Brainstorming sessions are a valuable way to solve problems and generate ideas, but they’re not always easy to run. Running a bad meeting is worse than non-productive – it can actively hurt your ability to get your job done. As such, it’s a good idea to learn how to run an effective brainstorming session, starting with using a meeting management software like yoyomeeting.
Tips on How to Run an Effective Brainstorming Session
- Distribute the topic ahead of time
- Invite a diverse group
- Pay attention to the meeting space
- Establish the goals
- Establish a time limit
- Prioritize facilitation
- Cut off tangents
- Ask for feedback later
- Understand how to use the information
- Use a meeting management software
Distribute the Topic Ahead of Time
Don’t expect every person who comes into your group to be able to come up with great ideas on the fly. Instead, distribute the topic of conversation before the meeting, by writing a meeting agenda (learn more on how to write a meeting agenda). This will allow some individuals to come up with ideas ahead of time and others to get into the right headspace for the brainstorming session to come. You don’t necessarily need to go into specifics, but you should be clear about the topic of discussion.
Invite a Diverse Group
One important ingredient when it comes to how to run an effective brainstorming session is diversity. The importance of diversity in the workplace is highly relevant to business meetings. Brainstorming works best when you get diverse ideas. The best way to ensure this is to get a diverse set of people into the group. Be careful here, though – you want a diverse group, you still want a group that’s going to have both a stake in the idea and that will theoretically end up with a product or idea that’s similar to what your target audience would want to see.
Pay Attention to the Meeting Space
Once you have your group together, concentrate on having the right space. An isolated space in which every participant feels comfortable and is able to communicate clearly is ideal. Do what you can to minimize distractions and to make it easy for participants to stay in the room until the meeting is over. The better the meeting space, the more likely it will be that your group will stay on topic and generate good ideas.
Establish the Goals
The first thing to do when your group gets together is to re-establish your goals. Your group needs to know more than just the topic – they need to know the purpose of getting the group together. This not only helps to guide the group into more productive modes of thought but it also places some realistic constraints on the ideas that will be generated. While you want participants to throw out ideas without judgment, establishing the goals will help to keep them on task.
Establish the Time Limit
Always set a time limit for brainstorming sessions. While it can be very exciting to sit around and toss out ideas, the truth is that you eventually get to a point of diminishing returns. If you want to ensure that you get the most out of your group, try setting a realistic limit of around half an hour. This is enough time to allow group members to get their thoughts out, but not so much that they will not feel motivated to share.
Always make sure that your brainstorming sessions are properly facilitated, by assigning meeting action items (learn how to assign meeting action items to meeting members). Don’t let a single person take control of the entire process and don’t let anyone hang back and refuse to contribute. It’s often helpful to have one person available who does nothing more than facilitate conversations and ensure that the process doesn’t go off the rail due to the actions of some of the participants.
Cut Off Tangents
One of the most common pieces of advice concerning brainstorming is that there are no bad ideas. While ill-thought ideas might serve a purpose, it’s important to cut them off quickly before your team starts to go down unprofitable paths. If someone throws out an idea that’s not really worth discussing, don’t debate it – instead, move on as quickly as possible so that you can get back on track.
Ask for Feedback Later
The end of your brainstorming session might not necessarily mean that everyone is done sharing ideas. Some of your participants might do their best work when they have time to digest what’s gone on in the meeting, so let your participants known that you’ll be happy to take more ideas via email or a shared document. This is a great way to ensure that you continue to get useful information.
Understand How to Use The Information
Finally, figure out what you’re going to do with the information. You don’t need to be beholden to all – or even any – of the ideas generated in this meeting. You’re trying to find a platform on which you can build, so take some time to sort through the information to determine if anything generated was actually useful.
Learning how to run an effective brainstorming session effectively and efficiently is mostly a matter of mastering organization and facilitation. Learn how to bring together the right groups in the right places to get great ideas for the future. While not every meeting will be productive, you might be surprised by the kind of data generated in this type of brainstorming meeting.
Bonus: Use Yoyomeeting to Manage Your Meetings
To help organize and manage your next brainstorming meeting, yoyomeeting. From meeting planning, meeting recording, and meeting recaps, our meeting management software helps you with all phases of the brainstorming meeting – allowing you to capture all of your great ideas and send them to your group after the meeting.
Learn more about how yoyomeeting works, or try our Office 365 plug-in with our free two-week trial.