(Pocket-lint) - We've all been there, in a Zoom call with a dozen other people and everyone goes silent because those intimate conversations you normally have at a party with a close friend are now being broadcast to all that are on the call, and that's not that great.

One of Zoom's business-orientated features is also one of its best when it comes to either the office or when your at home trying to celebrate the holiday season - Breakout Rooms. This feature can split a Zoom with stacks of people into small groups of a few people where it's easier to communicate. Indeed, the app supports up to 50 small sessions. 

This obviously has a use in business, but we've heard of church and community groups that are using it as well, and we've even heard of one family using it to break out the kids, grandparents, and parents so they can all chat with their respective peers. As the host of the meeting, you can create assign people to the groups or do it randomly. You can also bring people back together after the small groups have taken place.

Breakout Groups needs to be enabled in your Zoom web portal - see below. And if you're hosting the meeting, you need to be on the Windows or Mac Zoom app during your meeting to start off the Breakout Groups. Basically, you can only participate in a group but not set them up if you're on the mobile app. 

Joining a Breakout Group

If you're in a meeting hosted by someone else, they will need to manage the Breakout Room groups (unless they assign you to be host). You'll see a pop-up request to join a Breakout Room unless your host has made it mandatory. You can choose to join Later, in which case you'll stay in the main meeting. 

If you're in the Breakout Group yo can either then leave the Breakout Group back to the main meeting or leave the meeting entirely.

Click Join Breakout Room.

Setting Zoom up so you can manage Breakout Groups

Firstly, if you're going to be changing this setting you need to have the ability to manage your account (so you either need to be an admin or have your own account).

Zoom

In the navigation menu in the Zoom web portal, click Account Management then Account Settings. Go to the Breakout Room option on the Meeting tab and check that the setting is enabled. Be warned - this page has huge numbers of options so you might have to hunt around for it. You also might have to confirm your choice - see above. 



You can also click the checkbox to allow meeting hosts to pre-assign participants to breakout rooms.

Zoom



You can also click the checkbox to allow meeting hosts to pre-assign participants to breakout rooms.

Enabling Breakout Groups for a group

You can also choose to enable this for a specific group. 

In the navigation menu on the Zoom web portal, click User Management then Group Management. Click the name of the group, then click the Settings tab.

Navigate to the Breakout Room option on the Meeting tab and verify that the setting is enabled.

Starting Breakout Groups 

When you're in a meeting click Breakout Rooms. Select the number of rooms you would like to create, and how you would like to assign your participants to those rooms - they can be done: 

  • Automatically - Zoom will split participants up evenly into each of the rooms.
  • Manually - Choose which participants you would like in each room. You will need to click Assign on each room when created and add people using the checkboxes. 

We've done it automatically before and it actually worked really well. 

Zoom

Then Click Create breakout rooms. Your rooms will be created but participants won't join them until you are ready. 

In Options, you can choose to move everyone into breakout rooms automatically and even set a time limit for the breakout meetings. 

Clicking Open all rooms will then give all users a prompt to join their Breakout Groups unless you have made them mandatory. 

Pre-assigning people to Breakout Groups

Breakout Groups are random unless you pre-assign people - here's how to do this before the meeting starts. You can only do this if the participants have a Zoom account. 

Sign in to the Zoom web portal. Click Meetings and schedule a meeting or edit an existing one. Make sure you have enabled Join before host.

Then in the Meeting Options section, select Breakout Room pre-assign and click Create Rooms. You can then assign people. 

There's more on the ins and outs of assigning people here

Writing by Dan Grabham. Editing by Stuart Miles.