After years of creating content for our clients, we’ve learned a thing or twenty about how to run a brainstorm. Whether you’re generating ideas for a client or your own brand, these tips will help you make the most of your team’s time. Put on your raincoat—we are now entering the brainstorm.
BEFORE THE BRAINSTORM
1. Establish the goal of the brainstorm. What problem are you solving with these ideas, and what do you want to leave the meeting with?
2. Send a brief to the team at least a day beforehand that communicates the goal and any essential background information like audience, social networks, budget, thought starters, research, and client considerations. (For example: “On last week’s call, the client mentioned wanting to activate influencers more.”)
3. Keep it to seven people or fewer. Most people feel more comfortable sharing ideas in a smaller group, and when there are fewer participants, each person feels more accountable to fully prepare.
4. Ask participants to come with at least one idea. This way, the group has something to build on and you’ll avoid the intimidation of a blank slate.
EXERCISES FOR THE GROUP
5. Try pairing participants up so they can talk about their ideas and build upon them. Then, have everyone share with the full group.
6. If you’re brainstorming a catchy name for something, try having the group call out relevant words in rapid fire and writing them on a whiteboard. At the end, you might find that some of them fit together nicely. (And there’s no shame in opening up a thesaurus!)
7. Give everyone a chance to write ideas down anonymously on sticky notes to be read aloud by someone else. This helps people, especially introverts, to let their guards down.
8. Think of something that is true about your brand, audience, or product, and come up with an idea based on that. Sometimes a controversial truth can lead to the best ideas! (For example, if the product is “window blinds” the truth could be: People buy blinds so they don’t have to see what their weird neighbors are doing.)
REMINDERS FOR THE FACILITATOR
9. Refrain from shooting down ideas immediately. This will create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing those weird, crazy ideas that just might work.
10. Get comfortable with unplanned moments of silence. Great ideas can come out when everyone takes a minute to process.
11. Get the group back on track if you notice the conversation moving too far away from the goal of the brainstorm.
12. Move on if you’re starting to get stuck on one topic, and come back to it later with fresh eyes.
13. If you have multiple priorities to discuss, set an agenda and assign someone to be time-keeper.
14. Give participants a five-minute break if the meeting is longer than an hour.
15. Don’t feel like you have to stand the whole time! Sitting in a circle can make it feel more collaborative.
AFTER THE BRAINSTORM
16. Group similar ideas together to see if a pattern emerges. You may end up fusing, building upon, or scrapping ideas.
17. Let participants vote for their favorite ideas at the end of the brainstorm to get a sense of what the team is excited about.
18. Share the notes from the brainstorm with the team and give them time to add a few more ideas if anything comes to them after the meeting.
19. Meet again if there’s more to discuss or you’re not finished picking everyone’s brain.
20. Kill your children! We’ve all had those “ehhh” ideas that we get irrationally protective over. But if you truly love something, you must let it go (or keep it in your back pocket for a better-suited client).
We have the key to successful brainstorms and everything else you need to create engaging social content that drives real business results. Check out our Smarter Social solution.