How to Run a Virtual Brainstorm

Rebecca Corliss

Rebecca Corliss | October 17, 2017

It’s not easy to run a 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: people on site, remote, and across multiple locations. How do you run a proper 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.

It starts with great video. 

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.  It’s not done intentionally – if you don’t have video (or good video) it’s simply because participants can’t see each other’s facial expressions. Facial expressions and body language make up 55% of communication.

And thus without good video, you’re only getting half the context.

Perhaps we’re a bit biased, but the Meeting Owl video conferencing camera solves this problem. It shows a full panorama of the room and automatically focuses on the person who is speaking. That way, remote callers get a close-up of each speaker and can easily follow along. It feels more like a face-to-face conversation, and it's the most important step to a successful brainstorming session.

4 Tips for Successful Virtual Brainstorms 

1. Send out the topic and a clear overview of the goal/purpose of the brainstorm beforehand. 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 brainstorm 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.

2. Set a time limit to the meeting. Be respectful of your employees’ time. There’s 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 9:00AM 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.

3. Appoint a moderator. 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 it’s someone who’s not afraid to speak up. That person also should always be thoughtful of the remote attendees’ ability to speak. It might be harder for them to raise an idea if the in-rom participants begin dominating the conversation.

4. Send a follow-up.  As a leader, it’s essential to turn those brainstorm ideas into action. Send out a follow up with meeting notes and a check-list of any tasks that need to be accomplished before the next session and deadlines. This way, you’ll keep the topic top-of-mind.

Effective virtual brainstorms can be done – they just take a bit of preparation that’s always worth the outcome.

Download the leadership guide: How to Manage Remote Employees