Three Tips for a Productive Virtual Breakout Room

In Part 2 of this series, we discussed how you can adapt your training to improve the virtual learning experience for participants. In Part 3, we focus on three tips for creating a more productive virtual breakout room.

When designing a training program, integrating activities throughout the training will significantly improve the learning experience for the participants. Not only does this increase the participants’ level of engagement, but it also assists in their retention of the content. One of the best resources that a virtual facilitator has at their disposal is a virtual breakout room.

In a typical face-to-face ILT session, an activity could be any of the following:

  • A large-group discussion
  • Several small-group discussions/activities
  • Peer feedback
  • Partner role-play or a small-group presentation/teach-back.

When participants are not in the same physical location, you must be more intentional about activity design.

How To  Run A Successful Breakout Room

To help, here are three tips for creating a more productive virtual breakout room.

Be Prepared

Determine the breakout assignments for participants before the day of the session. This will help ensure a seamless transition into the virtual breakout room as well as keep the timing of the session on track.

Communicate Expectations

It is important to clearly communicate instructions and confirm that all participants are clear on the activity directions before you move them into their respective breakout rooms. If breakout groups are conducting a teach-back or sharing their work with the larger class, your directions should include directing them to choose a scribe (someone to document their input on the whiteboard or chat) and at least one presenter before they begin the activity.

Circulate and Check-in

Much like facilitators circulate to table groups during a face-to-face ILT, facilitators in a virtual session should visit each breakout room to check in on participants’ progress. These visits are quick touchpoints where the facilitator can answer questions, give timing reminders, provide feedback and/or redirect participants, as needed.

If you are in the process of adapting your programs for virtual training, you will have a range of options for interactivity, depending on your platform. Consider this ILT to vILT Conversion Quick Reference Guide (QRG), which provides examples of how to convert common face-to-face training activities into a virtual training environment with specific platform tools.

ILT to vILT Conversion QRG

In-Personal ILT Activity Virtual Platform Tools
Facilitator-Led Large-Group Discussion Chat, Voice, Feedback Tools/Icons, Emoticons, Polling, Whiteboard, Annotation Tools, Webcam
Small-Group Activity/Discussion Breakout Rooms, Whiteboard, Annotation Tools, Screen Share, Voice, Chat, Webcam (optional)
Partner/Triad Role-Play, Peer Feedback Breakout Rooms, Voice, Chat, Whiteboards, Webcam (optional)
Small-Group Presentations or Teach-Backs Breakout Rooms, Whiteboard, Annotation Tools, Screen Share, Voice, Chat


Running a productive breakout room can make or break a virtual training session. Whether you are redesigning a program or have an upcoming virtual facilitation, keep these three tips in mind to make your training a success.


Up Next:  Part 4 of our Designing and Delivering Virtual Training series focuses on tips trainers can use to “reskill” for virtual facilitation.

Interested in learning more?

Download the Moving to Sustainable Multimodality Learning e-book for the whole blog series full of tactical guidance and tips for how to adapt the design and delivery of traditional in-person instructor-led training for the virtual environment.