How to host a better brainstorm

Whether you’re brainstorming for your clients or for your own company, brainstorms are a great way to quickly generate some creative ideas. People can bounce ideas off each other, and take the seeds of an idea and grow it into something larger.

However, not all brainstorms are successful. Some people are intimidated by others who dominate the conversation, and some may be fearful of saying something “dumb.” Try the ideas below to host a successful and productive brainstorm.

Limit the number of attendees
The old adage about “too many cooks in the kitchen” applies to brainstorms. It may be tempting to open the brainstorm to everyone who wants to be involved, but if there are too many people, it can get out of hand and counterproductive. It may be that everyone is trying to speak at once – or maybe no one is speaking at all because there are so many others. Your team may be 2-3 people on the low end, or 8-10 people on the high end. Make sure to choose people who know about the topic at hand so they can be confident enough to contribute.

Tell attendees how to prepare for the meeting
Rather than spending a large chunk of time explaining the topic at the beginning of the brainstorm, give attendees a heads-up and ask them to come prepared with some idea starters. This way you can jump right into it without needing to bring people up to speed, and you’ve given people some time to collect their thoughts.

Assign a moderator and note-taker
Choose someone with the confidence to interject to be moderator, in the case that the meeting gets off-task or out of hand. This person could also throw out some questions or thought-starters if there’s a lull in the conversation. Also, assign a designated note-taker so all ideas get documented. It can be hard to remember to take your own notes when you’re on a roll, and not everyone is a detailed note-taker.

Have a fun kick-off
Brainstorms are all about creativity – and creativity should be light and fun! Make brainstorms something that employees look forward to. Set the tone for the meeting by blasting some energizing music as they enter. Offer snacks and drinks (could be beer or wine for an end-of-day meeting) as brain fuel. The right-side of the brain is adept at expressive and creative tasks, such as “big picture” ideas, imagination, innovation, risk-taking, and visualization of the future, so start with a quick right-brain warm-up.

Outline goals for the meeting
Make sure that the moderator begins the brainstorm by outlining the goals of the meeting. Everyone should have a clear idea of what is expected and what you want to accomplish. Don’t leave the meeting until you’ve achieved your goal.

Discuss next steps
Before the meeting ends, discuss what’s going to happen next and who is responsible for what. Let the group know when you’re going to meet again (if that’s the case), and what they should prepare for the next deadline.

Send out notes from the meeting
Make sure everyone is on the same page by promptly sending out an email with detailed notes from the note-taker. This is good for record keeping and jogging attendees’ memory after the meeting, and can be used to kick off the next brainstorm.

With some preparation, brainstorms are a great way to get people involved and generate some good ideas. Try these tips and let us know how it goes. Good luck!


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