George Kovoor
Guest Article

Brainstorming on broadband

"You're on mute", "Can you see me now?", "Am I audible?" - How to have productive meetings despite the chaos?

One of the things I was most concerned about when we went into lockdown in March 2020 was – “How the heck are we going to brainstorm?"

It was hard enough to sit in a room and brainstorm in the first place but to do it remotely and virtually seemed almost impossible. But over the weeks and months that followed we began to work it out and soon even became good at it.

How to have a productive brainstorming session on a virtual call? Here are 5 things I've learnt over 18 months:

Think Individually

Brainstorming sessions can’t be used as thinking sessions. The only way a brainstorming session can flourish is if the team comes prepared. I usually give the team a couple of days after the brief to think and jot down their thoughts. That way the session is free flowing and fertile. This is especially useful on a virtual call where interpersonal interactions are restricted. Long periods of thinking can lead to a break in conversations that can lead to a break in the momentum of the discussion.

Am I audible?

However good your internet connection, communication on a virtual meeting can be challenging. The biggest challenge? To be heard! There is a general clamour to be heard and this can lead to multiple people talking at the same time. A simple way to maintain order is to use the hand symbol available on most platforms. That way everybody gets a chance to speak. And everybody is audible.

Keep the camera on

The biggest problem with virtual meetings is that there are no personal interactions. Keeping the camera on gives the meeting a sense of reality. It is far easier to communicate when you see a face rather than a black screen. It also helps create an energy that is essential for a good ideation session.

USE the tech

Most online meeting platforms have features that can enrich a discussion. You can share your screen, and share files and videos. These aid and inspire great ideation and stimulate the discussion. You can also record the whole session to refer to later. I feel these features can really help in enriching a brainstorming session.

Time

Keep it short. Nobody wants to stare at a screen for hours on end, even though there are familiar faces on it. Instead of having a long three-to-four-hour meeting I prefer to split up the sessions into hour-long meetings – usually one in the morning and then another at the end of the day. That way the team is fresh and ready every time.

The first rule of brainstorming is that there are no rules. These are just my observations from the hundreds of virtual meetings I have had over the last 18 months. 18 months in which we have created campaigns with the copywriter in Manali, the art director in Goa, the planner in Gurgaon and the client servicing manager in Kerala. I can’t wait to start brainstorming in person but until then, Zoom barabar zoom.

About the author: Writer. Creative Director. Gamer. Football Fanatic. Golfer. Father. Not in any particular order. He’s also group creative director - digital lead, Ogilvy South.