How to Use Breakout Rooms: 10 Tips to Supercharge Webinars & Groups! by Jennifer Britton

Coach showing how to use breakout rooms on desktop in office

As a coach, team and group coaching trainer and virtual meetings expert, I am often asked how to use breakout rooms, a powerful tool that helps us create connection in our webinars and groups. I wonder:

  • Do you already use Breakout Rooms as a powerful engagement tool to turn a passive webinar into a memorable, impactful conversation?
  • Or perhaps you'd like to reinvigorate your online meetings and sessions with some great Breakout Room tips?

Either way, you'll find this article on how to use breakout rooms helpful.

So first, what is a Breakout Room?

A breakout room is a tool or process provided by meeting apps that puts our attendees into groups—and then allows people to engage with each other, separate from the main meeting.

Breakouts are a powerful tool to create connection, learning and an action plan for moving learning off the screen. They provide an opportunity for group members to connect and articulate what's important to them. This is key in a group coaching process where it's not just about listening to others, but also having airtime yourself.

And below we explore 10 tips for how to use breakout rooms—practical things to keep in mind as you go to create your next webinar or group program.

TIP: While many of us now think of breakouts as solely part of the virtual space, these ideas apply to in-person gatherings too!

Here are 10 Tips for How to Use Breakout Rooms to Supercharge Your Webinars

1. Consider the purpose

The first factor to consider is outcomes: get clear on why you're integrating breakouts. Is it to:

  • Energize the group and get them talking?
  • Connect people?
  • Create clarity around a complex topic where people can share insights or best practices?
  • Support accountability, thinking about how people will apply their learning offscreen?
  • Create a memorable experience?

2. Consider the size of your breakout room

Keep the breakout room size small: three to four is often the best size for a breakout room. This is large enough in case anyone has any technical challenges and can't join/contribute, but small enough to help the group keep connected.

Breakouts of two or three people are also quite common, especially in the remote space.

A group larger than five often starts to splinter. And remember: the more people in a room, the more likely "social loafing" becomes, where fewer people will speak out and some may avoid speaking altogether.

In addition, the more people you have in a breakout room, the longer it takes for everyone to share—so you will need to allow more time.

3. Provide clear instructions

What do you want people to do or discuss?

Be clear with your instructions and check for understanding. You may want to repeat the instructions or put them in the chat.

Zoom also offers a facility that allows you to send messages to the people in your breakout rooms. So use this to remind people of any instructions or the question they are considering.

4. Consider how people will share their breakout room learnings

Consider how each group will share key learnings from the breakout.

Will someone present verbally, or does each group share their top three to five ideas in the chat? Consider the process as part of your webinar planning, and before people go to breakouts.

5. Assign roles within the breakout room

Just as for in-person meetings, who will lead the conversation, keep time, take notes or report back? You can assign the roles or get someone in the group to do so.

6. Provide enough time

Consider how much time is enough for the conversation. It takes time for people to get into the room, get set up, settle and then move into the conversation. Usually, 8–15 minutes is a good range for a more substantive process.

Also, do the people already know each other? If not, you may want to consider short introductions during the breakout time.

7. Monitor and communicate time

Use a running timer in the room so people know where they're at.

Many virtual platforms allow for a timer to run in the room so people can monitor their time. If this option is not available, then use the broadcast function to remind people when to switch roles or activities, and give them notice as the breakout comes to an end.

8. Provide clear instructions on what people need to bring back from the breakout

Be sure to clearly communicate your expectations. What should your attendees expect when they return to the main webinar or group? And what do you expect from people coming back to the room?

If necessary, show people what you mean, and describe and repeat anything you want them to do or discuss.

9. Integrate a fun activity

Breakouts are not just for sharing. They can be a powerful energizer, or an opener or closer for your webinar.

Consider incorporating these breakout room activities:

  • Energize the group: Get people to engage in an A–Z scavenger hunt using the materials around As a group, they can find things in their environment for each letter of the alphabet and hold them up to the camera.
  • Make it personal: Get people to share the most important thing they’ve heard in what you’ve been discussing or exploring so far.
  • Share the wisdom: Have people share one resource they use that relates to the topic at hand.

Two great closing activities:

  • Action: Have people share the one step they will take to put what they’ve learned into action.
  • Key Learnings: Get people to create a Top 5 or Top 10 list of their key learnings. Be aware that the longer the list, the more time it will take.

10. Do it again!

If you have a long enough call, consider keeping people in the same group for the next breakout so they have the necessary trust and connection to go a little deeper into their conversation. (Though sometimes it can also be valuable to mix things up!)


So, there we have 10 tips for how to use breakout rooms and make your breakouts a success.

What will you do to incorporate more breakouts into your group coaching conversations?


  • Which tip did you like best?
  • What new ideas will you incorporate into your breakout rooms going forward?

And lastly, what questions and tips do YOU have for breakout rooms? Share your ideas in the comments below.

