Building A Great Brainstorm

Building A Great Brainstorm

Marketing retreats, brainstorms, plenary sessions.

They are a necessary part of the creative process for all industries, but particularly for the tourism industry and destination marketers.  But how can you prevent a promising brainstorm from turning into a useless hour (or three) of chat?

We pulled together a handful of tips, thoughts and tricks from our experience to help your next destination marketing brainstorm become a true hub of creativity.

8 Tips to Build a Great Brainstorm

Focus on the pre- and post-brainstorm.

Two weeks before the retreat, introduce the general idea behind the session.  How to integrate social media throughout the organization.  Building a new funding model with partnerships.  Identifying and educating new tourism advocates.  Let attendees begin to develop their thoughts on the topic.

After the brainstorm, ensure the results of the session are blended within other business practices.  Talk to other experts, develop a pilot program, initiate a beta test.  Don’t let the momentum die as everyone drives away.

Invite C-Level and interns.

I once worked with a client that only invited two people to the creative planning sessions for the DMO.  The Creative Director and the VP of Marketing.  And you know what, none of their ideas ever went beyond that meeting.

Invite people with a range of backgrounds, experience and interests.  Invite a couple of peers from outside the tourism industry.  Former employees, interns, the guy from the mailroom.  You are looking for range of thoughts, opinions and ideas.  Don’t limit yourself and the brainstorm potential.

Take out all of the clocks.

And watches, phones, all distractions.  If you really want creativity, don’t set a time limit.  People work towards that limit.  Keep sessions and activities progressing, once the momentum drops, stop the session.  Be realistic about the time requirements, but be aggressive to keep the pace of the brainstorm moving.

Take out all of the chairs.

The first day of a college art class, our teacher removed all of the chairs from his classroom.  As one of the students questioned his methods, he turned to the room and stated nothing creative has ever been done while sitting on your ass.

A universal truth? No.  But a great way to encourage interaction.

Chairs allow participants to hide, relax and remove themselves from the conversation.  Standing allows movement, demands focus and encourages change.  Try it, at least for a session or two.

Keep introductions short.

During the first brainstorm I ever led, I asked everyone for their name, title and favorite movie.  Huge mistake.  The damn intros took 45 minutes because half of the room wanted to examine the plot points behind their movie of choice, while the other half was so busy concentrating on coming up with a movie that appeared smart they did not listen to the introductions.

Buy name tags, fill them out, have everyone say ‘hi’ and get started.

Find a great leader.

Could be a moderator, could be a client manager from another account.  But you need someone to lead, agree, disagree, question, compliment and keep the session moving forward.  A person who can be independent, and ideally, strong enough to address any issues of rank, importance or fear.

Remove the fear.

You know why most brainstorm sessions and marketing retreats don’t work?  Because people are afraid to say what they really think, typically due to the leader, other peers involved or tone of the meeting.  We have all heard it before, but in a brainstorm it is critically true…there are no bad ideas.

Build, don’t demand.

Whether the rationale for the brainstorm is new creative, a strategic plan or identifying new funding models, be prepared to build upon ideas, rather than demand new ones.  If you have assembled the retreat attendees correctly, their combined expertise should allow ideas to grow and develop during the session.

Don’t expect a great idea of each attendee.  A great brainstorm session only needs a single, average idea that can be built upon by the group.

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