With everyone at home, unable to meet in person, the DC TUG had their first virtual meeting (March 25, 2020).  The theme of this meeting was Workout Wednesday.  The plan was to start as a big group, do our regular welcome and announcement, introduce the small group leaders and their Workout Wednesday exercises, break into small groups in separate conference rooms, then come back together at the end to discuss what we learned.

At first I was really wary about trying to tackle this meeting virtually, and considered cancelling until we could meet in person, but Cesar Picco insisted we could do it!  Thanks Cesar!

How do the zoom breakout rooms work? (at a high level)

  1. Ensure that breakout rooms are enabled in your Zoom settings.
  2. Once you’re in your meeting you will see a breakout rooms button (at the bottom or under “more”).
  3. You will have the option to automatically or manually create an adjustable number of rooms (maximum of 50 rooms and 200 participants).
  4. Once you create the breakout rooms each guest will be prompted to join their assigned breakout room.   Anyone in the room will be able to share their screen.
  5. As the meeting host, you can visit each breakout room to check on everyone.
  6. When you’re done, the host can close all the breakout rooms.  Guests will get a countdown (60 seconds) before the breakout room closes.  At any time guests can leave their breakout room and go back to the main room.

Things to think about…

My plan was to have zoom automatically create the rooms, but then I realized that Zoom doesn’t know who the small group leaders are, so they could all end up in one room.  If this happened I could have manually moved them around after the fact.  Instead I decided to (randomly) create the rooms myself/manually.  This isn’t bad as long as you don’t have too many participants.

Since we’re virtual there is no guarantee that everyone will be comfortable turning on their camera.  You could end up talking to blank screens instead of faces.  I encouraged participants to turn on their video, but they obviously were not required to.  You’ll also want to make sure you have enough lighting.  I found these little selfie lights that could be useful, although I don’t have one.

The breakout room option is only available in Zoom meeting (not webinars).  As a meeting, I was not able to log on with the facilitators before we opened the meeting to participants.  A solution to this could be scheduling a separate meeting beforehand, then move over to the TUG meeting.  

Additionally, with a meeting everyone is able to unmute themselves and talk freely.  Our group was really good at keeping themselves on mute and/or keeping background noise to a minimum.  As a precaution, I muted everyone right before we kicked off the call and they could unmute themselves if they had something to say.  In case you run into any issues, as the host you can: mute participants, stop a participant’s video, prevent participants from screen sharing, or lock the meeting room to prevent anyone new from joining.

Technical difficulties, I didn’t have anyone emailing me with technical difficulties, but if your participants are not familiar with Zoom there could be some learning done on the fly.

Since we were running short on logistical time I did not have registration for the meeting, but next time I will enable it so I can see who will be or did join the call.  You can also add a password to the call for added security.  

Overall, I highly recommend the Zoom breakout rooms.  I thought it was a really great virtual solution for us and everyone really seemed to enjoy it.


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