Brainstorming sessions can be a pain, but when it’s virtual, it takes more effort to keep all the attendees engaged. While emails and short team meetings can help prepare an outline, the actual brainstorming in the COVID era requires hours of meetings. Yes, you need to prep for the meeting, but what’s essential is having the proper tools and a meeting agenda.
Now, imagine a situation where you have some team members working on-site, some sitting in the conference room, and some of them are remote. How do you keep the discussion from turning chaotic? Here are some pointers to help you run a successful virtual brainstorming session.
#1: Use Collaborative Tools
Well, this one’s a no-brainer. If you try to explain your point using only words without visuals, the chances are your attendees are tuning out or not getting the point. They’d be muting their mics and just sitting there. So, always make sure that you use an online whiteboard along with video conferencing. One benefit of the virtual whiteboard is that it allows you to add graphs, templates, and imagery in general to explain your point. This also makes it interesting for the attendees.
#2: Set A Meeting Agenda
When you outline a plan and set up an agenda, attendees are more prone to stick to the topic at hand. Make sure that your team knows about the agenda and does some homework. This will help everyone to be productive during the meeting.
Encourage your team to jot down a few questions or pointers they’d like to share with everyone. If an individual contributes an idea, that inspires team discussion and better outcomes.
#3: Set A Time Limit
We all hate long meetings, right? So, no matter how complex the topic you are discussing is, set up a time limit for the whole session. If needed, you can break up the concepts into parts so that there are pauses and time to create a plan of action between two meetings.
Some of the best decisions occur when you ponder on the discussion points later. Additionally, if you have a distributed team in different time zones, you need to consider their lifestyle as well. So, while you might not have a problem with a two-hour meeting, you might be cutting into someone’s family time or dinner prep. That’s definitely a no-no for a productive outcome.
#4: Appoint A Moderator
When it comes to bouncing off ideas, anyone can get distracted. One idea will lead to another, and soon you’ll find that the discussion is deviating from the topic. So, make sure you have a facilitator or a moderator who isn’t afraid to speak up. This person should bring the discussion back on track while being thoughtful and positive about the process. Of course, we want the meeting to stay on track, but no one should feel demeaned, mansplained, or belittled while speaking.
#5: Send a Reminder
Most often, a simple reminder can do wonders for a virtual session. So, make sure that you include or email a reminder outlining the meeting agenda. Use this occasion to prompt the invitees to research and put thought into the upcoming virtual brainstorming session.
#6: Record the Meeting
You might need to refer back to a particular discussion later. Since the meeting is conducted online, you can always record it using in-built or free third-party tools such as Flashback Express. This way, you will always have a record and a reference to the meeting, which frees you up to concentrate on the meeting instead of furiously writing notes.
Additionally, sometimes members maybe not be able to attend for many reasons, so a recording can help fill that gap and keep your team informed and up to date.
#7: Always Encourage Follow Up Conversations
After a brainstorming session, you need to ensure that any action items stemming from the session are followed up to their completion. To do otherwise falls into the classic trap of most meetings, leading to time-wasting and, worse, entrenching a “why bother” culture.
After handing over responsibilities, follow up questions need to be answered. This can be done using an web based whiteboard or through apps like Slack.
Ask for feedback or the best ways to implement action items. The more you encourage discussion, the more effective your brainstorming session will be.
#8: Share Resources
Since you know your team best, you will know where they most need help. So, to make the virtual brainstorming session a success, share resources and guidelines with your team members in advance, such as through apps like HuddleIQ.
If you have some virtual brainstorming exercises you want to include, make sure you prepare cheatsheets and instruction slides in advance, and share them with your team. You can take care of the explanation with the help of a digital whiteboard online during the meeting.
#9: Tech Lessons
Some of your team members might not know how to access the meeting software or might not have equipment handy. So, prepare some video tutorials or some online training sessions a day or two before the actual session. This will help all the members to be familiar with the tools and technologies used. Also, it will foster team spirit, especially if all your team members are working remotely.
A brainstorming session is incomplete without a list of action items. So, make sure that you have a list of key takeaways from the meeting. At the end of the meeting, make sure that you assign tasks to the responsible team members, and watch how your brainstorming session becomes effective at creating solutions for your business.