Thriving In A Brainstorming Meeting as an Introvert
As an introvert in the workplace, nothing is more draining than meetings. I just want to sit at my desk, do my work and leave meetings to other people. Whenever I go to a meeting, even if I have nothing to say, I get called on to give my opinion.
The hardest types of meetings though are brainstorms. With other meetings, you can get away with sitting in the back, saying something only when asked or when it’s your turn. Brainstorm meetings force creativity, interactions, and holding full-fledged conversations. Every time I’ve walked out of a brainstorm, I feel totally drained.
If you work in a creativity demanding environment like me, you’re probably well acquainted with brainstorms and the toll they take on your emotional well-being. Here are some tips to not only handle the stress but thrive in brainstorms and how to walk out not feeling squeezed dry.
Prepping Everybody Before the Brainstorm
Far too much time is wasted at the beginning of poorly planned brainstorms trying to figure out what they’re gonna brainstorm. Having no topic, or an extremely loose topic just leads to long side conversations, additional interactions and wasted time.
By emailing everybody ahead of time and informing them of the focus for the brainstorm, it will help everybody hit the ground running. That means less chit chat, more work and the sooner you can get back to sweet solitude and start to recharge. If you aren’t in charge, encourage the facilitator to send that email out.
Finding The Right Place
Lots of workplaces aren’t designed to promote creativity and collaborating, or may just don’t have a spare room to dedicate to brainstorms. In these situations, making everybody feel relaxed, including you, is next to impossible. Nobody wants to throw out ideas in a room next to the boss or in a public space where everybody can hear.
Finding a safe, relaxed spot for everybody helps get those creative juices flowing. If your office doesn’t have a space like this, encourage going off-site. This will transform a stuffy, stressful meeting into a more casual and relaxed get together with coworkers. Just be sure to stay focused and actually working. Some great places to head to are: coffee shops, libraries, local parks and office lobbies.
Promote creative ideas by providing members of the group with the tools needed to think up and explain ideas. Have a whiteboard or massive notepad for people to sketch out ideas to explain to the group. Have access to a computer so somebody can show an existing idea and bounce ideas on how it applies to the current problem. Identify and provide the tools your team needs so they can provide the most value in the meeting.
Being The Scribe
Your brainstorm is only as good as the ideas remembered. That means somebody has to record all of the ideas that get tossed around. Volunteering to be the note taker for the meeting not only makes you a valuable member of the brainstorm but also allows you to be more in the background. Nobody expects too many ideas from the scribe because they are busy writing everything down.
That doesn’t mean you are off the hook, though. Be sure to still contribute ideas to the group and not use note taking as an escape. You simply have better control of your interactions and don’t have to push yourself to match those around you.
Every Idea is a Good Idea
One massive fear in a meeting is saying an idea that people deem stupid and you being judged as unintelligent. Add that to crippling social anxiety or an introverted nature, and there is no chance of contributing to a group discussion.
The best brainstorms are upbeat, positive, sessions where ideas should be given without fear of judgment. You never know how your ideas can influence others, and crazy ideas can lead to great innovations. Having each participant be on board with this idea will reduce a lot of stress and make the meeting that much better.
Set a Time Limit
One of the dangers of a brainstorm is people simply chatting or getting off topic. Brainstorms can easily turn into a two or three-hour time suck, even though all of the ideas were burned through in the first hour.
These drawn out interactions can be extremely draining, with you sitting, just wishing it would end, but too afraid to walk out. If you are in charge of setting up the brainstorm, define a clear start and stop time for the meeting. This will help focus the group to squeeze as much out of that time as possible. If you aren’t in charge of the meeting, scheduling a task after the meeting will give you an excuse to duck out and encourage everybody else to end the meeting. Be sure to let everybody know beforehand that you’ll have to leave so it doesn’t seem you are just abandoning the brainstorm.
The Value of Brainstorms
While they can be very draining, brainstorms can be incredibly valuable in a creative career. Don’t shy away from calling a brainstorm when you’re stuck with something. You can avoid big scale brainstorms by having short, effective, impromptu sessions with just a few coworkers. Getting a few more minds involved in a problem can make creative solutions and build workplace camaraderie.
Do you have some tricks for getting the most out of brainstorms? How do you prevent yourself from getting totally drained after a meeting? Let us know in the comments below.
Author: Ben Allen
Ben Allen is a writer that covers topics from business, marketing, motivation and video games. His goal is to help everybody become better and make the world a nice place to live in. You can see more of his work by following him on Twitter @allen24ben.
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