Charlotte Wright IWD Manchester

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Holly O'Rourke and Sophie Rhone, Digital PR Managers at iProspect share their top tips on how to have a successful virtual brainstorm.

In recent weeks, everyone has had to adapt to video calling, and for those who have kids, pets, and partners, a busy household can be distracting.

As a Digital PR team, we need to have our creative hats on to create gripping content that fits in with the current media appetite, now more than ever!

Brainstorm 1

When it comes to virtual brainstorms, we don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen, so ensuring we have the right number and relevant people in the session is key. Alongside this, timekeeping, research, and creative warmups also need to be incorporated – but how do we make this work in the current climate?

On the surface it may seem like we’re facing a challenge, there are certainly some benefits to remote brainstorming. Therefore, to ensure maximum success, we’ve adapted new techniques to excel in the virtual world.

From sending out invites to sharing stimuli, here are our top tips for hosting a brainstorm via video call.

Who should be invited?

It’s important to have the right number people on your video call, as too many people can be chaotic, with voices from every direction being disruptive to the session.

We recommend inviting just four people to a virtual brainstorm. That way, everyone involved can be on the screen at the same time and it means you get quick visual feedback to ideas that makes interaction feel a lot more normal.

You should also ask your team to let you know beforehand if they need to drop out, giving you time to find a replacement. It’s much easier to find a replacement when you’re in an office packed with people, so a small amount of extra planning here will make sure you have an effective virtual room.

Getting inspiration

When it comes to generating ideas on a video call, it’s vital that everyone brings some inspiration to kick start great ideas. As always, we should search the internet for trends, talking points and themes that relate to the client we’re brainstorming for. We use the following sources for our inspiration: 

      ·        Twitter is great for trending topics and popular tweets. You can also play around with changing your location to get a different set of trends. Why not try going down to state and city level to see what’s happening locally.

      ·        On Reddit, you can find new threads and engaging questions. Again, changing location (here is UK) is a good idea.

      ·        News outlets are a useful source of inspiration. Look at national press, lifestyle sites, sector focused publications.

      ·        Check Buzzsumo for trending news and the most read stories.

Once we’ve complied some inspiring content pieces, you should circulate them to the team ahead of the brainstorm, so they can get an idea of the topics that will be discussed and be able to prepare.

Virtual warm-up techniques

It’s can be difficult to sense the mood of the team on a video call, which is one of the biggest struggles we face. So, to create some positive energy going you can try kicking things off with a fun, creative warm-up game to get everyone geared up for a productive session.

Warm-ups are an essential part of the brainstorming process and it’s vital that they are incorporated into creative sessions whenever possible. When we aren’t all sat in the same room, there can often be a lack of energy, so a fun warm-up is a great way to create a buzz on the call. Warm-up games also help to stimulate the right side of our brains, which is where we generate creative ideas. You wouldn’t go for a run without warming up your muscles first – and the same goes for your brain.

Riddles, word association games, and simple drawing tasks are great ways to get the team going. As we’re on camera, anything we write down and show to the team will appear backwards, so why not ask everyone to write a sentence so it’s legible on screen? This will really get everyone’s brains engaged.

Virtual brainstorm 2

Keeping the team focused

When running a virtual brainstorm, it’s likely that the team will get distracted; whether it’s the TV in the background or their dog barking at the window. As we don’t usually encounter these distractions, we should ask our team to try to switch off the background noise and go to a quiet room, just as we would if we were back at the office.

If your team can do this, sessions are usually much more productive, and you can ideate at a faster pace with increased productivity.

Alongside this, we are less inclined to engage in small talk on a video call, whereas when we’re all in a room together, we can end up chatting about the latest office drama, or what happened on the latest episode of Killing Eve. This is proving to be a huge benefit when it comes to being time efficient.

Sharing stimuli

In brainstorming sessions, we are usually armed with sticky notes, cut up news headlines, colourful buzz words and inspiring images to help spark ideas in the room. Without this, we need to ensure we are still sharing stimuli in the best way possible.

Whereas, when hosting brainstorms via video call, this involves using the screen sharing functionality to visualise the stimuli instead. The team leader can compile a word document filled with headlines and images to discuss or can have a variety of news sites open on their browser to flick through.

A benefit of a video-call is that every participant is connected to the internet, making it easy for them to quickly Google topics and possible lightbulb moments that pop into their heads during the session. Whereas, when we host our sessions in the office, teams may not bring in their laptops and won’t have the opportunity to research their idea.

Rounding up

When you get to the end of the session, you might find you didn’t quite fully understand some of the ideas discussed on the call. There may have been issues such as a lack of body language or a broken line which could lead to a lack of clarity. This is a downside of a virtual session, as it’s much easier to tap your team mate on the shoulder to answer a question than wait for a reply to an email.

To alleviate this problem, before ending the call, it’s vital to conclude with a roundup of the ideas to ensure everyone is happy and understands the outcome of the session.

This will end the session on a positive not but also gives the team a sense of achievement and makes it easier for the host to explore ideas in more detail without the need for further explanation.

So, there you have it, it’s business as usual - with a virtual twist.