Tips for Zoom Breakout Rooms | Training For Change

Tips for Zoom Breakout Rooms


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Training Tool

Breakout rooms are a flexible tool for meetings and trainings in Zoom Meetings. We often receive technical questions about how to use Zoom breakouts. Below are some technical and facilitative tips for getting started. Note that Zoom is regularly updated, so for up-to-date info, visit Zoom’s breakouts help page, which includes detailed instructions, pictures, and a video tutorial.

For ideas about how and why to include breakout activities in your online meetings or trainings, check out our video, How to Run Powerful Breakouts Online.


The Very Basics

  1. Make sure that breakouts are turned on in your Zoom account settings at
  2. To start the rooms during your meeting, the host or co-host clicks the Breakout Rooms link in the Zoom toolbar:
  3. Choose the number of groups; Manual assignment recommended
  4. Click “Assign” next to each room to add participants; click “Options” at bottom left for more choices, then “Create Breakout Rooms”
  5. When you are done assigning, click “Open all rooms”
  6. Use “Broadcast a message to all” to send a message
  7. “Close All Rooms” to end
  8. Be sure to stop the recording during breakouts, if you don’t want the main room recorded. 


Explaining Zoom Breakouts to Participants

Before a breakout activity, prepare participants for what to expect and what they need to do. Explain the following, updating content in [brackets] based on your room settings. You can use the help slides linked below as visual guides. 

  • Privacy: “We are about to go into breakout groups. Your breakout room is private. When in your rooms, only those in your room can hear or see you and your conversation will not be in the recording.”
  • How rooms are assigned: “[We have assigned you to rooms/You will choose which room to join].”  
  • How to join the room: “When we click the button to start the rooms, [You will get a pop-up inviting you to join a room/you will be moved automatically into the rooms/You should click the Breakouts button in the Zoom toolbar then click join next to the room you want to join].
    • Add instructions here for any accessibility options, i.e. how to join a room with captioning or an interpreter.
  • How to get help: “If you want a facilitator to join your room to give help or answer a question, you can click the Help button you will see in the toolbar after you are in the room.”
  • Messages: “We may send you messages that will pop up on your screen during the breakout. If you see one pop up, read it aloud to your group, in case anyone in your group cannot see it.”
  • Ending the breakouts: “After __ minutes, there will be a countdown on your screen on a pop-up. At any time, you can click the button to enter back into the main room, but if you do nothing you’ll be automatically put back into the main room when the countdown finishes.”  


Instructions for your Outline

For the facilitator or tech support person, it may be helpful to have a breakouts checklist in your session outline. Here is a checklist you can copy and edit:

These steps can be done earlier in the session to get the rooms ready:

  • Click the breakout room button in the toolbar (you must be a Host or Co-host)
  • Choose [manually assign groups/randomly assign/let participants choose] and the number of groups you want (more than needed is okay) and click Create Breakout Rooms
  • Rename rooms if needed by clicking on the room titles
  • Assign people to their rooms. [INSERT instructions here about groups for your session]
  • Click “Options” or the gear icon at bottom left and choose any additional options, like a countdown timer, moving automatically into rooms, showing a timer, etc.

When it’s time for the breakouts activity:

  • Paste the breakout activity prompt in the chat box so they can see it in their rooms
  • Before clicking to open all rooms, explain how breakouts will work to participants
  • Pause the recording
  • Click Open all rooms to [send the invitations to participants/automatically send them to rooms/allow them to chose a room from the breakouts menu]
  • Start timer for [INSERT] minutes
  • Help anyone in the main room who doesn’t go into a breakout room (may need to add to a new room or instruct them to find the breakout room invitation pop-up or manually assign them to a room) or move people if needed if anyone is left alone (can happen with random or choose your own room options)
  • Use broadcast tool (at the bottom of the breakout rooms tool) to send the instruction prompt to the groups again (in case they forgot or weren’t listening).
  • Look out for anyone who is disconnected and gets sent back to the main room.  
  • Send time announcements (like at half time) using the broadcast feature if applicable.
  • Close breakout rooms (starts the countdown timer, if applicable)
  • Start recording again
  • Mute all on return (in participants menu) if needed.
  • Show the “welcome back” help slide and remind them to open chat again


Breakouts Help Slides

Here are slide templates for sharing what to expect and what to do around breakouts. Click to get your own editable version of the slides in English or Spanish.