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Ideation and brainstorming are too often synonymous with stress and blank minds. For most people those words cause fear and tension at a time when they need to be relaxed and happy.
In the last article, Brainstorming for Groups: How to Inspire Contributions, we covered setting the stage for productive ideation sessions. This piece will focus-in on the actual session; namely, how a presentation should look, and how to manage the crowd during the session. Here are the keys to make a brainstorming meeting fun, and effective.
Here is what this could look like:
Leaving blanks for each idea will allow the presenter to fill in ideas as they’re solidified. However, during the session all ideas should be quickly typed up in shorthand so that nothing is missed. A fast typist should do this task: the presenter should never try to keep track of ideas being shared while managing the presentation. If a typist isn’t available, then record the session.
Now that an outline of needs has been created, flesh it out with details contributors have to know. For example, if Fnord is a soda company in CA that targets teens, then include this:
Soda pop company. Target: teens (13-17).
You may also want to include an example to give the session group an idea of what you need; for example, 7 Funny Soda Advertisements Your Grandma Might Remember. Do this for each client on the list. Here are tips to consider while constructing the presentation:
Here is what a presentation might look like when it is read:
Soda pop company in CA. Target: teens (13-17). Example: 7 Funny Soda Ads Your Grandma Might Remember.
~ PAGE BREAK ~
US Airline (in the South). Target: budget travelers. Example: How to Score Airline Upgrades & Free Drinks.
~ PAGE BREAK ~
Pickle Manufacturer. Target: soccer moms. Example: Incredible Journey of Pickles: From Ancient Times to Your Fridge.
Pat yourself on the back for preparing an easy-to-follow presentation. Make sure you share it with the team a few days before the session, so that they can begin to think (at least subconsciously) before the session. Also, remember to invite contributors to submit ideas via email.
The second item that should be emailed out is a detailed client ideation history. This should list every idea already published for the clients, so that contributors can avoid re-submitting old ideas and also gain a better grasp of what a client approves. While most people will only browse this document for a minute or two, dedicated contributors will read it.
To ensure that everyone sees the most successful past ideas, list them first, and show the numbers next to the top five:
Soda pop company in CA. Target: teens (13-17).
107. . . .
When the team is prepped and ready for a session, all that remains is you, the presenter. There are many things you can do before the presentation to be prepared for questions and unexpected lulls in contributions.
When the group hits its first lull, pull out a visual for the client in question. Bring one or more of their products, brochures, or printouts of their media. If it’s an airline, you could bring a toy airplane, if it’s a soda company, bring soda for everyone to drink. People have five senses: the more of them you involve in brainstorming, the more results you’ll get.
When the team goes dry and you feel the clock ticking, pull out a beanbag (yes, just like in elementary school). Tell the group that you’re going to pass it around and whoever gets it should say whatever idea comes to mind first. Even if the ideas aren’t helpful, they will get the ball rolling again. Put away the beanbag as soon as the group is resuscitated.
Break the team into small groups and give them two minutes to brain-dump ideas. The team with the most ideas could be rewarded, applauded, or they could be excused from the session early. Including unexpected rewards like that would put the team on notice and excite them.
No one wants to win a gross lollipop for helping out. However, if you can afford $5 Starbucks cards, you might see interest peak and contributions increase. Consider offering a $25 gift card to the contributor who has the most ideas accepted by clients (though, this requires tracking who submitted each idea).
Ask the contributors simple questions to get their minds going:
Any question that requires the group to think about the topic from a new perspective will inspire them. After each question, wait approximately three full seconds before moving on.
Prepare yourself for the ideation session the night before by selecting a work-appropriate outfit that you feel very comfortable in. Remember that everyone will be focusing on you.
Before the session begins, put yourself in an energetic, happy frame of mind: whatever you bring to the session is what you’ll see in the contributors. If you act awkward, so will they. Make sure that your laptop is properly connected to the projector, and that the screen is visible in every chair.
A well-staged presentation conveys to attendees that you are serious, and the topic deserves attention. Having a well-prepared presentation and a plan for quiet moments will fill you will confidence, which will make the contributors respond with confidence in you.
While all of this information is great for people who work at large agencies and with myriad clients, it might be overkill for freelancers and boutique firms. In the next article, How the Interwebs Can Lead You to Winning Ideas, we will cover a self-directed brainstorming session for individuals who need new insights on developing exciting content ideas.