How to use Teams Breakout Rooms like a Pro

Ever wanted to learn how to use Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms? What are they anyhow? During the COVID-19 crisis, usage of online meeting tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom has skyrocketed. Microsoft Teams now has 250 million Monthly Active Users (MAU) based on information from Microsoft’s FY21 Q4 earnings report. This is a huge increase compared to before the COVID-19 crisis. Many universities and schools have moved to primarily providing online classes, where the concept of ‘breakout rooms’ is a necessity. This post will describe how to use breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams and what features Microsoft will be adding in the coming months.

What are Teams Breakout Rooms and why do I need them?

Imagine you’re teaching a class of 20 people. You get to a point where you would like to divide these people in individual smaller groups, so they can work on a task or assignment together. Instead of starting a new meeting for the individual groups, Microsoft introduced breakout rooms earlier this year and you can now manage individual rooms as part of the meeting everyone is already in. People can be placed in a breakout room, where they have the usual meeting capabilities available, like chat and voice calling. As a meeting organizer, you can join these individual breakout rooms when assistance is needed or you would like to discuss something. You can also send announcements to these breakout rooms via chat, or even set a timer when a group discussion should stop before going back to the main meeting. All of this helps in having more effective and efficient online meetings, especially in virtual/online class room meetings.

OK, I’m sold, tell me how!

Currently, only meeting organizers can create breakout rooms (see the upcoming features below). They can do so by selecting the breakout room icon from the meeting controls:

Select Breakout rooms

After clicking on this icon, the meeting organizer will see an additional screen where the number of breakout rooms can be selected, and how people are assigned to these breakout rooms (manually or automatically – you can’t change this later). If you chose to manually assign participants, you can do so by selecting their names and clicking on the Assign button:

Select people to assign to a room

Using the More options button at the top of the Breakout rooms pane allows you to change rooms settings like setting a timer, make announcements or recreate/remove the rooms:

Using the More options menu of a breakout room, you can open, join, rename or delete a breakout room:

Don’t forget to close a room so everyone joins the main meeting again! For more information, please visit this support article from Microsoft.

Upcoming enhancements and changes

As always, Microsoft continuously improves and adds new features to their online services. Microsoft Teams is no exception, and Microsoft has the following new features on the publicly available Microsoft 365 roadmap:

Feature IDDescriptionWhen Expected
81118Breakout Room Presenter support
Extend the management of Breakout Rooms to specific presenters.
September 2021
68745Support for breakout rooms for Microsoft Teams Rooms on Android
Ability to consume breakout rooms feature in Teams meetings.
December 2021
81389New assignment experience in modal window for Breakout Rooms
Enhanced UX for participant assignment. This includes new capabilities such as sorting participants and rooms and performing multiple selections and assignments to rooms.
August 2021

Especially the possibility to extend management of breakout rooms to specific presenters is a much anticipated feature, remember, currently only meeting organizers have the ability to manage breakout rooms! I’ll regularly post updates about breakout room support in Microsoft Teams.

What do you think? Are you using breakout rooms and believe this is a useful feature of Microsoft Teams? Don’t like something? Got tips you would like to share? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!