We’ve already seen how to set up a straightforward meeting with everyone talking together in a single group. But there are more things you can do which will help with discussion groups, and with showing teaching materials.
It’s great when 30 people turn up to a meeting, but it doesn’t make for good discussion or conversation. In real life people naturally break up into small groups, and you can do that too in Zoom.
Breakout rooms is a feature included with all Zoom plans, even the free one. Don’t confuse this with Zoom Rooms which is a paid feature intended for use in a business environment. Breakout rooms are used to divide a meeting up into small groups and it works particularly well for Bible Study, small groups and even coffee groups. You all start off in the one big room, perhaps to listen to a speaker or watch a video. You then divide up into small groups, with each group having its own separate meeting space where they see only their own group members.
In Zoom you always have the main meeting room, but you can add a number of side rooms for small group discussion. You can send people off into their side rooms and you can call them back to the main room again. You can even have some people staying in the main room.
Before you start, you’ll need to enable breakout rooms for your account. You need to do this from the Zoom website, not from the app. Login to your account, then go to Settings and pick In Meeting (Advanced). Make sure Allow host to split meeting participants into separate, smaller rooms is turned on.
Now when you’re in the meeting you’ll see a Breakout Rooms option on the toolbar at the bottom of your screen.
Click that button to create a number of rooms and then allocate participants to the rooms. You can allocate manually or just assign people randomly. Either way, it’s possible for the host to move people between rooms if the initial distribution isn’t right.
The way you open up the rooms and send people off into them is fairly self explanatory from the Breakout Rooms window. One point to note is that you as host will stay in the main room when everyone else goes to breakouts. You can join and leave any of the rooms at will, so you can pop into groups to check that they are faring OK.
Another thing you can do as host is to broadcast a message to everyone. This can be useful to remind people they have only 3 minutes left, or to suggest they look at the third question now.
Do keep an eye on your notifications to see if anyone else has joined the meeting or is in the waiting room. They could have a very lonely 10 minutes otherwise.
When you call people back to the main room, they will get a notification that the rooms will close in 60 seconds. You can adjust that time interval, but it’s useful to allow people a short time to finish their discussion. The rooms and their allocations will stay the same throughout the meeting so you can send people back into their rooms and they’ll see the same people as they did before.
Showing Teaching Materials
In small groups you may sometimes need to show a picture, a PowerPoint or a video. You do this on Zoom by sharing your screen using the central green button on the toolbar.
The next window asks what you want to share, and it’s fairly flexible. You can share your entire screen if you want, but more likely you’ll want to share a particular window on your screen: the PowerPoint presenter window, or a browser window with YouTube running.
If you just want to play an audio file, you can look at the advanced options at the top of the screen, which allow you to share just the audio from your computer.
We’ve heard a recommendation that if you share video, you should get all the participants to turn off their own video cameras as it helps with video quality when there is limited capacity on broadband.
Co-Hosting a Meeting
Managing participants in breakout rooms, getting screen shares to work at the right time can be a challenge if you are also leading the meeting. You may end up not giving the participants your full attention, or you may get behind with the technical bits. One way to distribute the load is to assign a co-host.
If you click on Participants on the toolbar, you’ll see a list and from there you can click on more… for one of them and then Make host. That allows the co-host to do most of the administrative actions that you can do as host, such as managing the breakouts and sharing screens.
Naturally you should have arranged this in advance so the co-host knows what is expected of them.