With the move to virtual meetings, admission events, and even virtual happy hours, video platforms have likely become your new best friend. You’ve likely mastered using and creating Zoom virtual backgrounds. You may even be a pro running webinars and meetings by now. But have you ever used Zoom’s breakout room feature?

Zoom breakout rooms can help provide more connection and excitement to your virtual events, meetings, and classes to help you retain current students, reduce melt over the summer, and even recruit new students next admission season. (Too soon to start talking about that? Maybe not…)

One big concern for schools having to cancel in-person events is the lack of connection families may feel. The organic connections made at events and relationships formed can heavily influence a family’s enrollment decision. With school reopening dates still unknown, it’s possible you’ll need to start your recruiting process from afar. This means it’s essential to use tools and features to help keep your events interesting and achieve your goal of building strong relationships from the very beginning. Zoom breakout rooms can help your families and students meet others like them virtually. 

We used breakout rooms in one of our recent webinars and found it to be a great tool to help create conversation, easily orchestrate more organic connections, or simply discuss concerns, ideas, or questions with a smaller group.  

What are Zoom Breakout Rooms?

Zoom breakout rooms are a feature within Zoom meetings that allows the meeting host to split up meeting participants into different rooms or separate “mini sessions”. You can either pre-assign attendees to certain rooms before the meeting or randomly assign attendees during the meeting.

You have full control over the number of rooms and the number of participants in each room. The host is also able to jump between the rooms to check-in with the different groups, can move people around, and can even set an end time for the rooms to bring everyone back together to the main meeting room. 

You can create up to 50 different sessions, which is likely more than you would ever need. One thing to remember and perhaps warn attendees about is that they will have full control over their audio, video, and screen sharing capabilities once they enter the breakout rooms. For the best conversation, you’ll want to encourage them to turn their cameras and mics on. 

Ways to Use Zoom Breakout Rooms: 

  • Break families up into discussion groups at virtual events.
  • Break students up by interests to form connections with other new admits at a revisit day or open house.
  • Assign student ambassadors to different rooms with a list of questions to help new students connect and to help answer questions in a small group setting. 
  • Have teachers jump around rooms to get to know families and students and share more about who they are and the classes they teach.
  • Allow more organic conversation and connection by randomly assigning participants to rooms.

Setting up Breakout Rooms

Before you use  Zoom breakout rooms, check to make sure they’ve been enabled in your settings. 

Here are the steps to enable breakout rooms: 

1. Sign in to Zoom.

2. Click “settings.”

3. Navigate to the “in meeting” sections.

4. Find the breakout room option under the meeting tab and enable the setting.

Once you’ve turned on the setting, you can start using your Zoom breakout rooms. You’ll need to follow a couple of different steps in order to create breakout rooms ahead of time or to randomly assign participants to rooms during a meeting. 

There are two ways you can set up Zoom breakout rooms, here’s how to do both and the benefits of each approach.

How to Set Up Breakout Rooms Before Going Live (For Pre-Assigned Groups) 

If you prefer to set up your breakout rooms and assign attendees to each room before going live, here are the steps to do that.

1. Make sure you’ve checked the box under settings to allow you to assign participants to breakout rooms when scheduling.

2. Go to schedule a new meeting. 

3. Find the breakout room section.

4. Click on the links to create rooms and upload a CSV with all of your attendees so you can choose who to assign to which rooms.

Create breakout rooms

5. On the day of, simply use the breakout room tool at the bottom of your screen and attendees will automatically go to their pre-assigned rooms. 

Key benefits of this approach: 

Pre-assigning helps you control the groups and is great for class discussions or pairing up different personalities. It could also be helpful to group families at an event by interest, concerns, or personas. To do that, you’ll want to pre-assign rooms.) 


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How to Set Up Break Rooms During a Live Meeting (For Random Room Assignment) 

If you want to enable breakout rooms during a meeting and randomly push attendees into different rooms, here’s how you can do that. 

1. Select the breakout room button at the bottom of your screen (only hosts or co-hosts can see this!).

2. Choose how many rooms you want to create and how many participants should be in each room. (You’ll get a pop up on your screen asking you to choose these things). 

assigning people to breakout rooms

3. Click “Open All Rooms.” 

opening your breakout rooms

4. Participants will see a pop up on their screen and be moved to a breakout room once they click “leave the current meeting.”

5. To bring everyone back to the room click “Close All Rooms.” 

how to close breakout rooms

6. You’ll see this message at the bottom of the screen and participants will be invited back to the main room. 

close breakout rooms

Note: You can broadcast a message to all members, close the rooms, and help them automatically rejoin the main room. You can also break into the same groups again later in the meeting. You can also choose how long you want the breakout sessions to last which will automatically close the breakout rooms after the set time. Check out Zoom’s help page for more information on managing your breakout rooms. 

Key benefits of this approach: 

This approach is perfect for meetings when you aren’t sure who will attend out of those who registered. It’s also a great way to ensure you don’t end up with any empty rooms if you pre-assigned 12 people and 10 can’t make it. Randomly assigning breakout rooms also helps keep things organic and interesting and requires less planning on your end, although it may require more maintenance on the day of.

Important Reminders

As always, it’s best to test this tool out with a few faculty or staff members before you go live. It’s a slightly more in-depth tool, but with a little bit of practice, you can prepare yourself for the real event. Just remember to practice it exactly how you plan on using it to ensure you’ve ironed out any wrinkles in your plan beforehand (trust us, we learned a few things in our last virtual revisit day!)

Breakout rooms can help you take your virtual events to the next level. Not only will they keep attendees engaged, but they can also help you break up longer events, improve conversation, and foster stronger relationships from far away so you can continue to grow enrollment and recruit more families in the coming months.