How to use Zoom Breakout rooms in your event

Today we have a guest blog by Beth Butler on Breakout Rooms. But before Beth shows you how to use this function. We want to show you why we need them.

“Its 10 times easier to tune out during online calls than in person”

One way to prevent this dynamic is to make the meeting as interactive as possible. Change the learning style/engagement every 15 minutes. Encourage participation through the group chat. Encourage guests to respond visually with the icons.

But the best way to do this is by breaking into small groups, you not only keep attention but you encourage participation. We have a short sermon with small groups afterwards. Most of these groups worked really well. Here is some feedback from our church from last week…

“It was great to have an opportunity to reflect on what has been shared in the service. Such a helpful way of engaging with the talk and helps for the message to stick in our heads”

Wonderful time and great opportunity to talk to two others I’ve never chatted with before! Thanks guys! Be blessed and positively ‘infectious’ this week

“Thank you all really enjoyed that. Enjoyed the discussion

Group conversations work best with 4-5 people, so keep your groups small. There are many interactive functions for group discussion too. Church is the gathering of Christians, we want to try and create something which takes the best of church as we knew it and create an online equivalent. So we’ve redeployed our welcome team and made them online welcome team. We use the Breakout rooms from 10-10.30am for welcome. After the talk we use the groups to discuss the passage and pray for each other. After the service we open up rooms, encourage everyone to go and make a cup of tea and come back from a catch up. Read more here.

Guest blog post by Beth Butler.

Beth works for Crosslands and also studies with them. She lives in Newcastle and loves sharing Jesus with international students and the opportunities that brings. 

Zoom can feel a little daunting looking at all the different settings in the browser. Many settings you don’t need to worry about but I want to explain technically how a few of these work so that you can get the most out of Zoom during this time of isolation. This blog explains how breakout rooms work. They have become a very useful feature in small groups and just to make zoom calls with lots of people feel slightly less overwhelming.

Firstly, you need to go to your web browser and log into you zoom account to change the settings:




It is under ‘Settings’ in ‘Advanced’. Turn it on.

NB: You need to do this before you start the meeting.

Once this setting has been turned on you should see this symbol in the bar at the bottom when you are on a call.






Once the call starts you can put people into breakout rooms either by automatically allocating or manually allocating people to a group. It depends how you want to split your group. If there is a large number of people it is probably better to randomly allocate.

NB: You can allocate breakout rooms based on people’s email addresses if you know who is joining the call-in advance but everyone MUST log into zoom with the same emails that groups have been allocated with otherwise it doesn’t work.

To create breakout rooms click the ‘Breakout Rooms’ at the bottom of your screen.

This box should appear:






Here you can choose how many rooms you want people to be split into. For allocating automatically select that option and then click ‘Create Breakout Rooms’.

Then this box should appear:

Here you can see all the people and which rooms they have been split into. If you do want to move a couple of people around that is very easy. Select the person you want to move and then click ‘move to’. Choose which room you would like to move them too and click it.

Once you are happy with the rooms then click ‘Open All Rooms’.

NB: If you would like to have a couple of times during a session using breakout rooms even if you randomly allocate the first time, Zoom will remember those groups so people can return to the same breakout group within a session. If you want to have different breakout groups each time you have them during one session then you just need to click ‘Recreate’ and you can change the number of participants or number of rooms. Then it will automatically recreate new breakout rooms.

Others on the call will then receive a notification that looks like this:







NB: If people don’t ‘leave’ the main room then it will either be because they didn’t click ‘join Breakout Room’ when this message came up or because for some reason they weren’t allocated. Get them to click the ‘Breakout Room’ symbol on the bar at the bottom and if they have been allocated a breakout room they will be able to accept the invitation here.

You can see whether they have been allocated. If they have not been allocated you will also be able to see this from the breakout room list. (the screenshot above) Next to those who haven’t accepted their invitation to join a particular breakout room it will say ‘Not Joined’ so you can then tell those people they need to accept the invitation.

If someone has not been allocated to a breakout room then their name will appear above the list of whose in which breakout room. You can then easily move them to a breakout room using the same method as moving people between breakout rooms.

Once everyone has gone to their breakout room you will notice that the ‘chat’ won’t be able to communicate with everyone because there is no one in the main room anymore.

NB: If people in breakout rooms need help there is a button on the bar at the bottom of their screen when they enter the breakout room which says ‘Help’. This allows them to call the ‘host’ into there breakout room. You can also enter different breakout rooms and check that everyone is doing ok and then leave again.

Therefore, if you want to send a message to all the groups you will need to do a ‘broadcast’. To get to the screen that looks like this again:

Click the ‘breakout room’ symbol in the bottom bar again. This window should then appear.

To broad cast a message you go to the bottom left hand corner and click ‘Broadcast a message to all’. Then type in the message and click ‘broadcast’.

This will appear like this on everyone else’s screen:

NB: This message only appears for a short time so if you are wanting to share a document with people for group discussion then the best way of doing this is to put the link to the document in the chat before you send everyone off to their breakout rooms. If you are using google docs or sheets make sure the share settings are set correctly.

When the discussion time is over and you want to call everyone back into the ‘main room’ then go back to the ‘breakout room’ symbol on the bar at the bottom of the screen. Click it and when the list of people pops up (see below):

Then click ‘Close All Rooms’ in the bottom right hand corner.

You will then get a message saying:

The count down starts from 60 seconds.

Those in the breakout rooms will receive this message:

This will allow them to finish up their discussion before the room closes. If they finish before the minute is up they can return to the main room. After a minute everyone who hasn’t already returned will be forced back into the ‘main room’.

NB: It is possible to change the amount of time the countdown is but this must be done before you break everyone out into their groups. This can be done by getting this box back up:

Click on ‘Options’ in the left hand corner.

This box should then appear:

You can then change the settings here. The one to change the countdown is the bottom one. There are a few options.

Published by Nay Dawson

Nay works with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. She works on the European Regional leadership team for the charity. She was the Revive Extra Plenary Director for one of largest Student Conferences in Europe. Nay is the founder of Passion for Evangelism. PfE is a network of creative, public female speakers. Helping hundereds of women grow in confidence in public communication. Nay set up an initiative called Community in a crisis. CIAC has been helping churches and charities across Europe get online during the pandemic.

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