The new out-of-the-box virtual Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms became available in December 2020! This blog post is the definite guide how to use Microsoft Teams Virtual Breakout Rooms.
Blog post updated 30.9.2021 (dd.mm.yyyy)
Some quick facts about Breakout Rooms
- You can precreate rooms in advance and move invited people to rooms before the meeting
- You can assign attendees automatically to rooms or you can assign them manually
- Rooms are persistent now: if you close the meeting and rejoin rooms are preserved
- People can be moved between rooms even when rooms are open
- It is possible rename rooms and start/close them manually. You can also add new rooms later or delete some of them.
- You can assign other invited presenters, from your organization, to be other room managers.
- Only one person can manage rooms at a time.
- Room manager can send messages (announcements) to rooms
- Teams Webinars don’t have webinars included
- A meeting with Breakout Rooms is limited to 300 attendees and you can not add Breakout Rooms to any meeting that has over 300 attendees.
- REQUIREMENT; You have to use Teams Desktop Client to create Breakout Rooms at this point. Support for other Teams clients is coming later. You can attend breakout rooms using Teams web client. You can join a Breakout Room on Teams Mobile (Android) and iPhone/iOS
- REQUIREMENT: Make sure you have the latest Teams update (Check for updates in the Teams Desktop Client)
- You can create Breakout Rooms for scheduled or channel meetings. If you have old meetings you don’t have to recreate them to get support for Breakout Rooms.
- Every Breakout Room is a full Teams meeting with recording, sharing content, chat, Whiteboard and Together mode (for example).
- Everyone joining the Breakout Room will be presenter even if they are an attendee in the main meeting. Meeting policies can change this behavior so that, for example, that only people in the same organization are presenters and everyone else is attendee on default. In a sense: joining a Breakout Room meeting is just like joining any other meeting – using those meeting options that are governed by policies. (updated 12.1.2021 – Thank you Magnus for the point!)
- Timer: Organizers can now set a timer for Breakout rooms from the Breakout Room settings. After timer has expired, rooms will automatically close and participants will come back to the main meeting.
- Keep room configuration and assignments: Room assignment retention provides the ability to persist room configuration and assignment over multiple sessions.
- Move people across rooms and main meeting when in Breakout Rooms: With participant reassignment capability, organizer will now be able to move joined participants across rooms and main meeting also when rooms are opened.
Creating Breakout Rooms
When a new meeting is created and the meeting invitation is sent, you can reopen the meeting to navigate to the Breakout tab. This feature is in Public Preview on 30th of September 2021, but is expect to be available for everyone soon.
Create the meeting invitation normally and Send the invite.
Open the meeting in edit mode.
You can now see Breakout rooms -tab where you can Create rooms in already, before the meeting is started.
Choose the number of rooms you need: 1-50 rooms.
You can assign invited participants to rooms using Assign participants.
There is an automatic option as well, or you can do this manually.
We can update room names and settings.
Now it will look better and more people-friendly when you talk about rooms.
You can also access settings from either room three dots menu (…) or from the top-right area via gear icon.
On top-right area you can also add new rooms (+) , recreate rooms ( recycle-icon) or delete all rooms. Removal of all rooms asks for confirmation.
Breakout Room Settings – premeeting
When settings is opened you can now define
- Presenters from your (the organizer) organization to manage rooms
- Set time limit when rooms close automatically
- Define if people are moved to rooms and to main meeting automatically (default is on)
- Let me people return to the main meeting on their own (default is off)
Assigning people to be Breakout Room managers
Clicking on Assign presenters to manager rooms enables you to add invited presenters from your organization to be other people who can manage rooms
I added John to be the other manager. This automatically removed that demo use from room assignments: you can not assign a room manager or meeting organizer to any room.
Changes are saved automatically.
When in the meeting we can also add more presenters from the organizer’s organization as room managers. These presenters need to be included in the meeting invitation to make it possible to assign them to this role.
Creating Breakout Rooms – in the meeting
When you are in the meeting as organizer or appointed room manager, using Teams Desktop client with the latest version and new meeting experience you can see the icon to where you can start creating Breakout Rooms. If your meeting has over 300 people in it, you can not create Breakout Rooms to it.
