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Here's How To Use Zoom Breakout Rooms To Host A Party & Take The Celebration Online

By this point in the coronavirus pandemic, you're likely familiar with Zoom, but you might not have checked out all the features the video service has to offer. The service's Breakout Rooms are a lifesaver for a big group to help a party from becoming overwhelming. Whether you're looking to pull off a supersized game night or just a big shindig, here's how to use Zoom Breakout Rooms to host a party and take the fun online.

To prep for a Zoom party, make sure everyone has the service downloaded. To ensure everyone can stay on for the whole party, it's best to sign up for a paid version of Zoom, or sign up for a free trial of Zoom Meetings. Before starting your party, send out a Zoom invite with the meeting ID. You can also make someone a co-host by hovering over the person's icon, clicking on the three dots, and choosing the option to "make co-host." However, keep in mind that hosts hold special privileges like being able to record the party and being able to invite other people to the gathering, so only do this if it's someone you trust.

Unlike at a real-life party, your Zoom party can quickly become overwhelming if you have a lot of attendees who might start talking over each other. Luckily, Zoom Breakout Rooms, which virtually emulate side conversations by allowing the host to place participants into smaller group video chats within the larger party, are a great way to handle a large number of guests. During the Zoom party, people can periodically go into their breakout rooms, allowing people to converse with each other in a more casual, smaller group setting.

Technically, your breakout room doesn't have to be small. Hosts can have up to 50 of these groups with 200 people in each room, or up to 500 people per room if they stick with up to 20 breakout rooms. As the host, you have complete control over the timing and guest lists for the breakout rooms, although you can also choose to assign a co-host if you need help. When deciding which of your guests will be in each breakout room, you can either manually enter in the list of attendees or choose the automatic split setting to have the choices made randomly.

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If you're hosting the party, you'll need Zoom version 3.5.31 or higher on your Windows or Mac computer. While attendees can call into the party from their mobile app, you won't have the capability to manage the party if you do that. Next, find the navigation menu to the left of the screen, and click Admin, then Account Management and Account Settings. Scroll until you see "Breakout Room" then check the box.

From there, you can either choose to preassign breakout rooms before the party by choosing to check the box that reads: "Allow host to assign participants to breakout rooms when scheduling." You can also assign during the party by heading to the breakout rooms icon at the bottom of the screen on your meeting control bar. Click the icon, which should look like four squares, then choose how many people you want per group and decide whether you want to manually or automatically divvy them up.

Once you're done and you're ready for people to divide up, click "Open All Rooms." As host, you're able to create new rooms, delete existing ones, and edit group attendees during the party. You can also decide whether you want everyone to stay in their breakout room for a certain amount of time or if you want them to be able to go back to the main meeting whenever they want to.

While in the breakout rooms, participants have full access to audio, chat, and screen share, making it so easy to virtually try out some Zoom-friendly games while exchanging quips with your opponents. You'll need to download any games you want to try and use them with Zoom's screen-sharing capabilities.

Some good options include JackBox Games' Trivia Murder Party, Pictionary with Zoom's whiteboard, and Fibbage. With any of these games, the host will need to own a copy of the game and will need to share his or her screen with the other players. Once you've signed up, added the players, and signed in, you'll want to send a link to your opponents and pull up Zoom to start sharing your screen. To use the whiteboard tool, tap the share screen button located in your meeting toolbar, then select the whiteboard, and click share. When you see annotation tools, you can then use your mouse to draw as you would for Pictionary. Individual players can take turns sharing the screen's whiteboard and drawing, and the host should keep track of how long the different players are drawing for. Keep in mind that only one person can share their screen at a time in the breakout rooms.

Once you've picked your attendees and saved a date for your virtual party, the rest of the virtual event is up to you. You might want to consider decorating the backdrop your guests will see on screen or choosing a theme for everyone to follow to add a more cohesive feel to your online gathering.