Pre-Assign Zoom Breakout Rooms

As a meeting host, you can assign participants to breakout rooms in one of three ways:

  1. Randomly assign participants to a specified number of breakout rooms during the meeting
  2. Allow participants to self-select breakout rooms (requires host and participants to have version 5.3.0 or higher of the desktop or mobile Zoom client)
  3. Pre-assign participants to breakout rooms prior to the meeting

This article covers the setup process for option 3, pre-assigning your meeting participants to breakout rooms, which must be done in advance, either at the time you schedule the meeting or any time prior to starting the meeting.


  1. Go to the Zoom website, and click Sign In.
  2. Select Settings from the left side menu.
  3. Ensure the Breakout Room setting is turned on (it should be by default).
  4. Beneath the Breakout Room setting, check the box for Allow host to assign participants to breakout rooms when scheduling. The setting will save automatically, so there is no need to click a Save button.

Adding to Your Meeting

  1. From the Zoom website, click Meetings from the left side menu to access your list of upcoming meetings.
  2. Move your mouse over the desired meeting, and click Edit.
  3. In the Meeting Options section at the bottom of the page, check the box for Breakout Room pre-assign.
  4. Our recommended option for pre-assigning participants to breakout rooms is to import a list of assignments from a CSV file. To do so, click the Import from CSV option.
  5. This will open a new pop-up within your browser window. Click the download link to download a template file.
  6. Prepare the CSV file.
    1. Open the downloaded template file in Excel.
    2. Keep the column headers in row 1, and replace the remaining data with your breakout room assignments. Add each participant's email address in column B (1 email per row) and that participant's assigned breakout room in column A. Make sure your breakout room names are consistent (e.g. Zoom will treat "room1" and "room 1" as different breakout rooms).
    3. When you're finished, Save the file and be sure the file type is showing as CSV (comma delimited).
  7. Return to the Zoom website (where you left off in step 5), and upload the CSV file.
  8. Verify that the breakout room assignments look correct, and click Save at the bottom of the pop-up window.
  9. You will return to the Edit Meeting page. Click Save at the bottom of that page, as well.

Managing Pre-Assigned Breakout Rooms During the Meeting

Beginning with version 5.4.6, Zoom now allows the meeting host and all co-hosts to start and manage breakout rooms. This can also be an alternative host or someone who was promoted to host manually during the meeting.

  1. When you're ready to start breakout rooms, click the Breakout Rooms icon from the meeting controls toolbar.
  2. You'll see a preview of the breakout rooms you set up prior to the meeting, including the breakout room names and which current participants (only the ones currently in your meeting) have been assigned to each room.
    1. If a participant joins the meeting either without logging into Zoom or with a different email address than you pre-assigned, that participant will not be matched to a breakout room. You can manually assign that participant to a breakout room by clicking the Assign button next to the desired breakout room and checking the box next to their name.
    2. In previous versions, Zoom stopped checking participants against pre-assigned rooms as soon as you clicked the Breakout Rooms icon. This issue was fixed in version 5.4.0, so make sure your Zoom desktop client is version 5.4.0 or higher.
  3. When all the rooms are set up and you're ready to send participants to breakout rooms, click Open All Rooms.
  4. When you're ready to bring participants back together in the main session, click Close All Rooms.

Tips for Success

  • When setting up your Zoom meeting, you can enable the security setting for Require authentication to join. This will increase the chance that your participants get matched to their pre-assigned breakout room. If you will be hosting external guest lecturers, we recommend you do not enable this setting.
  • Alternatively, you can require registration for your meeting and set up your pre-assigned breakout rooms with the email addresses your participants used to register.
  • Ask your participants to log into Zoom with the email address you've assigned to breakout rooms. For example, if your participants are all DMU students, ask them ahead of time to log into Zoom with their DMU email address rather than a personal email address. Instructions for how they can log in to the Zoom app, or check if they're already logged in, can be found here.
  • Have a list of breakout room assignments on hand for last-minute manual assignments.
  • Practice with pre-assigned breakout rooms ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the process.

If you still need help, click here to request assistance with Zoom.

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