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Whether you are tasked to come up with ideas for a corporate creative campaign using a team of people, or you are just trying to generate ideas for yourself, the process of “brainstorming” is virtually the same. It doesn’t have to be an intimidating process and hopefully the idea of facilitating a session doesn’t strike in you with the same kind of blinding fear it did in me the first time I had to lead one – which happened when I was barely an account executive, with half the agency present, including the Big Boss, and The Client! But not only did I survive, I gained tremendous confidence through the challenge and (I think) managed to impress a few people.

1. Preparation: When it comes to involving other people in a brainstorming session, how well you prepare everyone for it BEFORE they get there is important. Provide a one or two page outline including background on the situation, the issues, and the competition, as well as some direction as to the kinds of ideas you are looking for. Send this out a few days in advance of your session to give people time to ruminate about it. I find that when I’m coming up with ideas it sometimes takes a few hours of just sitting with the concept in my mind before ideas really start to flow. Suggest that your participants take note of any thoughts and bring those with them into the session to share – this will also help to get things started.

2. Relaxed atmosphere: Where you get creative is equally important. A room that is comfortable, quiet, and without distraction will help people focus on what you are trying to accomplish. Also, keeping the atmosphere friendly and inviting so people will feel free to contribute is key. No stuffed shirts allowed. Otherwise, you’ll just get the same old boring ideas, from the same old people and that may result in a less effective campaign. In fact, working with a more diverse group should be your objective.

We all come from different places and you want to take advantage of unique perspectives.

3. Scheduling: According to Mind Power News http://www.mindpowernews.com/BestTimeOfDay.htm the most productive time of the day to generate ideas is between 9am and 11am. This is when your brain has activated enough of the stress hormone, cortisol, to allow your mind to focus and be creative. Having light snacks, such as fruit and nuts, and keeping everyone hydrated is also a good idea.

4. No negativity: It’s all good… or not. But don’t start judging anything until the session is done. Certainly not all ideas are going to be stellar, but that luke-warm, never-gonna-fly, embarrassed-you-said-it idea could lead to the next latest and greatest one. You owe it to the team (or yourself) to just put it out there – plant the seed and see what develops, for you or someone else in the group. That crazy idea could lead to something truly original and creative.

5. Post it: Write all the ideas on a board (or several boards) around the room so everyone can see them. Having all your ideas front and center will help maintain focus and flow.

6. Visual Aids: Using images can also be helpful to stimulate creative thinking. Ask people to bring tear-sheets from magazines, or print-outs from inspiring web content. Put those up on the wall too. There also some amazing online programs and apps available to help you organize your ideas: Pinterest, Wordstorm, Springpad, and Popplet are just a few.

7. Organize & Evaluate: As you are writing down ideas, try to keep them in some kind of cohesive order. When you have what you consider to be enough to work with, filter through them all categorically and see if you can expand on anything that you particularly like. Once everything has been explored to the fullest, you should be ready to put together a strong and comprehensive creative campaign strategy.