How to Hold a Productive Yearbook Brainstorming Session Every Time

How to effective brainstorm
Photo credit: Flickr CC user: Jason Eppink

Almost every classroom at my high school had the same inspirational poster: “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” Most of these posters had a cute cat or puppy behind them that had nothing to do with the saying, but despite how cheesy the actual photo was, it didn’t detract from the very important meeting.

As a yearbook staff, you have to work together as a team in order to come up with the finished product. While it’s important to have leaders and committee heads, it’s also important to listen to everyone’s input and ideas. A yearbook is a collaborative effort – not a one man show.

One way to get everyone’s input is to hold regular brainstorming sessions. These informal meetings are a great time for people to speak up, bounce different ideas off each other, and see what you end up with – the results might just surprise you.

While open communication is key to a successful brainstorming session, there are a few other things to consider in order to make the meeting a productive use of everyone’s time and not just an excuse to chat with each other.

Here are some tips on how to keep your brainstorming session on track:

1. Appoint a secretary – Oftentimes, when a bunch of creative types get together in one place, the ideas instantly start to fly, but none of this will do anyone any good if you don’t remember what your awesome idea was ten minutes later. That’s why it’s crucial that you appoint someone to take notes during the meeting and document all the ideas that go around the room, no matter how big or how small. You can also appoint someone to write down key words on a whiteboard to help keep the discussion on track.

2. Let everyone have a chance to speak up – In a group of people, one or two people inevitably start to dominate the conversation. To avoid this from happening in your meeting, make sure you instill rules that give everyone the opportunity to speak up. You can do something silly, like implement a speech stick, where whoever is speaking has to hold the special stick or you can go around the table after each point to see if anyone has anything more to add to the conversation.

3. Be encouraging – Remember, there are no wrong answers during a brainstorming session. Ideas might not be fully formed or someone might come up with something right on the spot. While you might not be super excited about every idea that comes up, it’s important to keep your judgements to yourself. You can, however, provide constructive criticism or suggestions to build on the idea, but avoid attacking someone’s idea outright. You never know where one little idea might end up once an entire team has had a stab at it.

4. Turn off the electronics – So often we tend to plug right in when it’s time to get to work. During your brainstorming session, have everyone except the note taker turn off all of their cell phones, computers, and any other gadget they have on them. Make this time about human interaction and pure ideas that are not influenced by looking at someone’s Facebook feed. Listen to each other’s ideas, make eye contact, and enjoy each other’s company. You are creating a really special product together and you might as well have a good time while you’re at it!

What do you think makes for an effective brainstorming session? What should the team avoid doing at all costs? Leave your comments in the box below.