5 Fantastic Facilitation Techniques for Virtual Brainstorming Sessions

Jun 17, 2020
woman preparing for a brainstorming meeting

With so many of us working with colleagues online, we suddenly need to improve our skills to lead and participate in meetings virtually. For leaders who need their team to be creative, facilitating brainstorming meetings can be a challenge. Until recently, leaders could rely on getting everyone together in a conference room and leverage the benefits of in-person dynamics.

Facilitating virtual brainstorming meetings does require a skilled facilitator. Such facilitators need people to come prepared to the meeting. They also need to create a team climate that makes people feel comfortable sharing and staying engaged.

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Tips to Be a Fantastic Facilitator

Focusing on team dynamics is crucial for a fruitful brainstorming meeting. At the same time, it’s essential to have technology that helps the team brainstorm ideas, like using a virtual whiteboard. However, whiteboarding sessions aren’t enough to help teams go from ideation to creation. A platform, like Bluescape, allows teams to ideate using a virtual whiteboard and then move to creating content while relying on the brainstorming session’s output.

So, what skills does it take to facilitate a brainstorming session that creates positive group dynamics? And what about using technology during the meeting? Here are five facilitation techniques to help meet both needs.

Prime your team. Inspire your team before the creative session. Share a compelling quote. Or ask a question that helps your team think about the session’s purpose. Sharing compelling imagery or examples of what the team ultimately needs to create can prim the team to get in the headspace needed to brainstorm.

Send an agenda ahead of the meeting. Depending on the complexity of the problem, send an agenda between 48-hours or one week before the meeting. The more complex the problem, the more lead time the team will need to think before the meeting.

Create a safe virtual team environment. A great leader knows his or her role is to create a climate that helps people feel safe. Psychological safety, a key team dynamic, makes people feel safe to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed.

Know your facilitation tools. A great facilitator uses techniques that maximize contributions that generate lots of ideas. A skilled facilitator pairs the business need to the desired outcome from a brainstorming session and uses an appropriate facilitation tool: affinity diagram exercise or pair-and-share, for example.

Know the technology. A facilitator needs to prepare for anything. This includes being ready to explain how to use technology, like a virtual whiteboard or a virtual work platform. And technology doesn’t always work when we need it. So, when using technology, have a back-up plan when it doesn’t work.

Ultimately, a great facilitator understands that he or she is responsible for guiding the team to be successful. Creative meetings have an added expectation: get the team ready to be creative to deliver a high-quality outcome. The outcome must help achieve the business need that precipitated the need for a brainstorming session.

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About the Author

Shawn Murphy

Shawn is our Director of Organizational Behavior and Workplace Trends. His second book, Work Tribes is out now along with his first book, The Optimistic Workplace.

 

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