Channels can be used as breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams is an instant message platform, a file sharing, and an organizational tool for big teams and small ones. If you’ve mastered the basics of this collaboration tool, it’s time to up your skill set. Learning how to use channels as breakout rooms will give you more options for holding meetings with your teams. Here is a look at how to do that as well as best practices to make the experience easy for participants.

How to use channels as breakout rooms in Teams

Each channel has a chat window and a place for files.

First, you need a private team. Use an existing team or create a new one. You can add people to the team now, or wait until your prep work is done. You may want to wait to invite people until your set up work is done; no one wants to get all those notification emails.

Channels can be used as breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams.

The next step is to create a channel for each breakout room that you need. Click on the ellipsis to the right of the team name. This pop-up window lets you set the name, add a description, and set privacy rules. Select names for your breakout rooms that make it easy for people to understand the purpose of the room.

SEE: Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx and Skype: Choosing the right video-conferencing apps for you (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

You can add content or a welcome post in each channel. You can include a start and end time in the initial post in the channel and remind participants where to find relevant files.

If you want a common room for all participants to use, create a General room along with the topic-specific rooms.

How to use the rooms in Teams

Once you’ve built your channels, you have two options for using your breakout rooms: You can schedule a meeting and invite the channels or you can hit the “Meet now” button. Once you’ve started the meeting, you can invite people to your room on the spot by clicking on the Participants icon.

Another way to get people into your rooms is to schedule a meeting for each channel in the team. The meeting notice will show up in the calendar and in the channels.

As the host, you can move from room to room to check on the activity. When you are active in one room, you are put on hold in the other rooms you’ve joined.

How to open a lobby for your meeting room in Teams

It’s a good idea to be ready to go when people start arriving at your meeting room. Holding participants in a lobby is one way to do that. This gives you time to start the meeting and get everything set up before anyone shows up. Here is how to create a lobby.

  1. Schedule a new meeting within Teams.
  2. Open the invite and select “Meeting Options.” This is where you turn on the lobby option.
  3. Go to the “Who can bypass the lobby?” menu item. By default, everyone can bypass the lobby.
  4. Set this to “Only me,” “People in my organization,” or “People in my organization and trusted organizations.”

This menu also has a setting that allows people calling into the meeting to bypass the lobby and another that announces when callers join or leave.

The final option in the menu is “Who can present?” The default is “Everyone,” and you can change it to “Only me,” “People in my organization” or “Specific people.”

Once you join the meeting, you’ll be able to get your presentation ready and take care of any last-minute details. As other participants join, you’ll see their names in a pop-up window. You can view the lobby or admit the person from this window.

To let everyone in, click on “Show participants” and another window will show you who has been invited, who has joined the meeting, and who is in the lobby. You can let participants join from here. You also can change the permissions to allow someone to present from this menu.

How to make it easy to participate in Teams

It’s a good idea to make it easy for people to understand what they are supposed to do in these rooms. Use these tips to increase your chances of a smooth meeting. You also can send these FAQs to participants before the meeting and let them know what group they’ll be in as well.

Do a dry run before everyone arrives. Find a volunteer to check your links and download the files. It’s not enough to make sure it works for you.

Include a tip on how to turn on “Do not disturb” mode to reduce the number of distractions during your meeting. Letting participants know how to change channel notification settings will also reduce frustration levels and help them focus.

Remind participants how to move back and forth from the main room to breakout rooms.

Create a FAQ document that answers common questions about Teams and about your meeting such as the schedule, calls to action, or polls. Having this information ready to copy and paste into channel chats will save you from having to type the same information over and over. You also can put this information in the Wiki section of each channel.

If you expect to have large rooms in your breakout rooms, have a moderator in each room. This person can monitor the chat, answer questions, and problem solve. It’s also a good idea to have a moderator-only chat group for those group leaders.