Teams Meeting Breakout Rooms Get Persistence and Timers

Timers and Persistence

Message center notification MC247659 (March 30 – roadmap item 81372) covers additional controls over participants when Teams meetings split into breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are separate online workspaces associated with a main meeting. Each room has its own chat and other resources. The new controls provide more flexibility in how breakout rooms function.

Three new controls are available:

  • Assignment of attendees to breakout rooms is persistent across sessions and recurring meetings. If people leave a meeting and then come back, they rejoin in the same room unless the meeting organizer moves them. Names assigned to breakout rooms are also persistent.
  • Meeting organizers can move participants between breakout rooms and the main meeting (unassigned to a room). The difference here is that reassignment can happen when breakout rooms are active. Up to now, it was possible to move participants only when breakout rooms are closed.
  • Meeting organizers can set a timer to control how long a breakout room lasts.

Because persistence of attendees in rooms is managed on the server, persistence works in the Teams desktop, browser, and mobile clients. However, new functionality in the Teams desktop client is needed before meeting organizers can move participants between rooms and the main meeting when rooms or active or set timers for room duration. Microsoft has scheduled deployment of the necessary server and client components to tenants for mid-April.

Setting Breakout Room Timers

Although persistence and the ability to move participants are valuable updates, room timers are likely to be the most obvious new feature because room participants can see the countdown happening. Timers governing the closing of rooms relieve organizers from having to keep an eye on how long rooms have been active before reassembling participants in the main meeting. The timer starts when the first participant enters an open breakout room.

Room timers last from five to sixty minutes (the same value applies to all breakout rooms in a meeting). The value is set through Room settings (Figure 1).

Setting a timer value for Teams breakout rooms
Figure 1: Setting a timer value for Teams breakout rooms

The other settings govern if users return automatically to the rooms when assigned and back to the main meeting when the rooms close and whether users can choose to return to the main meeting. Normally, you want people to stay in breakouts until the breakout period finishes, so this setting is off.

Counting Down the Minutes

When active, a timer is visible to users in the breakout room. Unlike the normal elapsed time shown in meetings, this is a countdown clock. In Figure 2 we can see that the room participants have 26 seconds to complete their business, so they had better wrap things up soon. The alert that the room will shut down appears 30 seconds before the timer reaches zero.

The timer clock counts down to an automatic closure of a breakout room
Figure 2: The timer clock counts down to an automatic closure of a breakout room

The room closes if everyone leaves before the countdown timer gets to zero. Otherwise, once the timer expires, the room closes, and participants are either returned to the main meeting (if the organizer enables the auto-move to rooms option) or can choose to return or leave the meeting. If participants do nothing, Teams returns them automatically to the main meeting.

Good Changes

Breakout rooms are already a popular feature for Teams meetings. These changes remove some of the friction involved in managing breakout rooms for both enterprise and education tenants. As such, they’re welcome updates.


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