Conducting a Zoom Brainstorming Session

Conducting a Zoom Brainstorming Session

One of my clients said to me recently, “The world of Zoom is like the Wild West… everyone is running in that direction, but many don’t seem to have a clue what they are doing.”
 
Amen sister! Zoom is a new frontier for sure, and lots of people are seeking – and others, offering – advice on how to keep virtual meetings and events interesting and engaging.  

To that end, I thought about one type of meeting that could pose a real challenge online – the brainstorming session. How do you make and keep a virtual brainstorming session interesting, engaging, and inclusive?
 
So, at the risk of adding to the social media cacophony on effective virtual meetings and communications, here’s my one idea for Zoom brainstorming sessions (works best for teams of fewer than 10):

Time: Schedule the Zoom session for only 30 minutes.
 
Meeting invite: Scope out the central issue, question, idea or solution needed. Identify parameters and any specifics that brainstorming participants need to know.
 
Assignment: Ask participants to brainstorm on their own prior to the meeting (this works better for introverts anyway) and then to home in on their best idea and develop a 3-minute pitch around that idea.
 
Meeting agenda: Pitchfest! Make the Zoom session a Pitchfest, in which each participant takes no more than 3 minutes to pitch their idea and its rationale to the team. Meeting leader, be sure to time everyone!
 
Result: You can do an online poll afterward to rank the ideas, or you can let the ideas marinate for a while (e.g. 24 hours) and then hold a “watercooler” session via Zoom to ask questions, discuss, debate and decide. To ensure inclusivity and full engagement, make sure everyone has a chance to talk and ask questions.
 
If you try this, please let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear feedback!

What Should We Do About This?

I have no advice to offer this week. I only have a question. What should we do about the issue of technology and presentations?

Let me tell you why I’m asking: Last week, I attended an event that featured 4 speakers, each of whom spoke for 8 minutes (ahem, there’s a brevity trend in our midst, I love it! #brevity #jocktalkbook). Each of the fours speakers was amazing. Their content was fresh, meaningful and tight, and everyone’s delivery was impeccable – they were poised, energetic, animated and kept their eyes on the audience at all times. Not a single flaw among the four.

But guess what? The technology failed and caused bumpy starts – followed by some fits and starts – for two of the four speakers.

I probably should mention before I go any further that the meeting was hosted and attended by technology professionals. Probably 100 of them, maybe more. Ergo, “user error” – or being unfamiliar with the equipment or software, as might happen with someone like me – can be scratched off the list of culprits.

So, here we are.

Technology fails. It does. And there are consequences. It wastes time. It dilutes the impact of a speaker’s opening. It forces an otherwise superstar speaker into an unexpected awkward moment. And perhaps worst of all, it causes the audience to roll their eyeballs (at least figuratively if not literally) and divert their attention to a side conversation or to their devices while they wait.

Ay caramba!, as Bart Simpson would say.

What should we do about this? It’s not even just a possibility that technology might fail, it’s more of a likelihood. We know this, don’t we? Yet we still bring our best stuff to a presentation on a flash drive or a laptop. The only thing I can think of is that we must be using some finely honed skills of denial, then holding our breath during set-up, and ultimately hoping for the best. I’m an optimist too, and that last sentence describes me too, but only sometimes. I have my own little over-compensation back-up plan. But not everyone does …

So what should we do about this? Visuals are awesome, but technology can be problematic – for speakers and their audiences. Thoughts? Ideas? Alternatives?

Weigh in, technology lovers!