Dear Meeting Guru,

"How can I conduct a brainstorming session via a teleconference?"


Blessed Meeter,

Holding a brainstorming session over the phone will be more difficult than a face-to-face session because of the lack of visuals. But, if you are prepared and establish some rules for communicating before the meeting, you can still produce some terrific results.

Send all attendees tips on effective listening and communicating skills, including “ask questions,” “don’t interrupt” and “don’t change the subject.”
Send all attendees a list of participants so they may address one another by name.
Before the session starts have attendees agree to recognize a sound you make – such as a whistle or knock on a table – as the sign to stop talking and allow you to take over.
Assign a scribe to record ideas and decisions. After the session send the notes to all attendees.
Make sure attendees from all locations are involved in the discussion.
Have all attendees choose a quiet location from which to participate. They shouldn’t meet from their desks unless they have a private office and won’t be disturbed.
Don’t allow anyone to speak for too long. Attendees will stop paying attention to rambling speakers, especially in a teleconference.
Attendees won’t see the scribe’s notes, so remind them throughout the session’s focus.
Take a few minutes halfway through the session to have the scribe read aloud the ideas and decisions recorded to that point. Attendees can then let you know if they agree with the decisions or if something’s been missed.

In conclusion, if you’re aware of the limitations involved in brainstorming over the phone, you can structure your meeting to avoid the pitfalls of meeting without visuals. For more information about effective brainstorming, read Brainstorming Techniques That Work.

As the author George Bernard Shaw once said, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” In other words, no matter what tools you use for this brainstorming session, follow up afterwards to make sure everyone has the same understanding of what decisions were made.

Until next time… may good meeting karma be with you.



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