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How to do “breakout rooms” in Microsoft Teams – a real life example

Published Jul 08 2020 08:00 AM 373K Views

I’m pretty sure no one missed the rapid increase in remote working during the first half of 2020. Something that also became very clear in the Microsoft Teams UserVoice were entries that were pretty unknown before rapidly rose in number of votes.

One of those entries that I’d like to talk about today is breakout rooms – you know the possibility to have a group of people in a meeting, then automagically move them to separate “rooms” and when you’re finished automagically get all the participants back to the original meeting. Microsoft recently announced that breakout rooms are actually on it’s way, sometime during this fall it will be available – here you can read more.

But I needed the feature now and not later, wherefore I searched for the clever ideas from the Microsoft Teams community. With inspiration from Vesku’s blog post I decided to try this at my new client, follow along the rest of this post where I show you how I did it!

A virtual workshop with 27 participants, in an organization new to Microsoft Teams (besides using meetings and chat for a couple of weeks). Jumping back and forth between the “main room” and breakout rooms between exercises.

This could be exciting – right :cool:.


Before the workshop
Let’s start with the prerequisites, and it’s pretty simple - you need a private team in Microsoft Teams.



The next step is very important and that is to NOT invite the participants to the team before you’ve done all the preparations. We don’t want annoyed people getting 1 million calendar invites even before the workshop started. I sent one calendar invite in which I copied the meeting link to the general main room.

And time for prepping, first some “technical” preparations:

1. I added a channel per discussion group. For my particular case we ended with 5 breakout rooms and the general channel as the main room. I made all the channels standard channels, no need to have private channels *transparency*



2. I didn’t find changing the general team settings necessary, but you can do it to remove the possibility of doing anything besides what is needed for the workshop. I removed all options besides deleting and editing posts



3. When we have all the channels it’s time to fill them with content, I added a friendly welcome message. Since everyone in the workshop can jump into any channel, I decided to post all names of the group members to make it easier for the users



4. Then it’s time to create all the different meeting rooms. One channel meeting is the same as a meeting room, so we’ll start with a common room – that needs to be scheduled in the general channel. Just add the channel and no participants



And then it’s just time to schedule a meeting group room per group, when you’re done it should look something like this in your calendar:



And this is how it should look in the channels (this is the general room and a group room):




5. When all of this was done it’s ok to add all the participants, I waited until the day before to add the participants to avoid too much happening in the team

And then we did a couple of preparations for the users, to ensure that the workshop experience would be as smooth as possible for the participants:

1. Since the users were new to teams in Microsoft Teams, I prepared a guide on how to join the meetings and how to switch between the general room and the group rooms
2. We assigned the different groups before and informed the participant about this is your group, so all the people would know what group room to join
3. For each group, a note taker was assigned, this person got the material before and knew that she/he would take all the notes during the exercises

After the preparations were done it was just time to wait :smile:.

During the workshop
Fast forward a couple of weeks and it was finally time for the anticipated workshop!

Me and my co-presenter met 30 minutes early to start all the meetings, this to get the nice joining experience for all the participants. But note that you can only be in four meetings at the same time.



Another thing I found important during the meeting (and that I would recommend for most larger meetings) was having a moderator. Someone that will keep track of the chat when the presenter is presenting, makes it much easier.

Once all the people joined it was time to start.



Since this was a group of people not usually working together, we started with a presentation of everyone, tricky you might say? We solved it by going A-Ö by last name and my co-presenter giving the word to the person next in line. It worked super smoothly.

And the workshop was in full speed!

One last thing that I believe was a success factor for this workshop was that before all the groups went to discuss in their own rooms, we asked to assign a timekeeper to keep track of the time. And you know what? People were on time and we didn’t spend too much time waiting at all :lol:. Fantastic.

Three hours passed in a minute and the workshop was over, with lots of great insights delivered.

I was really impressed with how smooth it went. Only technical issues we had was with people joining from the mobile since the jumping between meetings isn’t working there. When I do it again, I will probably add a help section on how to do it from mobile.

And don’t forget to follow the UserVoice for live updates about breakout rooms :happyface:!


This is awesome Amanda! Thank you for sharing. 

Senior Member

Great ideas Amanda!

Frequent Visitor

You noted that created a guide on how to move between rooms. Could you share some of that? 

