Finally – Breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams!

Jan 14, 2021 | Microsoft Teams Hints and Tips

After a long wait breakout rooms have now landed in Microsoft Teams.

Although they are available there are likely to be some changes to the finer detail over the next few months as some of the little quirks are ironed out. Breakout rooms can currently only be created from the desktop version of the software but participants can join from desktop, web or mobile.

What are breakout rooms?

Have you ever been in an online meeting where you want to divide people into smaller groups to discuss something before coming back together again? If so, then you would want to create breakout rooms for these sub groups. 

Before this new feature was added this was a really clunky process so this is a welcome addition to the functionality in Microsoft Teams

Creating and managing breakout rooms 

Currently only the meeting organiser can create and adjust breakout rooms and only once the meeting has started. Hopefully this will be changed otherwise the meeting organiser must stay in the meeting even if they are not actively participating. The options you see will vary depending on whether you are the meeting organiser or a meeting participant. 

  • From the toolbar at the top of the screen click on the breakout room icon 
Image of Microsoft Teams Breakout rooms icon
  • Choose how many rooms you need to create and whether people are assigned automatically or manually
Image showing the create breakout rooms on Microsoft Teams
  •  The Breakout Rooms pane will appear on the right and all the breakout room options are controlled from here
Breakout Rooms pane in Microsoft Teams

If people need to be assigned to rooms or moved from one room to another click on the assign participants icon 

Add a new room by clicking the Add room icon. The number of people in a room is shown in brackets.

Initially all rooms are closed but can all be opened automatically by clicking on open rooms or each can be opened individually by clicking on the ellipses next to the room name. When opened the participants in that room automatically jump across to the new room. 

The ellipses also gives the option of join room, rename, close and delete room. All these options are only available to the organiser. 

Close room will force everyone in that room only back into the main meeting. There is also the option of close rooms which closes all the breakout rooms at the same time. 

The meeting organiser can also make announcements to the breakout rooms using the ellipses next to Breakout rooms. For example, “These rooms will be closed in 1 minute” 

The breakout rooms can be recreated from here too. For example, if you needed to regroup everyone randomly for a new task 

There is also the option of Room settings. There are 2 important options to consider here. By default participants are moved to their rooms automatically when the room is opened but they cannot choose to return to the main room until the room is closed.  You may want to consider changing these options, particularly the second one.

Microsoft Teams Breakout rooms settings

Participating in a breakout room

The 2 most important options once you are allocated to a breakout room are the following 

Return – returns you to the main meeting 

Leave – leaves the meeting totally 

Image showing the return and leave action buttons in Microsoft Teams breakout rooms

Other considerations

Another key observation at the point of writing is that the lobby settings for the main meeting are transferred to the breakout rooms at the point they were created. This can prove to be a headache for the organiser.  If the individuals are sent into the breakout rooms they will have to wait in the lobby until the organiser jumps into that breakout room and allows them in. This would have to be done for each breakout room. Also, if someone left the breakout room then rejoined again they would be left once again in the lobby. Hopefully the lobby will be removed from the breakout rooms part of Teams in the future. 

So, as you can see this new feature can be extremely useful but there are a few changes that would make it’s operation much smoother and I’m sure there are more changes to come.

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading about how to use Breakout Rooms on Microsoft Teams, there’s some other blogs below that you might find useful:

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