6 Tips on How to Run Virtual Brainstorming Sessions

Photo by Scott Graham

At actiTIME, we love brainstorms! If you are a part of an organization, you must have been a part of such sessions in the past few months.

But brainstorming sessions have changed big time.

Long gone is the time when you could just enter a room and conduct a brainstorming session with your team. Owing to COVID-19, teams have now shifted to working remotely. Nevertheless, the value of brainstorming sessions has never lessened, in fact, has only increased. Brainstorming sessions don’t just help us come up with new ideas but also unites a remote team to work in a particular direction with a variety of approaches.

According to Business Insider, employees reach more creative solutions and ideas via virtual brainstorms. With all the enthralling benefits, virtual brainstorming sessions are always a step away from being clumsy and unproductive if not managed with a planned structure. On the worst day, these sessions can turn out to be people talking over each other, distracted by background noises and technical glitches.

It sounds bad, doesn’t it?

Well, to help you with your brainstorming sessions, let’s cover a few tips and tricks to run engaging virtual brainstorming sessions to boost the productivity of your remote employees.

1. Share the Brainstorming Brief in Advance

Brainstorming is a concept that works better with well-thought ideas. For topics to be well thought, it takes time. That is exactly why it is recommended to share the brainstorming brief with the attendees in advance.

Your session should have a primary goal, i.e., a problem to be addressed, a product to be developed, etc. And to make a brainstorming session successful, you should prioritize sharing the brief and necessary resources.

To guide you further, here is what you can include in your brainstorming brief:

  • Date, time, and expected duration of the session
  • The primary purpose of the session
  • Information regarding the primary purpose
  • Useful links for better research on the topic
  • A set of brainstorming questions to give direction to the thought process

2. Leverage the Right Tools

How easy brainstorming sessions were when you could just enter a room, sketch on the whiteboard, and conduct a discussion. You can still do that while working remotely with the right set of tools.

This is a crucial one, believe us.

When you have everything right in the place for your brainstorming session to boom, you wouldn’t want to be drawn back because of technical glitches or tool incompetencies. Because remote work survives on tools. And, brainstorming sessions survive on communication and collaboration which are achieved with the base of a strong collaboration tool. So, hop into your research shoes and look for the right collaboration tool, file sharing tool, video conferencing tool, and an online whiteboard too.

Automate as much as possible.

For example, if you use a tool like Slack for your project management, you could launch automated standup meetings that saves time as well as makes sure your team can come together each week regardless of which part of the world they are located in.

Photo by Stephen Phillips

When we are talking about tools, let us quickly mention that there are a bunch of other tools to boost your productivity and you can choose depending on your business. For example, if you have an advertising agency, you can utilize a tool like Buffer for social media management. And if you have just started, you can go slow on your budget by using these buffer alternatives available in the market. Or probably you want to improve your website’s ranking without hiring an SEO specialist, then you can just try a website analyzer and make an SEO check online.

It is also worth noting that one of the most important aspects when it comes to remote work is cybersecurity. Experts recommend equipping yourself with various security tools to help you ensure that your accounts are safe and breach-proof. Among those are password managers which help you create strong combinations and store them conveniently in a secure vault.

Once you have what works best for you and your team, you are good to go!

3. Understand the Participants

Think of what can primarily make your brainstorming session successful. Is it the structured plan? Or the best performing tool? No! It’s the participants.

A brainstorming session should have the right participants as it’s not necessary for everyone to become a part of it. Think through who can contribute to the respective topic and then send invites or as they say, squeeze the juice only from the right lemons.

Moreover, remote brainstorming sessions will have all kinds of people; introverts and extroverts. So, you will have to understand each one of them and make them feel comfortable enough to speak up and be a part.

Also, don’t restrict the participant’s list to a certain team. Be open to different points of view from other team members as well. For example, if you are brainstorming over a tool that is to be launched, the technical team will give their tech insights and the creative team will brainstorm on the creative experience side of the tool.

That’s how you manage your workforce.

4. Take the Lead

We agree that brainstorming sessions are collaborative in nature. But without a firm hand to lead the session, it might just be a big disaster and a waste of time.

Moreover, there might be participants who would be eagerly interested in it and the others might just have muted themselves. At such times, make sure you take the lead and keep a clear ground.

You can also set a platform that is open to any questions related to the discussion. And when people ask questions, make sure to use pauses and give the other person a space to listen and respond. This is crucial when working remotely and surviving on tools.

5. Take Virtual Notes

It was quite easy to have brainstorming sessions with a whiteboard right by the side and the members could easily note down while still talking and engaging. But when your team is working remotely, to keep the eye balance between the screen and taking notes is a toughie.

That is exactly why you need to make virtual notes while brainstorming.

Photo by Damian Zaleski

The added benefit of virtual notes is that you can use a shared document where each one of you can come back to even in the future. In these sessions, you are thinking wider and expanding your possibilities to solve problems or develop approaches and you might need tools to keep up to your mind. Following are some of the free tools that you can use to take notes.

  • IdeaBoardz
  • Google Documents
  • Realtime board
  • Coggle
  • MindMeister

6. Invite Feedbacks

Nothing is perfect, right?

It’s how much we strive to become perfect. It’s the same with your brainstorming sessions. You have to make consistent efforts to witness progress. Part of it involves being open to feedback.

You can’t always notice all the ups and downs, the flow of the interaction, etc., and which is why you should always look for more suggestions and feedback. Ask your colleagues to get back to you after the session or send a personalized feedback email. You can further use it to improvise your upcoming brainstorming sessions.

It’s a Wrap

When companies are striving for unique approaches and extraordinary ideas, brainstorming sessions are to be relied on. And when working remotely, with the necessary tools and software for collaboration, it could be made as effective as the one in the office.

Good luck and don’t forget to give the right amount of breathing space to your employees and develop an understanding of their work-life balance.

After reading this, I hope you have a well-planned structure for your brainstorming sessions. We would love to hear from you. Let us know what works best for you from the following.

Happy virtual brainstorming!

This article was contributed to actitime.com by Surya Ranjan Pandita, an SEO Strategist at SocialPilot who finds a keen interest in looking for new strategies to optimize the content.

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