EDITOR'S NOTE: And if like me you need some technical tips on how to use Zoom Breakouts to get started, check out this short, helpful Breakout Room beginners tutorial video on YouTube here

Jennifer Britton

Contributing Author:

Jennifer Britton, MES, CHRP, CPT, PCC, is the author of seven books and has influenced a generation of coaches in the realms of team and group coaching. You may have read her writing, including Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010), the first book in the world to be published on the topic of group coaching; From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching; or her latest, Reconnecting Workspaces: Pathways to Thrive in the Virtual, Remote and Hybrid World (2021).

Since 2006, Jennifer's Group Coaching Essentials and Advanced Group and Team Coaching Practicum programs have become known as the must-do training in the area of group coaching. Focused on providing coaches with best practices in designing, marketing and implementing group coaching, these programs have helped thousands of coaches launch their own group and team coaching programs in a wide variety of settings (public, corporate, non-profit). Together both courses are approved for 18.75 ICF CCEUs. These are the first two of 10 course pathways leading to certificates in Group and Team Coaching.

Potentials Realized's ICF-CCE programs are geared for aspiring group and team coaches, especially those wanting to work toward the New Advanced Credential in Team Coaching (ACTC) with the ICF.

Also check out our neuroscience course for group and team coaches (NLE-A), Team Coaching Essentials  and ACTIVATE Your Team and Group Coaching Superpowers. Prefer podcasts? Listen in to the Remote Pathways podcast, which explores the many different pathways to remote work, business and leadership.

Learn more about Jennifer & see all their articles here >>

Image of Coach showing how to use breakout rooms on desktop in office by Studio Romantic via Shutterstock


  1. Chantaine Bulluck

    #3 is key! I've been sent to so many breakout rooms, and the first question from most is "what are we suppose to be doing?" I didn't know you could send a message to breakout rooms, so I'll be sure to answer this question for any breakout rooms I create from now on!
    Thank you!

  2. Sue Gunselman

    These tips are awesome! As a participant in many break out rooms for different organizations, I find I get to know people better and have made one-on-one connections with them after the webinar. It is a great net-working vehicle and I always learn something new to put in my tool box. Collaborating and hearing other peers' opinions and stories helps me be more creative, plus gives me a new perspective about the subject matter.

    I also feel these tips would be just as useful in live seminars. As an instructor and educator, I find that when I break my students into small groups, they not only bond, but learn, from each other. It's a great ice-breaker and they freely share their questions (and fears), once they get to know and work with each other. It helps to build trust between them and validates they are "not alone" when they feel lost, or uncertain about the material being taught. Likewise, when I hold my seminars, interacting with the guests and having them participate in small groups makes them feel more confident, assured, and optimistic towards the program content.

    I'm a huge fan of teamwork and breakout rooms are a great vehicle to create a team-style atmosphere among the participants.

    • Tracy

      I'm another vote for clear instructions. I find breakouts are especially valuable near the end of the meeting. After the breakouts discuss what is clearly assigned, they can quickly give their top (tip, idea, take away etc) and the summary of the meeting is done for you by the participants.

  3. Marli

    #6 - Provide enough time is so important and one that I've discovered is vital as you've described @Jennifer Britton!
    Thank you for a succinct summary of these effective tips!

  4. Andrew

    When we were kids (not that long ago) we learned by having fun. Now, that we are adults (I hope :-)) how do we make adult conversations and learning "fun"?

  5. Frank

    These are critical tips that any great trainer must embrace when preparing for break-out room activities. I like every tip but especially how to prepare closing activities Also, the tips are essential when we prepare and deliver webinars.

  6. Susan Tayag

    Great tips Jennifer!

    I particularly liked Tip numbers 4,5 and 6. Usually, the settling in, introductions, and clarity of what to do are not considered when breakout room activities are set up. Thus, we usually experience a lull in the first minute, with no one daring to lead the activity, or they get into small talk and introductions eating up the time for the actual activity. Visualizing what the whole activity will look like on the day itself will help the organizer set a more realistic timeline and process for a more effective breakout activity.

  7. Bobby Johnson

    The steps listed are essential to effective break room implementation and management. I am conducting training in the metaverse and have used breakouts with some success. Steps 3, 4, and 7 are areas that I need to focus on with greater emphasis.

  8. Jane French

    I’ve been using breakouts for a while, but hadn’t considered using them for an energiser. Good tip, Jennifer!

  9. Laxman Ganesh

    I have been in many breakout rooms and often experienced if not all most of the 10 imp tips mentioned above. Only contrary is the organizer missed most of the tips. I will definitely preserve this article as future ref guide and encourage max to go through this concisely written article. A special thanks to the author Jennifer

  10. Judy Hersch

    Loved this article! I liked so many tips, but a few of my favorites are (1) having people share with the group what is a step they will take to implement the learning (2) having people share key takeaways from the training with their breakout room partner(s) and (3) having people share their top 5 or 10 key learnings!

    Thank you so much for this invaluable content!