You can then define how many rooms (1-50) you need and how you want to assign participants. The default is Automatically. In this point you can see that we are alone in the meeting and thus no-one will be assigned to rooms. It will be the easiest to do Breakout Rooms when everyone (or most of people) are joined in to the meeting.
After a moment I can see two Breakout Rooms and people who have been assigned to those rooms (yes – I have multiple identities from different demo tenants there!).
Updated 30th of September 2021: The user interface has updated.
If I click a room I can then choose … menu and edit it
- Open room open that particular room only
- Rename is useful to make any sense about the rooms 🙂
- Join and Close room options are available when room is opened/started
- Delete room removes the room.
In this point you can still make changes to names and people who would be in which rooms.
If you click on Breakout Rooms … menu you can choose from a few options
- Make an announcement is only available when rooms are running. It sends messages to all breakout rooms into chat
- Rooms settings
- Recreate rooms discards all current rooms and let’s you start again. Breakout Rooms are part of the meeting they were created on – if you revisit the meeting later the old rooms are there. Recreate rooms lets you start from the scratch.
Room settings contain ability to add other invited presenters to be room managers (must be from organizer’s organization) , a timer and two options.
The default settings work very well for most needs. However you want users to take action (ie: confirm the switching of meeting manually) when moving to breakout rooms remove the checkbox from the first one. There is 10 second period when users move to rooms once room is started.
And the other option is self explanatory: allowing users to return to the main meeting . When the switch is off (default) it will prevent participants returning to the main meeting: they don’t get to see Return-button while in the Breakout Room.
Update 21.1.2021: It seems that web client is honoring this setting and switch works from the beginning.
It is also possible to set a time limit when breakout rooms close automatically. There is a 30 second warming before room closes.
It is possible to set the main meeting lobby settings (meeting options: who can bypass the lobby to Only me) after creating the rooms so it will prevent participants coming back to the main meeting – they end up in the lobby instead. Participants can rejoin back to the Breakout Room directly if there has been any chatting: it is visible in their chat and thus rejoin the room.
Assign attendees to different rooms
In case, more often than not, someone joins in late you can see them in “Assign Participants” -section.
You can also assign people to open rooms – you do not have to close rooms anymore to move people between rooms.
I added a couple of participants to show how this one functions.
You can assign participants to rooms in two different ways. Selecting people and then choosing Assign on top-right section
Or you can choose individually to which room people are assigned to
When you are ready just hit the Assign button.
And answer the confirmation question. No, people are not moved to those rooms when rooms are not open. They are just being assigned to those rooms.
What I really like about the new version that room controls (including settings) is available via the front page, behind Open rooms.
Starting and running Breakout Rooms
You can choose to open rooms one by one manually. But I recommend starting all rooms at once by hitting Start rooms and see how they are beginning to open
Update 7.1.2021: NOTE if room doesn’t have any participants the room can not be opened.
As the organizer you have an option to join any room you like
You can also send announcements to rooms
The announcement message appears in the meeting chat
The organizer is the only person (so far, at Microsoft Ignite 2020 it was hinted that this will change) who can move freely between rooms. Organizer does it by selecting the room and choosing Join room.
What happens next is:
- Main meeting is put on hold for the organizer
- The organizer joins the Breakout Room (named Purple Squadron in this case)
- When she is done in the Breakout Room she just Leaves the meeting normally and the main meeting resumes when Resume is pressed
The Organizer can also Add rooms if there is a need – like new people join the meeting or when there is a need to regroup with some attendees. The maximum number of 50 rooms gives plenty of room to play with these rooms in ad hoc needs.
The freshly added room is just like any other room: but it is closed even when other rooms are open.
This allows the Organizer to add people to the new room and then Open it.
Room Manager experience in Breakout Rooms with multiple managers
Those presenters who have been given the role to manage Breakout Rooms need to use Teams Desktop Client to be able to do so. Currently (September 30th 2021) they also need to use Public Preview for this to work. This feature is expected to be available for everyone soon.
