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Virtual Breakout Room Best Practices

A young women engaging in a Virtual Breakout Room with co-workers
February 22, 2021 4:50 pm

What are the Most Effective Practices for Virtual Breakout Rooms?

Anyone who has been through our facilitation training knows that our number one proactive engagement strategy is sub-grouping. Breaking a larger group into pairs, triads or smaller working groups increases participants’ sense of safety, and comfort in speaking up, dials up the quality of conversation and input and ultimately ensures that a greater diversity of voices are heard.

 What are Virtual Breakout Rooms?

Virtual breakout rooms are sub-rooms created within a larger virtual meeting, enabling attendees to split into smaller groups for detailed discussions, brainstorming, or exercises. This facilitates deeper conversations, encourages participation, and ensures that more voices are heard.

Benefits of Using Virtual Breakout Rooms

  • Promotes active engagement: Dividing participants into pairs or smaller groups increases their sense of safety and willingness to speak.
  • Enhances the quality of conversation: Focused discussions often lead to better ideas and solutions.
  • Diversity of voices: Ensures a broader perspective by hearing from various attendees.

 8 Tips for Having Better Virtual Breakout Room Sessions

In virtual meetings, we notice a dramatic difference when we use breakout rooms as part of the meeting process. But what do virtual facilitators need to consider when planning or launching breakout rooms? The following is an abbreviated list or Breakout Room Best Practices from our new Zoom For Facilitator’s: Mastering Zoom Breakouts and Polling workshop:

1. Provide Clear Instructions

Before diving into breakout sessions, ensure that participants know exactly what’s expected of them. Share detailed instructions in a separate document or paste them into the chat for easy access.

2. Familiarize with a Quick Demo

Not everyone might be familiar with virtual breakout rooms. Start with a quick ice-breaker session:

  • Show them where to find the timer.
  • Point out the “Ask for Help” feature.
  • Guide someone to share their screen or use the whiteboard.
  • Demonstrate how to send broadcast messages.

3. Group Composition: Diverse or Homogenous?

Unless specific outcomes necessitate uniform groups, mix participants across different roles, departments, and skill sets. A diversity of opinions often produces richer results. Also, periodically shuffle group members, but not too frequently—building rapport within groups is beneficial.

4. Assign Roles for Structure

To keep conversations productive, assign meeting roles for the attendees like:

  • Sub-group facilitator: Guides the discussion.
  • Note-taker: Records key points.
  • Reporter: Shares insights with the larger group.
  • Timekeeper: Keeps track of allotted time.
  • Equity monitor: Ensures everyone gets a say.
  • Questioner/devil’s advocate: Challenges ideas for robust discussions.

5. Timed Sessions

Establish a clear time frame for each breakout room session. In general Its important to allocate time frames for each meeting item, this ensures you stick to the agenda and gives participants clarity on time constraints.

6. Name The Rooms 

For self-selected breakout rooms, assign meaningful names to assist participants in choosing their desired group.

7. Announcements

Leverage the broadcast message feature to relay crucial information or reminders.

8. Actively Observe

Occasionally drop into breakout rooms to ensure smooth progress. If you choose to only observe, consider turning off your microphone and video to minimize distractions.


Virtual breakout rooms are a transformative tool in the realm of online meetings. With the right strategies, you can ensure your sessions are both productive and engaging. Whether you’re exploring virtual breakout room activities or simply seeking to elevate your meetings, understanding and implementing these best practices can make a significant difference.

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Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!