  11. Bernadette

    Thanks Jennifer.
    #4 Being clear about how they will report back. I like the suggestions about top learnings in chat.
    #6 Factor in enough time to allow people to connect as well as introduce themselves if necessary. I have often underestimated how much time is needed to allow for connection and other digital challenges.

  12. Ivanov

    What a practicar way to interact with groups simultaneously. Great tips. Thanks!

  13. Ed Nottingham, PhD, PCC

    Thanks, excellent tips! We use breakout rooms extensively, and I had not considered some of the excellent tips. #2: I realized that some of our breakout rooms may at times be too large and indeed they do "splinter" as well as less participation by all. Also, #8 is an opportunity for me! I can be much more specific on what the goal is for the breakout and what participants can bring back. Two things that we have been doing: (1) share the PPT slide with instructions in the breakout rooms and (2) have the timer showing so all know how much time they have. Great tips! Thanks so much.

  14. Lorene R

    My tip, get someone else experienced in breakout rooms to do this while you concentrate on the content, otherwise you will be too scattered mentally.

  15. Aisie-nana Victoria Williams

    I have done a few breakout sessions but not energizer. This I fine very interesting for trial. I find this article very precise, concise and clear. Very useful tips.A

  16. Riana Avis

    These are fantastic tips. Thank you!
    #1 - Consider the purpose of the breakout group is absolutely key. Without that, it is difficult to give clear instructions and decide what feedback you want from the group. how much, etc.

  17. Maria Elena

    Really great list of tips, thank you. I particularly like number 8, 'be clear on what they have to bring back'. I've been in many breakout rooms where we haven't really known exactly what we were expected to feedback on. Another tip I have, which I use a lot, is to give a guideline as to who will speak first. E.g, 'the person with the longest hair/whose birthday is closest to today/who's wearing the most jewellery/absolutely anything' - this gets the group talking immediately and avoids the whole 'who wants to go first' followed by silence scenario.

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Maria Elena,
      I love the idea of helping people decide who speaks first - with ideas like person with the longest hair, most recent birthday etc. Fun! Thank-you for sharing your breakout room tips!
      Warmly, Emma-Louise

  18. Pamelia Robinson

    Great primer on effective use of breakout rooms. The organization that I work for and my local ICF Coaching association uses breakout rooms regularly. I remember when I was first exposed to them, it brought anxiety, however after a few years now, I have gotten used to and look forward to them. I have noticed though that often we lose people at the point we start a breakout group (they leave the webinar). I just had a conversation with one of my colleagues about this last week. We are going to do a poll to see if we can capture some information about how people are feeling about them without putting them on the spot!

  19. cathy

    I love the summary and reflection part of this article. Also, I loved the youtube video explanation too. TY

  20. Yaakov

    Great idea. Very well planned, & your instructions are clear & intelligent. I might suggest that the coach give his//her summary of the
    results from the groups & lots of validation and compliments to the participants.

  21. Parbatie Khan

    Both Jennifer Britton's 10 Tips and Scott Friesen's video tutorial were informative and very easy to follow

  22. Ann Greene

    Great tips, thank you @JenniferBritton. Breakout rooms are the best way to build engagement and fun and I build in at least 1 every 90 mins when facilitating workshops. As Covid facilitated a return to college (which had to be online), breakout rooms also gave me a chance to frequently be a participant, connect with my peers and learn alternative ways to virtually build trust.
    Some tips that I have found work well:
    If you're using the rooms as part of innovation meetings, ask each group to creatively "name" their breakout room.
    If your breakout activity allows enough time, pop in to visit each breakout group, check how the topic is going and answer questions
    For clarity, share activity instructions to the breakout groups for a few mins & ensure each group leader takes a screenshot of the instructions
    Keep the timer displayed and message rooms to begin their wrap up 2 mins before close - breakout rooms take on a different time dimension 😉
    Thanks again for the great tips!

  23. Lisa Bellamy

    Great article, loved the tips about being clear about purpose and also what people can expect when they get back into the main room, so many times I've seen people confused which doesn't help and delays the good stuff!
    I love the use of 'Liberating Structures' in breakouts, a different (and great) way of facilitating conversations, alongside these tips!

  24. Kareen

    Insightful article and sharing! I'd like to know while the group is in the breakout rooms, what are some tips for the coach? The Dos and Don'ts?

  25. Carol

    I’m looking forward to exploring more advice around group coaching. Great article, thank you

  26. Jerome Henderson

    All 10 tips carry their weight in gold. It's really tough to choose one. If I must I'd chose tip #5- Assign roles within the breakout room. This gives everyone a sense of purpose during the breakout. For example in a breakout of 3, 1 person times, 1 person coaches, 1 person get coached, for 5 minutes each and rotate until everyone has played each role. Personally breakouts are the best part of virtual meetings offering much more intimate connection and less intimidating than the main room for most people. I met my current mentor in a breakout room and she has changed my life. I thank God we landed in that breakout together. We've since started a podcast and have many plans for the future to impact lives virtually and breakouts will be a huge part of that process. Great article Jennifer and thanks for sharing Emma. Love this site so much value here no matter where you are in your coaching journey.


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