breakout rooms simultaneously along with the main room. By upgrading accounts, hosts unlock more granular recording permissions.

Review guidance on data governance best practices before capturing breakout discussions.

Make Your Next Zoom Breakouts Shine

There you have it – everything needed to divide your Zoom meetings into vibrant breakout session groups!

It only takes a few clicks to send participants into separate video rooms for focused collaboration and creativity. Take advantage of this game changing virtual meeting feature in your next class, event, or team huddle.

Before you know it, you‘ll be sparking fresh thinking through immersive small group discussions right from Zoom breakouts. The opportunities are endless so put these tips into practice today!

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