Extending Break-Out Rooms with Group Assignments

Remember the last time you attended a typical industry conference or trade show? There’s usually a lot going on at such events. The keynote speeches are given in a large central room, with other presentations on various subjects presented in smaller rooms located around the host venue. There can be a lot of moving from room-to-room over the course of the event.

ZipDX conference calls are actually very similar. Each conference call has a main room (0) and eight (1-8) break-out rooms. Room #9 is a dedicated waiting room, not unlike the lobby area at a conference hotel….. right down to the music playing in the background.

conference break-out rooms_1

We recently extended the utility of ZipDX break-out rooms by adding the ability to pre-assign meeting participants to groups. This allows a large conference to be conveniently split into a number of smaller groups, and later reassembled. Before we consider how this is done, let’s consider why it might be necessary, and the basics of the existing break-out room functionality.

A Sample Use Case of Break-Out Rooms

While there are many applications for break-out rooms, virtual training is one common example. A team meets in the main conference room for an initial briefing. During that time, they receive instruction and an assignment. The group then splits into break-out rooms to work on the assignment in smaller teams. When their allocated time has elapsed, they are returned to the main conference to discuss their results.

This kind of activity requires tools to conveniently move participants between rooms. When a conference is in-progress, there are two ways to manage break-out rooms: the telephone keypad and the web-based conference dashboard.


The most common way for participants to move themselves between rooms is using their telephone keypad. By pressing *4X, where X is the target room number (0-8), a participant can quickly move themselves to any desired break-out room.

The organizers conference template determines if participants are permitted access to the conference dashboard. By default, a participant is allowed dashboard access, but they can only act with respect to their own participation.

Participants dashboard controls

If participants are allowed dashboard access, and they are at a computer, they can also use the dashboard to move themselves between break-out rooms.


Hosts have greater authority to manage the conference, including moving themselves, or others, between break-out rooms. While there are tools to do this using the telephone keypad, it’s much more convenient for hosts to use the conference dashboard.

Moving Individuals

In the dashboard, a host can move any individual by clicking on their name in the list to get a pop-up menu, and then selecting the desired target break-out room. The participant being moved will hear an announcement informing them of the action.

Moving Groups

When viewing the conference dashboard, a host can see a blue stripe across the top with a set of administrative controls.

The Rooms link offers are range of options for handling break-out rooms.

  • Send All Rooms to Main – Reassembles the entire conference in the main room.
  • Send Room X to Main – Where X is the host’s current room, move everyone there back to the main room.
  • Disconnect Main – Disconnects everyone in the main room; anyone in a break-out room will remain on the conference.
  • Disconnect Room X – Where X is the host’s current room, disconnect everyone in that room
  • New! Break-Out Participants – Splits the participants in the main room into break-out rooms, based upon their pre-assigned groups

Historically, during events like the virtual training exercise described above, the host or presenter would ask participants to move themselves into their break-out rooms using their telephone keypad. This required they know which room to move into, and how to use the *4X command on their telephone.

More recently, we’ve implemented the Break-Out Participants option, which automatically splits the conference into break-out rooms based upon pre-assigned groups. This makes the process of moving into break-out rooms much more efficient, if the organizer is willing to create the group assignments in advance.

Creating Group Assignments

There are two ways to assign participants to a group:

(1)  Assign To Groups In Advance

When an organizer is scheduling a conference using the ZipDX web portal, they invite the participants using their email addresses. They can add a simple prefix to each email address which assigns that participant to a group.

The prefix is “Gx:“, where x is the group number. For example, using G2:lisa.simpson@mstvp.com invites her to a conference, assigning her to Group 2.

Assigning participant groups

Once added to the conference, the participants group assignment appears in the Role column. Note that only participants can be assigned to groups. Selecting any other role removes the group assignment.

(2)  Assign To Group Via The Dashboard

When the conference is live, the dashboard displays the group assignment as a number just in front of the participants name. A host can assign a participant to a group, on-the-fly, by renaming the participant to include the group number.

Dashboard indicated participant groups

Simply click on the participant’s entry in the dashboard to access a menu, then select the rename option. Enter the desired group number, followed by a space, and the participant’s name. Click OK to make the change.

Renaming participant to assign to group

The presence of the leading digit in the name informs the system where to move each participant when the Break-Out Participants command is used.

Hosts and participants with no group assigned remain in the main room (0) when the Break-Out Participants command is invoked.


Using participant group assignments, you can split any size conference into break-out rooms with just a couple of mouse clicks. A small effort invested in pre-assigning participants to groups at conference setup pays off big by making the live conference easier to manage. Participants can then be moved between rooms in a fast, fluid manner, delivering a superior experience that enhances your image as the conference organizer.

Whether your requirements are for virtual training, market research or disaster recovery, we’re constantly working to ensure ZipDX has the tools to provide the optimal conference call experience. If you’d like to know more about any aspect of ZipDX, please call us at 1-888-947-3955, or email us at sales@zipdx.com.

Posted in: Feature Profile

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