I'm a professor that is using teams in the fall rather than Zoom, though my university isn't enabling classrooms. I have a number of channels set up for group project work. I've started putting together a simple how-to for my students, but want an easier explanation on how to switch meeting rooms (so I can start class in the main class channel, and then have students move into their groups for group project work). I already have shared file spaces for the groups with some initial resources. I'm just trying to make the moving back and forth as easy as possible. 


Very useful trick! Thanks for sharing, @Amanda_Sterner . Would you mind sharing your guide on how to jump between group rooms and general room? 

@ericcoxtcu and @Ricardo365 

It was a very few simple steps but here they are :smiling_face_with_smiling_eyes:


1. Connect to the main room

2. Find you group room by clicking Team in the left rail, find the team and channel. Connect to the group room meeting (do not end the main meeting)

3. The user can jump between the different rooms 



I also made sure to start all the meetings before the workshop started, this to make the Connect button availible :hugging_face:. Also note there is a limit in how many meetings you can be in at the same time (I think it's four). 


Good luck and hope it helps :sparkles:

Frequent Visitor

@Amanda_Sterner Thank you! I thought it was that easy, but was worried I was missing something. 


@Amanda_Sterner Thanks again! You made my day! :happyface:

Occasional Visitor

Do we know if Microsoft will be releasing Break Out Rooms on the Fly?  Channels are great and I plan to use them with my students, but there are times that random breakout rooms like Zoom would be a great benefit.


Frequent Contributor

@deandsmith If you follow the UserVoice you'll get updates on when real breakout rooms are coming - UserVoice for live updates about breakout rooms 


Not sure how it will work, but my guess is a little bit smoother than this :stareyes:

Senior Member

Can I restrict who has access to a breakout room.  So only the members can see it and not others.

I don't see a way to add people do the breakout rooms.  I can add them via an invite only?  Or I need some remedial Teams 101!







Hi, in my case everyone had access to everything. I don't see any problem with that kind of openness and transparency :smiling_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Here's a guide on how to add members to a team:


There are ways to limit access to channels by using private ones, here your can read more on that:



Senior Member

Hi Amanda!


Nice to hear from you!


We might have the need for privacy and also avoiding confusion with too many rooms.


Thanks for the great Teams info and the reply!

New Contributor

Bonjour Amanda et merci pour ce retour d'experience !


Je dois créer un événement pour une entreprise extérieure, et je vais devoir balader les participants régulièrement entre la salle principale et leur breakout rooms. 

Est-ce qu'il est possible que ce soit moi qui les dirige ou devons nous compter sur leur ponctualité ? 

Dans ce cas est-ce que Teams propose une fonction chat qui permet d'envoyer un message à tous les participants de toutes les différentes Breakout Rooms au même moment ? (ex: Il est temps de rejoindre la salle principale)


D'autre part est-il possible pour moi de me balader de breakout room en breakout room pour aider les participants? (Il y en aura 8 en tout)


Enfin, cet événement est prévu pour une entreprise extérieure qui utilise déjà Teams. Pour un autre événement similaire c'est l'entreprise elle même qui a du créer les breakout rooms, car en tant que personne extérieure je ne pouvais pas configurer ce genre d’événement et les inviter dessus. Je ne sais pas si je suis très claire mais est-ce possible de créer cet événement sur mon TEAMS, d'y inviter une AUTRE entreprise, de garder les droits sur le déroulement de la session, sans aucun conflit possible ? 


MERCI beaucoup de votre aide,



Occasional Visitor

Amanda, when subgroups move to the channels/breakout rooms, are they able to share real-time video the way they can in the "main" room?


I'm looking for a platform to present relationship skills training. Need to be able to have couples move to breakout rooms to practice the skills they are learning, and to have facilitators/coaches pop on and out to observe and give them feedback on their use of the skills including posture and body language. Can't do that if all we can share is text or audio.


Can't use Zoom. Can't get IT to install it on our organizational computers. I can use Webex, which does have breakout rooms, but there's no real-time video of the participants, just file-sharing, content-sharing, white-boards and real-time audio.



I actually think it worked really well with trusting on peoples punctuality, have some extra time prepared if you need it (but I haven't needed it so far). 


If you use this strategy you can post the same messages in several channels at the same time. Start writing a message in the main room, click the little A with a pen icon and you'll get more options. Choosing Post in multiple channels!


Multiple channels.png


I think it should be enough, otherwise you could jump between the rooms and tell people to get back :). 


You can invite external people to a team and make this possible, so creating the team on your side and invite the external ones shouldn't be an issue. 


