Breakout Rooms – Not just for Virtual Events or Training

If you have not yet had the experience of a breakout room in Microsoft Teams, I’d strongly advise you to go and have a play.  

The functionality of a breakout room is to subdivide the attendees into smaller groups for a limited time discussion and then to return them to the main meetings. It’s obvious why this would suit a virtual event or training session, however, there are more ways to use the feature… 

Engagement Workshops 

Whether internally run or consultant-led, an engagement workshop where we are seeking opinions, feedback, insight, and general contribution really benefit from breakout rooms.  

It’s always been the case that people don’t speak up if there are lots of people in a session, so you end up running lots of sessions and needing a full-time member of staff to collate attendees, manage diaries and make sure the balance of voices in a room is correct. These individual sessions can be repetitive for the presenters who need to cover the same introductions and general information many times over.  

So, to use a Teams meeting for the whole large group and then to break out into smaller sessions for discussion is ideal for these workshops. I always think 6 people is maximum for a conversation to truly happen so its best to try to spit into small groups, if you want active discussions.  

You will be pleasantly surprised at just how much progress you can get from a 2-hour workshop when you invite a large group and then split out into two or three 20-30 min breakouts.  

Hackathons 

A Hackathon is a great use case for Breakout rooms, moving teams into their own team space for a designated build time. Its super important to the fun and productivity of a hackathon that the event is timed, and you can use breakouts to limit a planning session, group huddle, presentation recording etc.  

Working Groups 

Even with a less structured working group meeting, you may only have a one-hour slot to cover 3 big topics, so with breakout rooms, you’ll find you can subdivide your audience and have a detailed discussion on one topic each, making the hour super productive for the whole group.  

This works especially well for Pilots, where the pilot group or UAT feedback group needs to focus on one area of functionality, but you need to split the size of the group to get natural conversations happening, especially where some users may not express opinions in front of senior-level team members. The group lead can feed thoughts back in as you re-join the main session.  

User Groups  

Running a user group needs to be extremely thorough – you need to think of the whole audience and find speakers and topics of interest to all. However, you can use the breakout functionality to move into a more intimate Q&A during a session break – if there is a section of the audience that wants to take part, they can be time-limited, so everyone gets back to the main session in time and the speakers know how long they are in a Q&A room for.  

Breaking up your meetings 

You can use breakout rooms for all the above, or just to make your end-to-end meeting schedule more productive, fun and to ensure things finish on time.  

With all use cases you have the added benefit of the hilarious 10 second warning, this is just enough time to start, but not finish a sentence and means as attendees re-join the main group there is usually laughter or at the least smiles – this is a huge ice breaker for the larger, main group and can provide a memorable moment for attendees too.  

If you’ve never set up a breakout room before, here’s how to create & use breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams.

Go play 😊 

Thanks for listening – don’t forget to leave comments below or get in touch with me directly if you’d like to chat about the content posted here or anything to do with the Power Platform – I’m a Business Applications speaker and evangelist with a clear focus on delivering real business value from technology. I speak at least once a month so please find me at an event and #LetsGetCoffee

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