It's not easy to run a virtual brainstorming session. Proper prep is essential, otherwise, it can become a big 'ol waste of time. Imagine a big rowdy group talking all at once and discussing ideas that have nothing to do with the topic. Not exactly a productive afternoon.
Now imagine having that kind of chaos with a distributed group or hybrid team: people on-site, remote, and across multiple locations. How do you run a proper virtual brainstorm as a virtual meeting?
It's even more of a challenge, but it can be done! And when it's done well, the results are always worthwhile.
A virtual brainstorm is a discussion between members of a group who are working from different locations. The purpose of virtual brainstorming is to come up with new ideas and find resolutions to problems. Teams typically set up a time to brainstorm at the beginning of new projects and campaigns to kickstart the planning process. Brainstorms can be held in-office, remotely, or with hybrid teams.
Have you ever experienced a virtual meeting where you could never figure out the right moment to talk? You either kept accidentally all speaking at once, or you waited and thus experienced an excruciatingly long and awkward silence. In fact, 76% of workers have a hard time contributing to the conversation during remote and hybrid meetings. It's not done intentionally – if you don't have the right virtual brainstorming tools, it's difficult for all participants. What types of virtual brainstorming tools should you consider?
Without good video, you're only getting half the context. Make sure your video conferencing setup has dynamic video and audio - ideally 360-degree, like the Meeting Owl 3. That way, the meeting is remote-inclusive, and remote callers can easily follow along. Having the best hybrid meeting technology is the most important step to a successful virtual brainstorming session.
While a dedicated whiteboard camera isn’t necessary, it will do wonders to improve the efficiency of your virtual brainstorming meeting. Dedicated whiteboard cameras - like the Whiteboard Owl - truly better hybrid brainstorms.
An important piece of any hybrid meeting technology setup is audio - especially for virtual brainstorming sessions. You need to be certain that everyone in the room is being heard by remote participants. Adding an additional microphone in the room can help ensure this.
If you have to review the agenda and topic during the meeting, you're wasting precious time. Make your team aware of the topic before the brainstorming session, so participants can properly prepare.
Ensure they take a few moments to jot down any ideas or questions they might have. If each individual comes with ideas, you can jump right to the team discussion. It will help the entire meeting run smoothly.
Be respectful of your employees' time. There are tasks that need to be done each day, so any additional time spent over the scheduled meeting could push into your employees' personal time.
For example, remember that members of a distributed team aren't always in the same time zone, so even though it's 9:00 AM for you, the meeting might be cutting into someone's dinner. If the discussion isn't finished by the end of the meeting, schedule another time to talk.
It's hard for teams to stay on track for an extended period of time. One topic sparks another topic and before you know it, the hour is up. Appoint one person who is willing to step in and bring everyone back to the topic at hand when side conversations strike.
Ensure this facilitator is someone who's not afraid to speak up. They should always be thoughtful of the remote attendees' ability to speak. It might be harder for them to raise an idea if the in-room participants begin dominating the conversation.
As a leader, it's essential to turn those brainstorm ideas into action. Send out a follow-up message with meeting notes and a checklist of any tasks that need to be accomplished before the next session and deadlines. This way, you'll keep the topic top of mind.
Here are a few additional virtual brainstorming tools you can use for your next session.
Virtual brainstorming software provides a shared virtual workspace where team members can contribute their thoughts, ideas, and feedback in a real-time, visual manner
Virtual brainstorming hardware encompasses a variety of devices and technologies that enhance the collaborative and interactive aspects of remote brainstorming sessions. These tools aim to bridge the physical distance between participants and create a more immersive and engaging brainstorming environment.
Brainstorming documentation tools play a crucial role in capturing, organizing, and preserving the wealth of ideas generated during brainstorming sessions. These tools help teams transform fleeting thoughts and concepts into actionable plans and strategies.
Effective virtual brainstorms can be done – they just take a bit of preparation that's always worth the outcome.