Good luck :stareyes:




@Fr_Landon Yes you can have voice, video and chat in all of the rooms :raising_hands:

Occasional Visitor

Thank you, Amanda.


Hey @Vivekvp - we also needed private rooms so I set up five private channels and added the people to each room beforehand. That way, there was no risk of someone dropping into the wrong room! 

Frequent Visitor

I've had a lot of success this semester using both pre-done groups for my classes using group projects and open breakout rooms. For pre-done groups, I created private groups and added students to them. The one challenge was realizing that, even when I scheduled meetings, students in private or public channels could actually start multiple meetings. Once we realized this, we solved it by having one student enter the room and let others know s/he was starting the video chat.

From there, I have no trouble moving back and forth to rooms, and students are also able to invite me to answer specific questions. 


I would like a zoom-like ability to pull people back to the main channel, but I've had a fair amount of success with students paying attention to the time and coming back to the main group at the prescheduled time. 


So the workaround is working, and for long-term group projects, works better than Zoom. For instant dividing students into random breakout rooms, it is not as good.

Frequent Visitor



I have allocated my students to channels and invited them all to a Teams meeting.  Do you advise that I should also invite them to a meeting of their individual channel?


Ted Smith


Frequent Visitor

Ted- I started out inviting them to meetings, but now I set it up so that we meet in the full class first, then I send students to the teams. They can create a new meeting in the channel instantly if they have permission (I have my permissions set to allow it). The key is that you or the students need to coordinate who starts the meeting in the team as it is possible to start multiple meetings. I can move through the channels joining meetings to observe, or, if they have a question, they can request that I join. It has worked really well for me. 

Frequent Visitor

Thanks. I’ll try that. Ted. 

Senior Member

Enabling the below in Teams settings. That would be handy as the meetings will pop out of the main Teams app.

  • Turn on new meeting experience (New meetings and calls will open in separate windows. Requires restarting Teams.)

Screenshot 2020-09-17 101132.png


Frequent Visitor

Thanks for that. It was turned on so that will help. 



I've created the meetings in a channels before, but I haven't sent any other invitation than for the main room. 


But just as @ericcoxtcu says they can do a "meet now" and you don't need to prep before :)

Occasional Visitor

Would hope, please, the upcoming "on-the-fly" breakout room capability is very simple : "create a breakout group", then "add members to breakout group" - from a pulldown list.

@duanedel from the demos I've seen it look really easy :) 


Here's a article with a few printscreens:

Occasional Visitor

Can I add two channels(breakout rooms) to one recurring meeting?  I am doing virtual teaching for preschool special education and want to teach each child individually but have both online at the same time.


Frequent Visitor

@bellis1095 You don't actually have to create separate channels if you are trying to meet with each student individually once class starts. You can breakout by going to the chat tool - it should be the second icon on the main menu on the left side of the screen. You can start a new chat with the student you want to meet with individually and instantly start a video meeting. As long as they are online, they should immediately see the new meeting. You will go on hold in main meeting. Once you end the chat with the one student, you can return to the main meeting, then let the next student know they are going to get a notice (I assume their parents are with them).

Let me know if this makes sense. I've done this a few times to talk to students individually during class. Students can also start an individual chat with me during group projects. 

Occasional Visitor

Thank you, this is very useful. But not sure what the potential issues are and why some people mentioned it is a complicated process. Once I have created say 5 breakout rooms in the channel and assigned participants to each of them (2 minutes), are there any limitiations to who can join them and when? I don't see any so far except that I cannot be in all of them at once, which shouldn't be an issue. It seems particpants can meet in their meeting room even when the main session is not opened by me. I can go in a room at any time to  tell them to come back, or message in their chat. Am I missing something?

Regular Visitor

Hello @Amanda_Sterner ! Thanks for this. 


Just wanted to ask can guest access the channels? To join the breakout rooms.



You can add them as guest to the team :) (if your organization allows that).



Occasional Contributor

This is great, but does anyone know whether there will be the ability to allow participants to select which breakout room they want to attend? I'm trying to use teams for a virtual 'fair' with speakers as well as networking opportunities, exhibitors, etc.  Thanks in advance!

@CIH_Yohe Based on your description I don't think breakout rooms is what you are looking for. 


@Mark Vale did you put togheter a blog post on Commsverse? I remember I've read something but I can't find it :sad_but_relieved_face:

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