If there is already someone managing rooms you are given a dialogue.
Only one person at a time can manage Breakout Rooms.
This limitation needs to be kept in mind. If there are multiple facilitators who move between different Breakout Rooms they need to take control of rooms before they can join one of rooms. And since room managers can not be assigned to any room they need to take control first and then join a room. This requires of course good communication and awareness how this feature works.
There will be a warning.
John (demo user presenter promoted to manage breakout rooms) can now go ahead and manage rooms.
John can move people to different rooms as needed. Note: meeting organizer or other room managers are not in the list.
It is also possible to change all settings, except appointing other room managers. Only meeting organizer can appoint room managers.
If we check out how it looks for the meeting organizer, we can see there is a message saying John is managing rooms.
As a reminder: keep in mind that only one person can manage rooms at a time. In order to be able to move into a room you need to take control first and then join the room.
Attendee experience in the Breakout Rooms
When the rooms are started you get a notification and you are then moved to breakout rooms automatically (on default).
Update 7.1.2021 You are a presenter on default, even when the main meeting has different settings for presenters (ie: you can be only a attendee in the main meeting but once you get to the Breakout Room you are always defaulted to presenter).
Note: you need to have the main meeting open in order to join the Breakout Room automatically.
The Breakout Room is the fully fledged meeting – I can record it, use the chat, raise hand, use hard mute, share screen or content and even use Together mode or Large Gallery views. I can also choose to Return back to the main meeting.
“Let people go back to the main meeting” doesn’t seem to have any effect: attendees can Return back to the main meeting and go back to the Breakout Room with Join room as they wish.
Update 21.1.2021: This switch is originally off. It will prevent participants from returning to the main meeting: they don’t get to see Return-button while in the Breakout Room.
However users of Teams web client will still be able to see and use Return-button.
If “Automatically move people into opened rooms” is not checked every attendee must confirm their joining to the Breakout Room and again when the room is closed to join the Main Meeting.
Closing Breakout Rooms
When the organizer hits Close rooms, the rooms are starting to close instantly. There is no “are you sure” -dialogue so be careful not to hit this button too early!
Attendees in Breakout Rooms get a message
And they end up in the main meeting.
You can close and open/restart rooms multiple times. You don’t have to recreate or reassign people to Breakout Rooms every time. This makes it easy to create them once (assuming most of attendees stay in same rooms) and have short small group discussions / innovations and bringing them back to the main meeting for a short recap and then going back to small groups (Breakout Rooms). This is one of super great points in Teams Breakout Rooms I think – they are very easy to manage and use for trainings and workshops.
Breakout Room resources
You can access Breakout room chat later almost just like any other chat in Teams meetings. This is of course one reason why naming of Breakout Rooms is important. The big difference is that you can not join Breakout Room directly from the chat unless the Breakout Room is open. This gives a good control to the Organizer: they can be sure that once the room is closed attendees won’t be able to rejoin it.
The good side is that the meeting chat remains there so discussions done in there can be reflected and processed later.
If you are all working in the same organization you can also use Breakout Rooms chat with files (yes, the files are in uploader’s OneDrive for Business!) to edit documents and then share findings later. If you have people from multiple organizations (ie: different Office 365 tenants) participating you need to use links to files as with any Teams Meeting today.
What about Mobile Teams?
I tested on Android phone that Breakout Rooms worked the way the should when attending. You are moved to the Breakout Room automatically and when rooms close you are moved automatically back to the main meeting. You can not create Breakout Rooms on Android yet – but it is in the roadmap for March 2021 currently.
I updated this post on this topic. When I first tested Breakout Rooms on Android device it didn’t have the support. When I did the test again in 10th of Dec everything worked as they supposed to.
Breakout Rooms Administration
Teams Administrators ensure your organization users can do following:
- Allow scheduling private meeting = on
- Allow Meet now in private meeting = on
- Allow channel meeting scheduling = on
- Allow meet now in channels = on
As an admin, review and share the settings to ensure they are set correctly for your organization and your users. Otherwise your users may not be able to utilize Breakout Rooms.