Zoom: Create and use breakout rooms

Zoom allows you to split a meeting into smaller groups. These “breakout rooms” can be used to conduct smaller side sessions as part of a larger meeting.

Before you start, you may need access to the following:

Set up your breakout rooms

To use breakout rooms, you'll need to decide how many rooms you want and assign students to those rooms. Depending on your preference, you can make these decisions before a meeting or while it is happening.

Use pre-assignments before the meeting

If you know who will be attending a session and want to give them assignments ahead of time, you can use this option. Zoom won't tell participants their assignments before a meeting, but will send them to the correct breakout room once you open all of them. If a meeting is recurring, pre-assignments will carry over from one instance of a meeting to another. Don't use the recurring meeting feature if you want to redo pre-assignments for each meeting.

The person scheduling the meeting must make pre-assignments on Zoom's website:

  1. Log into Zoom's web portal.
  2. Click Meetings to find a previously schedule meeting or Schedule to create a new one. 
  3. Under Options, check Breakout Room pre-assign.
  4. If all meeting participants have Bryn Mawr Zoom accounts, click on + Create RoomsOtherwise, click on Import from CSV.

Create Rooms 

  1. On the next pop-up menu, click the (alt text "Add a room) to add rooms. These rooms will automatically be named "Room 1", "Room 2", etc. However, you can rename them one the meeting starts. 
  2. Once you've made all your rooms, select one and search for participants using the Add Participants search bar.
    Breakout room assignment menuThis participant can either be moved from Room 2 to another or Removed 
    If you move someone to an incorrect room. hover over their name and select Move to, to send them to another room, or Remove, to simply remove them from the room they're currently in.
  3. When finished, click Save.

Note: If you can’t find someone, that means they don’t have a BMC Zoom account. Use the Import from CSV option to pre-register them or wait until after the meeting starts to manually assign them to a room.

Import from CSV

  1.  Once you select Import from CSV, a pop-up window will appear. In it, click download to download a sample CSV file that you will be able to edit
Breakout room templateBreakout Room template from Zoom
  1. Open it in spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel.
  2. Add the email address of each participant and the room you are assigning them to in the appropriate columns. Zoom will automatically create the room listed in the room name column of your spreadsheet.
  3. Save your spreadhseet, making sure to use the CSV file format.
  4. Back in Zoom, the Import Rooms and Participants from CSV file menu will be open. Select Drag & Drop your CSV File and import your spreadsheet.
  5. Click Save.

Note: For best results, ask participants for the e-mail address associated with their accounts and remind them to use that account when the meeting. If they log in with another account, they'll need to be manually placed into a breakout room (supposing they can even log in to the meeting). The same applies for those that are not assigned a breakout room before the meeting.

Create breakout rooms during the meeting

Once a meeting has started, the host (as well as alternative hosts or co-hosts) can create breakout rooms and assign participants to them:

  1. Click More > Breakout Rooms.
  2. If you haven’t made pre-assignments, select the number of rooms you want and how to assign participants to them:
    • Assign Automatically: Zoom splits participants randomly and evenly across rooms.
    • Assign Manually: You assign participants to specific rooms.
    • Let participants choose room
    • Breakout rooms windowBreakout room menu
  3. Click Create.
  4. The Breakout Rooms window will list all breakout rooms and — if you chose automatic assignments or made pre-assignments — and the participants assigned to them. From this window, you can:
    • Rename a room: Hover over the room name and click Rename.
    • Remove a room: Hover over the room name and click Delete Room.
    • Add participants: Click Assign (for empty rooms) or the number of participants and check the box next to their names.
    • Reassign participants: Hover over a name and click Move to, to send them to another room, or Exchange, to have them swap places with another participant. 
    • Recreate: this will allow you to reset the way participants are assigned to rooms

Start breakout rooms

Once a host or co-host has arranged the meeting's breakout rooms, they can select Open All Rooms.  When they do, one of the following things will happen:

  • If participants are allowed to choose rooms: they can click on Breakout Rooms to view the list of rooms. They can hover over a room's name and click Join to enter.

Note: If participants can’t select their own rooms despite the setting being enabled, they are probably using an older version of Zoom. The host or a co-host can manually can assign them to a room instead. They can upgrade their Zoom later to have this option in future meetings.

  • If participants have had rooms selected for them: a pop-up box will open inviting them to join their assigned room. If the setting is enabled, they may also be sent automatically to their room.
  • If participants can't choose rooms and don't have assignments: they will remain in the main meeting space.

Manage breakout rooms

Each breakout room is a miniature version of the main Zoom meeting. Participants have the same permissions in the breakout rooms as they do in the main meeting. The only exception is that all participants can chat and mute/unmute themselves while in the breakout rooms (there is no way to change this).

Some points to keep in mind while managing breakout rooms:

  • While breakout rooms are in session, the host or a co-host can continue to make room assignments.
  • The host or co-host can use Join/Leave buttons in the Breakout Rooms window to visit rooms.
  • If you want participants to have different screen or video-sharing abilities, click Security while in the main meeting space and change the settings immediately before you open the breakout rooms.
  • Zoom recordings only capture the main meeting room. If you need to record one or more breakout rooms, you will need to enable local recording for the meeting and ask someone in those breakout rooms to record the room.
  • If you need to share documents with breakout room participants, you can:
    • Post the documents in the main meeting chat and ask participants to download them before opening the breakout rooms.
    • Arrange for one person in each breakout room to have the documents and be responsible of posting them to or sharing their screen to display them in the breakout room.
  • Zoom chats will be breakout-room specific:
    • Participants (including hosts, alternative hosts, and co-hosts) who are in a breakout room will only be able to chat with others in that room.
    • Participants (including hosts, alternative hosts, and co-hosts) who are not in a breakout room will only be able to chat with others in the main meeting area.
  • The host or a co-host can click Broadcast to share to a written or voice message to all breakout rooms (messages can not be broadcast to specific rooms).
  • Participants in breakout rooms can click the Raise Hand from the Reactions to signal to the host and co-host that they have a question.

Close breakout rooms

Even if hosts or co-hosts have set breakout rooms to close after a certain number of minutes, they can close breakout rooms at any time.

  1. If not already in the Breakout Rooms menu, click More > Breakout Rooms. 
  2. Click Close All Rooms.

Depending on the break room settings, all participants will then see a timer counting down to when the room will close (this cannot be turned off). The timer can go from ten seconds to two minutes. At any point, participants can select Leave now to exit the room.

Advanced breakout room options 

Videos and further reading about Breakout Rooms


If you have any additional questions or problems, don't hesitate to reach out to the Help Desk!

Phone: 610-526-7440 | Library and Help Desk hours
Email: help@brynmawr.eduService catalog
Location: Canaday Library 1st floor