15 tips for running a (really) productive in-person brainstorming session

It is important that meetings take place in person. That’s plenty clear. While teams can handle some communication productively through Slack or Zoom, as humans, we need face-to-face interactions to be our best.

Nowhere is this perhaps more evident than when we are trying to drum up new ideas! Sitting behind a screen and getting into a creative flow with our peers can feel impossible. As more organizations switch to remote and hybrid working models, managers are seeing how important it is to bring teams together in real life for their brainstorming sessions.

What makes brainstorming in person a more productive meeting?

Every organization needs new and innovative ideas to stay ahead of the competition. But to give their best, employees must feel confident and part of the team. In virtual settings it is difficult to breed the trust and sense of community necessary for colleagues to share their greatest ideas.

Important non-verbal cues are lost when we talk to each other through a screen, making the creative juices that flow in person coming together impossible to replicate online. Or, as our CEO says;

“My core belief: The important things in life happen in person. This belief comes from the magic and power that explodes when we come together in person. Understanding explodes when we can read beyond someone’s words and hear beyond someone’s voice. Trust when we listen to each other. Support with honest gestures. Inspiration explodes when we solve tough problems and create new things together.”

Avi Meir – CEO and co-founder of TravelPerk

As we’ll see, brainstorming sessions don’t just provide an incubator for ideas. They can serve as important opportunities for team bonding. Hosting these meetings in person can be an opportunity to bring together different elements of the business, gain new perspectives, and help remote colleagues network outside of their usual silos.

15 Tips for Running a Truly Successful Brainstorming Session

1. Be clear about your goals

The idea of ​​coming together with colleagues for real-time idea generation is exciting, especially when colleagues are spread across different locations. But without clear goals, you are unlikely to get the desired results.

In the new remote and hybrid working world, being able to demonstrate an ROI for your brainstorming sessions is more important than ever. Colleagues are no longer down the hall, and your organization can invest some serious cash to bring everyone together.

Summarize what you want to get out of your brainstorming session. You should be able to boil down your goals into a snappy sentence such as “Develop three marketing strategies for our latest product.”

2. Choose your participants

Now that your goals are cemented, it’s time to decide which colleagues to involve As the old saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth, so it’s best to keep the invitation list to single digits.

In a study from the Harvard Business Review, researchers discovered that having too many minds in your brainstorming meetings can be detrimental to the process. A large group can be a waste of time as some members step up and others feel overwhelmed.

With your goals in mind, think about which employees have the skills to bring creative ideas to the table. You need colleagues who understand the projects or problems you’re tackling, but it can also pay to bring in a fresh set of eyes. On top of including key team or department members, consider throwing in a wild card who can shake things up on the day with a fresh perspective.

3. Select a suitable location

As traditional office spaces evolve and change, businesses have an exciting opportunity to think outside the box when planning their next brainstorming session. Our brains are wired for novelty, so what could be better than bringing groups together in a new place?

Maybe your employees will feel revitalized by the unrivaled buzz of New York City? Or perhaps you are a group of nature lovers who would love to meet in the great outdoors? With Airbnb for work, renting an inspiring space for team meetings has never been easier.

If budget constraints mean a team is off the table offsite, consider moving things closer to headquarters. Rent a meeting room at a cool hotel or co-working space, or go outside to a nearby park. Anything that gets your attendees out of their routine and into the mood for innovation.

4. Be prepared

Now that you’ve gathered the details, it’s time to let everyone know. Give plenty of notice not only to ensure everyone can arrange to attend but also to get participants to start discussing some ideas.

As well as practical elements like time and location ensure everyone knows your intentions for the session You can even ask attendees to come up with a few ideas to run on the day. They don’t need to be fully formed, just loose ideas you can explore as a group

It is also wise to establish some ground rules before the session so that participants know what is expected of them. Some simple boundaries for group intelligence may include:

  • Be mindful of giving everyone a chance to speak.
  • Be constructive in your comments. This session will be a judgment-free creative process where all ideas are valued.
  • Please keep your thoughts brief when sharing with the group, so we don’t exceed our allotted time.

