Strategic Small Group Breakout

Implementing small-group breakout conversations in virtual meetings reduces the number of participants within discussions, lowering the perceived risk for sharing and encouraging conversations to go deeper.


  • Ensure equitable and inclusive participation, particularly from those who may not often speak up in large groups.

  • Support participants with processing through group discussion.

  • Encourage vulnerability and courageous conversations.


  1. After designing your agenda, consider the various points in which time for processing, sharing, or discussion can be helpful. Determine where breakouts might strategically fit into your meetings.

  2. Choose the size and composition of each group, being intentional about group dynamics to optimize the conversations.

  3. Before launching breakout groups, share your intended goal for the discussion, allotted time, and output expectations. If helpful, have each group share out a summary or takeaways from their discussion.


  • Practice using and troubleshooting your technology tools. Zoom breakout rooms can be tricky, and there are several settings you can change. Figure out what works best for your team.

  • Be clear about processes and time. Zoom allows you to broadcast messages, but it’s best to align on your process (including time) before breaking out. Provide time warnings as needed and use chat functions for your prompts to send your participants a visual indicator.

  • Self-selecting groups can be complicated. If it would be helpful to have participants select a group based on interest, create a shared document where they can sign up for a group. The host will have to then create the groups in the moment.


“Small-group breakout conversations are crucial for fostering deeper, inclusive conversations.”

Stephen Pham, The Learning Accelerator