Microsoft Teams allows you to divide video conferencing participants into smaller groups called breakout rooms. This can be used to increase engagement, solve problems, or facilitate private side conversations, such as may be needed during a negotiation. We’ll show you how to use Microsoft Teams breakout rooms and detail the steps to create sessions, manage participants, join meetings in progress, and make the most of this feature.
Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms Explainer Video
Our explainer video shows the ins and outs of how to use Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms, whether you are creating them before the video conference begins or during an online meeting. You can watch the full video or skip ahead to any specific instructions you are looking for. The video includes:
- 0:20 How to Create Breakout Rooms Before the Meeting
- 1:30 Assigning Participants
- 1:56 How to Manage Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams
- 3:30 How to Join Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams
- 4:18 How to Close Breakout Rooms
There are two primary ways to create breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams: before the meeting and during the meeting. Below we explain how to do both:
How to Create Breakout Rooms Before the Meeting
Navigate to your Teams’ calendar and open a meeting invite. Assuming you are the meeting organizer or presenter, click on “Breakout rooms” and then select “Create rooms.” Teams allows you to create up to 50 unique rooms.
From here, you can name your different breakout rooms and begin assigning invited participants to specific rooms. Alternatively, you can also choose to simply automatically evenly distribute your participants based on the number of breakout rooms created.
If you plan on using the same breakout room settings in future meetings, save your meeting as a recurring meeting. Once your meeting begins, select the “Breakout rooms” feature when you’re ready to divide participants into smaller sessions.
How to Create Breakout Rooms During a Meeting
It’s best to create breakout rooms before meetings begin to ensure more intentional room creation and teammate distribution. However, that’s not always an option. Fortunately, creating breakout rooms during a meeting is quick and easy.
Assuming you are the meeting organizer or presenter, select “Breakout rooms” from your meeting controls bar. Choose how many rooms to create (up to 50) and whether to assign participants manually or automatically.
You can also set a time limit for your breakout rooms. This gives participants a visual indicator for how long they have to collaborate in their smaller groups before rejoining the larger video conferencing session. Change the toggle for whether you want to automatically move people to rooms (or back to the main session) or give them the option to manually join their assigned breakout room.
How to Manage Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams
You can assign breakout room managers during the session or while creating breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams before the meeting. Meeting managers can add or delete rooms, assign participants to rooms, join any room, set time limits, and send announcements.
Appointing Room Managers
Go to your meeting invite in your Teams calendar to assign a breakout room manager before the meeting. Then open “Breakout rooms” and select “Room settings.” From here, you can switch the toggle on for assigning presenters to manage rooms. Once you turn the toggle on, choose which presenters you want to manage breakout rooms.
To appoint a manager during a meeting, go to “Breakout rooms” in your meeting controls. Select “Room settings” and turn the toggle on for assigning presenters to manage rooms. By default, any meeting presenter will be made a breakout room manager, but you can also choose your presenters from the provided drop-down menu.
Manually Assigning Participants
Assigning participants manually is almost identical whether you do it before or during a meeting. Navigate to your breakout room settings and select “Assign participants.” Click on the down arrow next to each participant and choose which room you want to assign them to. You can also use the check boxes next to each participant’s name to move groups of individuals to a meeting rather than manually assigning each one.
Automatically Assigning Participants
In your breakout room settings, you can choose to assign participants manually or automatically before or during the meeting. If you choose the automatic option, it evenly distributes people to the number of rooms you’ve created.
Automatic assignment is the fastest way to assign participants, especially when it’s not important which room they end up in. Plus, you can manually move individuals later to assign managers, discussion leaders, or individual participants to the appropriate room.
How to Join Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams
From your Breakout room settings in Microsoft Teams, you can switch a toggle to automatically move people to rooms. If you enable this, participants will automatically be moved into their assigned breakout room when you launch the feature. If you disable it, participants will receive a message requesting they join a breakout room but won’t enter the room unless they select “Join room.”
As a meeting organizer or breakout room manager, you have the option to join any of the rooms—you don’t need to be assigned to a specific room. From your meeting controls, click “Breakout rooms.”
Next, hover over a room, select “More options,” and then click “Join room” to enter a specific room. If you’d like to leave that breakout room to join another, click “Return” in your meeting controls.
How to Close Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams
Closing a room ends that breakout session and returns participants to the main meeting. If you’ve turned off the option to automatically move people into breakout rooms, participants will receive a message asking if they want to return to the primary meeting or leave.
Only the meeting organizer and breakout room manager can close breakout rooms. To close an individual breakout room, go to meeting controls and select “Breakout rooms.” Hover over a specific room, select “More options,” and then click “Close room.” Or, close all rooms at the same time by clicking “Close” from “Breakout rooms” in your meeting controls.
Breakout rooms will also close if you’ve set a timer and the session duration ends. Once you’ve closed your breakout rooms, click the “Resume” button to meet as a single, larger group again.
Why You Should Use Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms
Whether to facilitate a brainstorm session, foster collaboration, participate in a workshop, or have a side conversation, breakout rooms are a simple way to make it happen during video meetings. These are virtual spaces for unified communications where participants can engage and ultimately produce better work. In fact, 89% of people say video meetings enable faster task and project completion.
Here are a few reasons why your business should use the breakout rooms feature in Microsoft Teams
- Enhance collaboration: Ninety percent of people say it’s easier to get their point across when they are seen as well as heard, but it’s harder to contribute when there are dozens of participants in a meeting. A breakout room fosters better engagement and interaction, giving space for back-and-forth conversations on a smaller scale. Teammates can address concerns and there’s less chance a participant will be ignored or accidentally talked over.
- Reduce meeting fatigue: Most employees spend about 15% of their time in meetings, but that number jumps to 35% for middle managers and 50% for upper-level management. With the increase in remote and hybrid workers since the pandemic, remote meeting fatigue is a real problem, especially for those who spend hours each week in video meetings. Breakout rooms help participants get more out of every call and reduce meeting monotony.
- Strategically divide and conquer: Research shows that diversity and inclusion lead to improved efficiency and financial performance—but creating the right environment is easier said than done. Breakout rooms enable you to strategically assign participants based on things like team, department, gender, age, tenure, and more to lessen the chance of “groupthink” and increase diverse points of view.
While breakout rooms are a much-requested feature, not every video conferencing solution offers it. Find out which have breakout rooms on our list of the best video conferencing software.
Microsoft Teams breakout rooms make virtual meetings, presentations, workshops, and webinars more collaborative and engaging. Experiment with all of the breakout room features and settings beforehand to ensure they go smoothly. However, Microsoft Teams may not be the right communications platform for your business. In that case, check out the best Microsoft Teams alternatives.