Breakout rooms

Breakout rooms are separate sessions that are split off from a main VMR or Virtual Auditorium 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. Guests in a breakout room can request help from a Host, and any Hosts can join (with full audio and video) any of the breakout rooms at any time.

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 can join the main VMR or Virtual Auditorium in the usual manner, using any of its assigned aliases or other standard joining methods for that room.

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.
  • 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 within that room.
  • Get notified of requests for help from a breakout room.

What's noteworthy?

When using breakout rooms, note that:

  • Any Webapp3 Host can control the breakout rooms, and they can join the VMR or Virtual Auditorium 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.
  • Guest participants cannot move themselves between breakout rooms. They can only leave a breakout room when the time set by the Host has ended, when the Host closes the room, or the Return to main room button has been enabled for web app users (or they choose to leave the call completely).
  • If you use the "Add participant" function from within a breakout room, the dialed participant will join that breakout room.
  • Breakout rooms can only be configured on Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs) and Virtual Auditoriums. They cannot be used with any other types of calls.
  • Hosts cannot currently send a "broadcast" chat message to all breakout rooms.
  • When a breakout room is created, by default:

    • It inherits the same layout and theme as the main room.
    • The mute all guests and conference lock options are initially disabled (even if they are enabled in the main room).
    • Any spotlight settings are reset. For example if a participant in the main room is spotlighted and they are then transferred to a breakout room they will not be spotlighted in the breakout room until a Host performs that action again).

    You can use override these default actions if the breakout room is created or updated via policy.

  • The Guests-only timeout setting does not have any effect on breakout rooms (as there is always a control-only API Host assigned to the room). Note that this control-only API Host does not affect the Guests can see other guests advanced setting in Virtual Auditoriums.
  • 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 / Virtual Auditorium

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

  1. Go to the required VMR (Services > Virtual Meeting Rooms) or Virtual Auditorium (Services > Virtual Auditoriums).
  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 room 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. When configuring a Virtual Auditorium you may want to consider the Guests can see other guests option, which controls whether Guests see other Guests when there is no Host present. See the Virtual Auditorium advanced options for more information.
  6. Save your changes.

Additional participant-level settings (bypass locked conference)

There is an additional bypass_lock configuration option in participant policy which allows a participant to bypass the locked state of a conference and enter the conference as if it was not locked. This setting can only be configured via external or local participant policy.

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 / Virtual Auditorium as a Host participant.

When breakout rooms are enabled for the VMR / Virtual Auditorium, 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.

Room settings (timer and leave options)

While setting up the breakout rooms you can set a timer and define the options for leaving the room.

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

    This opens the room settings dialog:

  2. You can optionally set a timer duration. When the time is up, all participants are automatically returned to the main room.
  3. You can optionally select Allow participants to leave at any time. When this is selected, Webapp3 Guest participants see a "Return to main room" button which allows them to go directly back to the main room.

    Note that leaving this option disabled does not prevent guests leaving a breakout room by disconnecting and then redialing the same conference and rejoining the main room.

  4. 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), requests for help 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.

Guest participant/room ask for help

Guest participants in a breakout room can ask for help i.e. summon a Host to the room. When a participant in a breakout room asks for help then all Hosts who are not already in that room see a message:

One room requesting help.

Multiple rooms requesting help.

If it is a single room requesting help then any Host can select Join room to join the room immediately, or if there are multiple rooms they can select Show who needs help which opens the Breakout rooms panel to show a list of all pending requests for help and provides an option to join that room. The requests are shown in time order (oldest at the top).

The help request is removed from the list as soon as any Host joins the room in response to that request for help.

Note that requests are for a room, even though they are triggered by an individual participant. Thus, for example, if a participant requests help and subsequently disconnects then that request for help remains open until a Host responds to it or another participant in the room removes the request.

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 from the person raising their hand, then the Host does not see any notifications or indicators.

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, share content or chat (via a Connect app) with each other. While in a breakout room, the participant list in a Connect app only shows the other participants who are in the same breakout room.

Ask for help (summon a Host)

If you need to speak to a Host, a Webapp3 user can summon a Host to a breakout room by using the Ask host for Help option from the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. You need to confirm that you want to summon the Host and then the Hosts will see a message that somebody in that breakout room is asking for help.

If you no longer need help you can select the option again to cancel the request.

Note that:

  • The Raise hand option from the toolbar at the bottom of the screen only shows the raised hand toast to the Host if the Host is already in that breakout room.
  • Participants on hardware endpoints cannot summon the Host.

Moving between breakout rooms

You cannot move yourself between breakout 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.

Returning to the main room

Depending upon how the breakout room is configured, a Webapp3 user may see the option to Return to main room.

Known limitations

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

  • 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.