A brainstorming example

Brainstorming is messy, but effective at generating ideas

There are all kinds of different brainstorming processes you might use. This is mine; I love scribbling all over a whiteboard in color-coded pens. In this example you can see the work that some friends and I did to start one of our first seminars on presentation skills, so it’s a bit of a historical document at this point. One of the few things I miss about my old job is that giant whiteboard.

It’s not easy to see the details here because of the poor skills of the photographer (me again) and because of the fact that the whiteboard was basically the same size as the room, which meant getting a good picture wasn’t easy. But you can get a sense of how chaotic a good brainstorming session can be.

Here you can see broad categories (Organizing, Designing, Delivery) followed by main topics. There are other ideas that were subsequently crammed into the margins, arrows that indicate where some subjects might be moved, and suggestions for audience interactions and other activities during the talk.

In the broad sense, it’s a pretty good outline of the presentation we ultimately developed. But there’s a lot in here that we didn’t use, too, especially the stuff like filming video of sample presentations that was more ambitious than what we could accomplish with our resources. Some of what got left out were actually good ideas, they just weren’t practical or didn’t quite fit the rest of the plan.

And that’s the way that brainstorming should work, by allowing you to generate ideas and record them without making you feel committed to them. They you can cut the not-so-good ideas, the topics you don’t have time for, the pieces that don’t help you achieve your goals, in the editing and scripting stages.

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