Breakout rooms

Breakout rooms are separate sessions that are split off from a main VMR that allow smaller groups of people to meet together. When participants are in a breakout room they can only see, hear or share content with each other — they are separated from the main room and any other breakout rooms.

Typically, a Host participant using Connect Webapp3 will manage the breakout rooms — creating rooms, assigning participants to rooms, specifying any time limits, and moving people between rooms or bringing them back to the main room as and when required. A Host can join (with full audio and video) any of the breakout rooms at any time. Hosts can also see all chat messages from all breakout rooms at all times.

Breakout rooms are a technology preview feature and can be enabled via Platform > Global settings > Tech preview features > Enable Breakout Rooms.

This topic covers:

How it works

To manage the breakout rooms within a conference (add/remove breakout rooms, assign participants to rooms and so on), you can:

  • Join the conference as a Host participant using a Webapp3 client, and use the Breakout rooms panel to control the rooms and participants.
  • Use local or external policy to create breakout rooms and assign an incoming caller to a room.
  • Use your own bespoke management application in conjunction with the Pexip client APIs.

Note that other Connect apps (Webapp2, desktop and mobile apps), as well as other devices such as SIP and H.323 endpoints, can participate in breakout rooms, but they cannot manage the participant and breakout room assignments (even if they have Host privileges).

All participants join the main VMR in the usual manner, using any of its assigned aliases or other standard joining methods for that VMR.

When using breakout rooms as a Webapp3 Host, you can:

  • Assign people automatically (randomly) to each breakout room, or assign them manually.
  • Move people between rooms, and add or close further rooms during the breakout sessions, and rename rooms.
  • Specify a time limit, after which everybody is automatically returned to the main room.
  • Join any breakout room at any time with full audio and video, presentation and chat capabilities.
  • Read all chat messages and events from all breakout rooms at any time.

What's noteworthy?

When using breakout rooms, note that:

  • Any Webapp3 Host can control the breakout rooms, and they can join the VMR at any time to manage it. You can have multiple Hosts.
  • You can create up to 50 breakout rooms and distribute up to 200 participants.
  • When a timer is set, all Webapp3 participants see an overlay on their video showing the countdown. SIP and H.323 devices and other Connect app clients do not see the timer.
  • The Guests-only timeout setting does not have any effect on breakout rooms (there is always a control-only API Host assigned to the room).
  • Guest participants cannot move themselves between rooms. They can only leave a breakout room when the time set by the Host has ended or when the Host closes the room (or they choose to leave the call completely).
  • Hosts cannot currently send a "broadcast" chat message to all breakout rooms.
  • Breakout rooms can only be configured on Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs). They cannot be used on Virtual Auditoriums or any other types of calls.
  • When a breakout room is created, unless explicitly specified by policy, it inherits the same layout and theme as the main room. The mute all guests and conference lock options are always initially disabled, and no spotlighting settings are applied.
  • In terms of hardware resource allocation, each breakout room is treated in the same way as a standard VMR.

Also see the Known limitations.

Enabling breakout rooms on a VMR

Breakout rooms are configurable on a per-VMR basis, and are disabled by default. To enable breakout rooms for a VMR:

  1. Go to the required VMR (Services > Virtual Meeting Rooms).
  2. Expand the Advanced options section.
  3. Set Breakout Rooms to Yes. (Use No to disable breakout rooms.)
  4. Consider the Participant authentication settings, so that you can distinguish between Hosts and Guests (so that Host Webapp3 users can control the breakout rooms).

    We recommend that the VMR has either a Host and Guest PIN, or a Host PIN with Allow Guests to make the separation between Hosts and Guests.

    See About PINs, Hosts and Guests for full information about how roles are assigned.

  5. Save your changes.

Call and participant live status and history

Live view (Status > Live View) shows each breakout room while it is in progress, and call and participant status and history all show the start and end time of each participant in each breakout room.

The service name is followed by "_breakout_<unique identifier>" to distinguish between separate breakout rooms.

Using a Webapp3 client to control the breakout rooms

To use the Webapp3 client to control the breakout rooms, you must join the VMR as a Host participant.

When breakout rooms are enabled for the VMR, there is an additional Breakout rooms side panel that you can use to set up and manage the rooms.

Setting up the rooms

When setting up the rooms, you select the initial number of rooms and choose between two setup options:

  • Automatically: this divides participants randomly and as evenly as possible across the rooms.
  • Manually: this starts with empty rooms and you assign participants manually to the desired rooms.

You can perform any final adjustments, such as editing the room names or moving people around, before opening the rooms.

Breakout rooms panel: specifying the initial number of breakout rooms.

Assigning participants to individual breakout rooms.

Setting a timer

You can set a timer while setting up the breakout rooms:

  1. From the Breakout rooms panel, select the cog button:

    This opens the timer dialog:

  2. Set the timer duration and select Save.

Managing the rooms

When you go to the Breakout rooms panel you can see the current list of rooms and assignments. From here you can close a specific room, close all rooms or Join a room.

To make other changes you need to select Edit rooms. You can now:

  • Add more rooms
  • Manually move people between rooms
  • Shuffle the currently assigned participants i.e. randomly reassign them across the existing breakout rooms
  • Close (delete) a room — any currently assigned participants are moved to the main room

When editing a room, any changes you make do not take effect until you select Save.

Select Edit rooms to make changes.

You can add rooms, shuffle or change room assignments.

To move participants between rooms, hover over a name to reveal the move and drag controls.

Participant list (roster) and raised hands

The participant list only shows the other participants who are in the same room (breakout room or main room) as the Host, plus any other Webapp3 Hosts (even if they are not currently present in same the room).

Guest participant raises a hand

If a Host is in the same room as the person who raises their hand, then the Host sees a toast notification and an indicator in the participants list (as per standard behavior).

However, if a Host is in a different room (main room or other breakout room) from the person raising their hand, then the Host only sees the toast notification.

Using breakout rooms as a Guest

Guest participants (using a Connect app or a hardware endpoint) cannot control any aspects of the breakout rooms.

Guests in a breakout room can only see, hear or share content with each other. However, any chat messages sent from a Connect app can be seen by all Host participants, even if they are not in the breakout room.

While in a breakout room, the participant list in a Connect app only shows the other participants who are in the same breakout room, plus all Webapp3 Hosts (even if they are not currently present in the room on audio/video).

Summoning the Host

If you need to speak to a Host, there are two main ways for a Connect app user to summon a Host to a breakout room:

  • Use the Raise hand option from the toolbar at the bottom of the screen.
  • Send a chat message from the chat panel.

Participants on hardware endpoints cannot summon the Host by any of these methods.

Moving between rooms

You cannot move yourself between rooms, but when a Host moves you between rooms a Webapp3 user sees a message telling them they are about to be moved:

You can optionally press Join now to move immediately.

Known limitations

Breakout rooms is a technology preview feature and currently has the following known limitations, to be addressed in a future release:

  • Participants who join a breakout room while a presentation is being shared will not receive the presentation. To work around this, the presentation should be stopped and restarted.
  • Any requested changes to a breakout room's settings (such as the layout) via the client APIs are applied to the main room instead.
  • Scrolling while simultaneously dragging and dropping to move a participant between rooms is not yet enabled. Instead, use the Send participant to menu option.
  • Breakout rooms that were created in automatic mode may reappear after being deleted.
  • When creating preconfigured links to join via the Connect app, callType=none (to join as a presentation and control-only participant) is not supported.