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What is a Breakout Session?

<div class="box-highlight definition"><div class="flex-h align-center flex-gap-m"><div class="definition-term">Breakout Session</div><div class="definition-type"><em>noun</em></div></div><div class="definition-content">A breakout session, or breakout group, allows participants to break away from the main meeting and to chat and collaborate in smaller groups.</div></div>

They work by creating smaller, independent discussions amongst the members of each group- increasing participation in the discussion overall.

In this article, we’ll dive into why and when you may want to utilize breakout sessions, as well as provide you with a few ideas and activities for your next session!

Why Should You Use Breakout Sessions?

Breakout Sessions Are More Natural

Large groups can feel overwhelming and can induce anxiety in some participants. Breakout sessions tend to feel more natural and make participants feel safer to contribute and join the conversation.

You can easily emphasize with participants if you consider what happens when you normally meet with a large group of friends. Most of the time, the people close to each other start to engage in their own conversations, and then quickly small groups of 3-5 people form.

Increased Focus

In large meetings or conferences, smaller ideas are easily glazed over in order to view the big picture.

When small groups break away from the main discussion, members of each group may find it easier to discuss those finer details with much more attention and focus.

Increased Accountability

Smaller discussions hold members more accountable for speaking up.

In a breakout sesion, there is little room to hide behind the one or two people coming up with all the answers.

Breakout sessions ensure that every person is pulling their weight by contributing.

Maintains Relevance

Discussions relevant to each department or experience level can be carried out individually.

Breakout groups allow members to get together and discuss ideas relevant to themselves. This prevents every person in the room from discussing topics that don’t apply to them.

Minimal Distractions

If you need to host a smaller meeting at the same time as a larger group meeting, breakout sessions allow members to easily slip away from the main discussion without disrupting everybody else.

This raises time management and productivity levels!

When Should You Use Breakout Sessions?

Breakout sessions are a great idea in a multitude of different scenarios, such as the ones listed below:

Meetings

Whether you’re at work, school, or another form of organization, you may find yourself needing to brainstorm ideas or discuss various topics more in-depth. Breakout rooms can be used in all sorts of meetings to increase productivity and save time.

Workshops

There are many different kinds of workshops, but most ask participants to think, learn and discuss.

Participating in workshops is often a requirement, and breakout sessions are a great way of ensuring that everybody is getting involved with what’s happening.

Conferences

Conferences often occur over several days and cover many different topics.

A great way of keeping track of what’s been discussed is to use breakout sessions that record what’s been said.

This will also help attendees hone their memories and understand the content more thoroughly.

What are Good Activities for Breakout Sessions?

While breakout sessions serve many serious purposes, there is no reason why they can’t also be used to have a bit of fun with colleagues, teammates, and peers!

Here are some activities that you can try during your time in breakout sessions:

Ideas for Online Breakout Sessions

Coffee-Break…Out Rooms!

Socializing with coworkers whilst working in an online environment can be difficult.

To put faces and personalities to the names on their screens, have a virtual coffee break when you hold meetings on an online platform.

If you use breakout sessions for a larger number of staff, they should find it easier to get to know each other better- and hopefully have a few laughs along the way!

Set Up a Book Club for your Staff

Pick a book a few weeks before the scheduled online meeting, and have everybody read it.

Once everybody is in the online meeting, you can assign different chapters, themes, motifs, and other literary concepts to different breakout sessions.

Virtual Escape Rooms

If you have ever had the pleasure of completing an escape room in person, you’ll be excited to find out that there are virtual escape rooms you can purchase online!

Having your attendees complete an escape room while in virtual breakout rooms could be a great team-building exercise, as well as an activity to get everyone’s brains warmed up for the meeting!

Ideas for In-Person Breakout Sessions

Speed Networking

‘Speed Networking’ is a great icebreaker to let members and attendees of a meeting or conference get to know each other quickly.

To set this activity up, have a line of central desks with chairs on either side facing each other.

Set a timer and have participants move one chair to their left after each timer has ended, making sure that everybody has enough time to share facts about themselves!

Trivia Time

Break the attendees into smaller groups, and ask each person to write two interesting, unexpected facts about themselves.

Read each fact out in random order and let the groups try and guess who each fact belongs to.

Everybody will have a great time learning random information about everybody!

Tiny Lessons

Have your attendees break into groups of ten people or less.

Each person then teaches the rest of their breakout group one skill, recipe, or any other interesting lesson they can think of!

Here are some examples of lessons your members could choose:

  • How to make the best ramen
  • Basic words of a new language
  • The best under-the-radar music artists
  • Top tips on solving a cryptic crossword

The lessons can be on anything they wish!

How do you create Breakout Sessions in Zoom, Google Meet, Teams?

Each online meetings platform has a slightly different way of creating breakout sessions.

Here’s how to create breakout sessions on some of the most common platforms:

Zoom

  1. Begin your meeting as usual.
  2. Select the “Breakout rooms” button.
  3. Choose however many separate rooms you would like to create, and who you would like to be in each one (it can be randomized, or you can choose yourself).

Microsoft Teams

  1. Open the meeting invitation found on your Teams calendar.
  2. Select “Breakout rooms” and click “Create rooms”.
  3. Pick how many rooms you’d like to create, and then assign participants accordingly.

Google Meet

  1. Make a new Google Calendar event.
  2. Add participants after clicking on the “Add google meet video conferencing” button.
  3. Select “Change conference settings”.
  4. Click breakout rooms and then pick how you would like your attendees to be split up into the rooms.
Workshop