A team’s creativity and problem-solving abilities often hinge on communication. For most businesses and organizations, this communication happens frequently in brainstorming sessions.
If not done right, though, brainstorming sessions don’t produce the results managers and meeting leaders hope for. This is especially true when brainstorm sessions are held during conference calls. There’s just a different dynamic that needs to be navigated over the phone.
But brainstorming during conference calls can be done - and well. Here are some best practices for you to consider as you incorporate the strategy into your calls.
The obvious benefit of brainstorming is that it helps groups come up with ideas from a number of different sources. When more than one person is involved, ideas tend to be less redundant and more innovative. Teams that are comprised of members from diverse backgrounds and interests only help increase the variety of ideas.
Businesses and other organizations use brainstorming not only to create and gather ideas, but also to increase cohesiveness among team members.
Some research has suggested that brainstorming does more to foster teamwork than it does to actually generate new and better ideas, specifically when the ideas are qualified during the brainstorming process.. It’s a great way to boost morale and make sure everyone on the call understands they have an important role to play in the team’s overall decision-making process.
Other common benefits that have made brainstorming a popular strategy over the years include the encouragement of critical thinking in evaluating ideas and helping others see things from different perspectives.
Brainstorming during a conference call requires some preparation ahead of time. This means meeting hosts should develop and send out an agenda in advance. The agenda should include a description of what people should expect to brainstorm, list conversation leaders or moderators and provide a time limit that will be adhered to.
Be careful to remain considerate of everyone’s time, too, when determining how long the conference call will take. Like many other meetings, brainstorming sessions can go over their allotted time very easily. Even if the conversation is productive and valuable, try not to go too far beyond the time limit that was set. Follow-ups can be set up or another call can be scheduled instead.
No matter the purpose of the conference call, note-taking should always be encouraged. Taking notes promotes better retention of important information. It also improves attention to detail, allows meeting participants to focus more on the meeting, increases organization abilities and increases creativity.
While everyone would do well to take notes during a meeting, hosts should also assign the role of official note-taker to someone. This should be someone who is an excellent listener and is well-organized.
In many circles, many notes from meetings are also known as minutes. Meeting minutes should be compiled, cleaned up and then sent out to everyone who participated, plus anyone else who may find them useful.
With brainstorming conference calls, notes should be focused on collecting the ideas mentioned and how any of those ideas were further developed and evaluated. Have the note-taker organize their notes by topic.
Again, the notes can be edited and cleaned up later so that they are easier to follow.
Once you have sent out an agenda, assigned a note-taker and have made all the necessary invites, it is time to think more about how you are going to ensure that everyone on the call has a chance - and is encouraged - to participate in the brainstorming session.
On conference calls, it is important to hold everyone on the team accountable. They probably were not invited to call in just so they can listen to everyone else speak.
Ask that everyone come prepared to participate. It’s also OK to ask people directly if you have noticed they are not speaking up. Try to ask in tactful ways that does not make them feel like they are being put on the spot, though.
Proper etiquette is expected in any meeting, but it is especially important on conference calls because it can be even harder to make sure everyone is heard and no single person takes up too much of the allotted time.
The basics of business meetings apply:
But there are other etiquette rules that should be followed on conference calls:
When holding any sort of meeting over the phone, it can sometimes be hard for participants to keep track of the conversation and any action steps that come out of the call.
The notes sent out after the meeting are one method of following up, but you may want to consider reaching out - or encouraging others to reach out - if they want to discuss more about the call.
Call hosts should consider sending out an additional summary of the meeting. This can be written by either the host or the note-taker. The summary does not have to be as detailed as the meeting minutes, but it should still give a brief recap of results, next steps that came out of the brainstorming session and who is responsible for carrying out those next steps.
Now that you have prepared yourself for the upcoming brainstorming session, it’s time to start the conference call. With ConferenceTown.com, you can sign up right away and begin a free instant conference call with an array of features that won’t cost you or your participants anything.
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