A Guide To Starting With Zoom Breakout Rooms

8 minutes read

Zoom is a web conferencing app for video and/or audio conferencing, and also one of the best collaboration tools for remote teams. The app allows you to hold unlimited meetings, make unlimited phone calls, and record your calls or meetings.

One of the lesser known features in Zoom that you won’t find in Microsoft Teams or Google Meet are the Zoom Breakout Rooms. The Breakout Rooms work like breakout groups in a physical seminar or workshop by allowing you to split your Zoom meeting into separate sessions.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of setting up Zoom Breakout Rooms to help you understand the feature in its entirety.

What Is a Zoom Breakout Room?

Zoom breakout rooms are separate interfaces that the Zoom meeting’s host creates manually or automatically to accommodate more meetings in one session.  

For example, if you’re hosting a national delegates’ meeting on Zoom, you can create Breakout Rooms for different provinces or counties. You can move the delegates into several smaller groups based on the county or province they represent.

A meeting host can create up to 50 breakout sessions in the central Zoom meeting room. Users can join a Zoom meeting and Breakout Rooms from any compatible device or major platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS.

Before joining a breakout room, check whether you’re using a device that’s compatible with Zoom software, and that a breakout room is enabled in your settings.

How To Setup a Zoom Breakout Room

  1. To start a Breakout room in Zoom, sign into Zoom.
  1. Click Settings in the Personal section on the left pane.
  1. Go to In Meeting (Advanced) under the Meeting tab on the right side.
  1. Click the Breakout Room option and verify that it is enabled. If it’s disabled, toggle the switch to enable it.
  1. If you want to pre-assign participants to Breakout Rooms, click the Allow host to assign participants to breakout rooms when scheduling checkbox for this option. 
  1. To enable Breakout Rooms for members of a specific group, sign into Zoom as an admin and click User Management > Group Management in the navigation menu.
  1. Click on the Group name and then tap or click Settings. Under the Meeting tab, verify that the Breakout Room option is enabled. You can also allow meeting hosts to pre-assign participants to Breakout Rooms.  

Note: You can enable the Breakout Rooms feature for your own use, using the same steps above. However, if the Breakout Room option is grayed out, it’s probably locked at Account or Group level. In this case you need to contact your Zoom administrator for further assistance.

How To Create & Manage a Zoom Breakout Room

Once the Zoom Breakout room option is enabled, you can manage the rooms and pre-assign participants to the Breakout Rooms.

Note: Only the Zoom meeting’s host can assign participants to Breakout Rooms. If you’re a co-host, you can only join and leave a Breakout room that the host has assigned you to. A host can create up to 50 Breakout Rooms with up to 200 participants pre-assigned to the rooms. 

However, the number of participants per room is limited to the meeting’s capacity, number of Breakout Rooms created, and if the participants are pre-assigned or assigned during the meeting.

How To Create a Zoom Breakout Room In Windows/Mac

  1. Start a Zoom meeting – instant or scheduled – and click Breakout Rooms.
  1. Choose the number of rooms you want to create and how you want to assign the participants to the rooms. If you choose to assign participants automatically, Zoom will split them up evenly into each room. If you choose the manual method, you have more control over which participant you want to go into each room.
  1. Click Create Breakout Rooms.
  1. The Breakout Rooms will be created, but they won’t start immediately. You can manage the rooms before they start by clicking Options to see more Breakout Room options. Select the options you want to use for the Breakout Rooms:
  • Move all participants into Breakout Rooms automatically.
  • Allow participants to return to the main session at any time.
  • Breakout Rooms close automatically after x minutes.
  • Notify me when the time is up.
  • Countdown after closing Breakout Rooms.
  1. Click Open All Rooms to start the Breakout Rooms.
  1. If you selected the Manual method of assigning participants to the Breakout Rooms, click Assign next to the room you want to assign them to.
  1. Select the participants you want to assign to that room and then repeat the action for each Breakout room you created. Once you assign a participant, the Assign button will be replaced with the number of participants in the room.

After assigning participants to Breakout Rooms, you can rearrange the participants. Any participants who weren’t assigned to a room will remain in the larger meeting once the rooms start. You can also move or swap participants between rooms, recreate rooms, add new Breakout Rooms, or delete the rooms.

Note: Each participant will receive a prompt to join the Breakout room, and once they all move to their respective Breakout Rooms, the host remains in the main meeting.  If you’re the host, you can manually join or leave any Breakout room in progress.

  1. A host can also stop rooms after a 60 second countdown by clicking Close All Rooms.
  1. You (host) can also broadcast a message to all Breakout Rooms to share more information or time-keeping warnings while the rooms are in progress. To broadcast a message, go to Meeting Controls and click the Breakout Rooms icon.
  2. Click Broadcast a message to all.
  1. Click the blue Broadcast button. The message will appear to all participants in their respective Breakout Rooms.

How To Pre-Assign Participants To Breakout Rooms

As the host of a Zoom meeting, you can pre-assign participants into Breakout Rooms as you schedule the meeting.

Note: Participants have to be signed into their Zoom accounts to be pre-assigned to a Breakout Room. Participants joining from the web client will not be pre-assigned to a Breakout Room. If you have enabled registration for the Zoom meeting, and there are external participants registered for the meeting, you can assign them to Breakout Rooms during the meeting.

You can use the web portal or a CSV file to pre-assign participants to Breakout Rooms in Zoom.

How To Use The Web Portal To Pre-Assign People To Zoom Breakout Rooms

  1. Sign into the Zoom web portal, click Meetings and schedule a meeting.
  1. Select Breakout Room pre-assign under Meeting Options.
  1. Click Create Rooms.
  1. In the popup window, click the plus icon next to Rooms to add a room.
  1. If you want to rename a Breakout room, hover over the name of the room and click the pencil icon. Search for participants by name or email address in the Add participants text box and add them to the Breakout room. You can add internal users using the same account, change the order of participants in the room, move or remove participants, and delete a Breakout room.
  1. Click Save.

How To Use a CSV File To Pre-Assign People To Zoom Breakout Rooms

  1. Sign into the Zoom web portal, click Meetings and schedule a meeting. 
  2. Select Breakout Room pre-assign in the Meeting Options section and click Import from CSV.
  1. Download a sample CSV file which you can fill out by clicking the Download option.
  1. Open the CSV file and fill in the Pre-assign Room Name column with the Breakout Rooms’ name. The Email Address column will contain the email addresses of the assigned participants.
  1. Save the file. Drag and drop it in the Zoom web portal, and Zoom will verify that the email address has a Zoom account.
  2. You can edit the assignments you’ve already pre-assigned to Breakout Rooms before starting the meeting. Sign in to the Zoom web portal, click Meetings and select the meeting you’d like to edit.
  1. Click View Detail in the Breakout Room section.
  1. Edit the Breakout Rooms to your preference, and then click Save.
  1. Start the meeting with participants pre-assigned Breakout Rooms by going to the meeting controls and clicking Breakout Rooms. Click Open All Rooms to start the Breakout Rooms.

Note: You can assign participants manually using in-meeting Breakout Room controls mentioned in the How to Create and Manage a Zoom Breakout Room section above. You can also start a whiteboard session in Breakout Rooms and invite participants to view and annotate.

Host Group Meetings Effortlessly

Zoom Breakout Rooms is a free service from Zoom that works for multiple use cases, especially where a meeting has many participants. Such meetings include focus groups, class meetings for different grades, or departmental meetings.

Have you hosted a Zoom meeting and used the Zoom Breakout Rooms feature? Share your experience in the comments.

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