Day 134 — Designing Interactive Brainstorming Sessions

One of the biggest things I miss from work during COVID is the interactive group experience, especially when it comes to brainstorming.

Activities like the Google Ventures Sprint are amazing team-building and problem-solving exercises that are just really hard to replace in a virtual world (I also happen to really love facilitating these interactive sessions…).

Today I had an opportunity to host a session on “Telling Your Story”, so I put virtual interactivity to the test.

Here’s how it went.

Note on Interactive Meeting Development: Building an interactive session is 10x more work than putting together some slides and talking for an hour. But it’s worth it! I highly recommend the Gamestorming Website for finding creative, interactive activities. It will create 10x better output and lead to 10x happier participants.

A Story-Based Agenda

I found this really cool twist on an agenda called the hero’s journey. It’s a twist on the story format for an epic adventure and I thought it was a fun twist relevant for today’s storytelling session.

Here’s what I developed:

Warm-Up

I like to start all interactive sessions with a fun creative warm-up that loosens people up. In-person, my favorite go-to is called “30 apples”. Since today was on Zoom, I needed something else. So Instead I tried an exercise called squiggly birds.

The main point of the demonstration was to get us out of our normal thinking with a simple, fun activity. Relative to storytelling, it’s sort of like our lives — we’re more than capable of turning a bunch of squiggles into something that matters. OK, it’s also just fun to draw birds out of nothing…

Interactive Session

For the heart of an interactive session, I love the concept of “working alone together.” In big groups, too often 1 person does the talking and the rest of the group is forced to listen (or not…).

In an interactive session, post-its and a timer replace the “sage on the stage” and everyone becomes a contributor.

Since the format today was personal storytelling, I drew on a few games for inspiration, including:

I broke the activity into 3 parts. The goal was for each participant to come away with an outline of their own story.

Part 1: Building Your Why

“Finding our purpose” sounds like a big, scary, thing. But writing down big life events in our life and things we dream of doing are not, so we started here. It’s important to keep these time-boxed, so I set a 1-minute timer for each.

Part 2: Building Your Chapters

The 2nd part of the activity was a rapid-fire round of key personal, educational, and professional experiences. Here I gave 20s — 1m each.

Part 3: Tying it Together

Last, we arranged everything into a storyboard. The challenge here was prioritizing what matters most. The result? A personalized story.

What’s Next?

Overall, it was a really fun and productive session and (hopefully) a fun twist on “another Zoom meeting.” If you’re still running non-interactive meetings for brainstorming, I highly recommend investing the time to engage your team!

Startup founder surviving in his parent’s basement.