5. Find a helper

A ship without a captain will sink. Without a facilitator at the helm, it’s easy for a brainstorming session to get derailed and into territory that won’t produce effective results. Choosing an unbiased leader who can manage the meeting once it’s closed is crucial, but they must have the right skills to bring out the best in everyone.

A great facilitator is someone who can:

  • Keep everyone safe- They are friendly and able to encourage quiet members to participate.
  • Use their listening skills to great effect – They bring up all the details, keeping the conversation off topic and giving everyone a chance to talk.
  • Keep track of time- They instinctively know which ideas to develop and when to move on.
  • Enforce Ground Rules – A good facilitator knows how to keep participants from disrupting the session.

Group Chatting

6. Break the ice

How you open your brainstorming meeting can be the difference between generating the next big idea or navigating an hour of awkward silence. Warming up the group with a low-risk icebreaker is important to start creative thinking and set a friendly tone. Ask an off-the-wall question where there are no wrong answers. Something like “If you had one wish, what pain would you take for this project?” May reveal some interesting insights.

7. Manage the discussion

It’s easy to get off track. Throughout your brainstorming session, your facilitator should be alert when conversations are straying and carefully redirect the group to questions or challenges.

Conducting the session also includes ensuring that everyone has ample opportunity to speak. Quieter members of the group may need a little more encouragement and may find it difficult to jump in if the more extroverted participants dominate the conversation. Take time to go around to each colleague and ask for their thoughts before summarizing the session.

8. Take notes

It’s no good drumming up lots of amazing ideas if you don’t remember how you got them. Instead of relying on your mind map or a picture of a scribble-covered whiteboard, designate someone to take the minute. While this may seem a bit extreme, it will provide a more accurate record of what you have achieved and keep track of how your ideas have developed throughout the session.

9. Rate your exposure

As your brainstorming session ends, evaluate and decide which ideas you will take forward. Rank your ideas until you are in the top three. You can do this as a group, in small groups, or as individuals. The important thing is to make sure you leave the room with actionable insights.

10. Keep up the momentum

A brainstorm is only as successful as its results. Schedule follow-up meetings to feed back ideas to relevant parties and plan next steps to implement the ones you want to pursue. Don’t be afraid to delegate these tasks to other team members and set deadlines to check progress.

It is also important to get some feedback in the session. Create a short survey in Google Forms where participants can anonymously share their thoughts on what worked well and what could be improved for future groups.

Colleagues working together

11. Create moments for quiet reflection

We all know the feeling of trying to generate new ideas while working with a chatty colleague’s running commentary! Sometimes in a brainstorming session, participants naturally fall into moments of quiet self-reflection. But if the more extroverted members leave little room for conversation, allow a few minutes of silence to allow participants to collect their thoughts before sharing with the group.

12. Make sure the parties have all the information

Ideas are only valuable if they are realistic. It is important for teams to have as much background and information as possible to be able to provide possible ideas or solutions. These details may have budget or time constraints that may affect their insight. Prepare your attendees with an email so they can start chewing on ideas before the session outlining everything they need to consider.

13. Allow for anonymity

Any team will have some introverted members who may find it a challenge to share their ideas out loud. Creating a process where participants can anonymously submit their thoughts before and after the brainstorming session can help you draw out different perspectives that you might otherwise miss.

14. Try different brainstorming strategies

Feeling stuck? Change your ways of thinking. Try a rapid-fire brainstorming approach by setting a timer and asking contributors to jot down as many ideas as possible in two minutes. Alternatively, choose a round-robin where each person shares an opinion before coming together to discuss it as a group. Finally, you can ask your team to try role storming. This brainstorming tool is where they put themselves in someone else’s place (like a boss) and try to solve the problem from their perspective.

15. End with something fun

As we mentioned earlier, in-person brainstorming is a much-needed opportunity for remote teams to reconnect with their colleagues. A staggering 73% of employees miss socializing with their colleagues. Celebrating a successful session with a business lunch or after-work happy hour can provide valuable team building and motivation when employees return to WFH.

Want to plan an inspirational brainstorming offsite for your team? Contact our events team today to see how we can help you have a stress-free corporate trip.

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