All posts
7 brainstorming agenda essentials: A guide for people managers and leaders
Share this

7 brainstorming agenda essentials: A guide for people managers and leaders

Discover how to craft an effective brainstorming meeting agenda—and improve team focus and productivity

Table of Contents

After getting a late fee for failing to return a store-rented videocassette, Reed Hastings envisioned a world where you could rent movies without getting a late fee. So, during daily carpools to work with friend Marc Randolph, they came up with the idea of a DVD rental-by-mail service—without fees. 

That service was called Netflix.*

For these two entrepreneurs, brainstorming was organic and consistent because they carved out a time and place to share ideas. However, most team brainstorming doesn't happen in the car on the way to work—and if it did, you’d still need some kind of format to make it productive. 

Not knowing how to structure meetings–including brainstorming–can prevent your people from doing their best work. When you waste people's time, it can lead to overload and burnout, as well as lower productivity and engagement. That's why leaders need to know what belongs on a brainstorming meeting agenda so they can get ideas flowing faster and build better.

In this article, you'll learn how to structure your brainstorming agenda so you can hold more effective meetings and boost productivity. You'll also learn how Switchboard keeps brainstorming on track by unifying everything you need for your project in one place. 

Create the right conditions for creative collaboration.  
Switchboard lets you host interactive brainstorming sessions on a huge canvas and work side by side on all your favorite apps and tools.
Sign up free

What needs to go on your brainstorming meeting agenda? 

We know what you might be thinking: Why do you need an agenda when the whole point of your brainstorming session is to spark creative and wild ideas? But the truth is, half of all meetings are considered unproductive—even those with an agenda. 

So, to get everyone pitching their best ideas, you need to make sure they have a framework that makes sense and lets everyone share. Otherwise, you could end up only getting ideas from the loudest person in the room, or fail to get everyone participating.

Here are seven items to consider when creating your agenda so you can spark creativity during brainstorming: 

1. Objectives and action items

Before the meeting, it's important to identify specific action items or goals that the team should focus on. This gives you a roadmap for the brainstorming process and makes sure everyone's on the same page. 

According to Steve Pritchard, Director at It Works Media, "One of the key elements for an agenda is setting out the goals you want to achieve in the brainstorming session. How many ideas do you need to create? What kind of ideas do you want to form—a couple of out-of-the-box ideas, or a few smaller ideas that will fulfill certain criteria?"  

Understanding what you want to get out of the session can make it easier to come prepared with a clear head and potentially some ideas already worth exploring. Plus, allocating some time to think before the session, with access to the meeting objectives in advance, can be an effective way to engage introverts in brainstorming. This is because some people work better independently, with time to think of ideas in their own time, says Pritchard.

Pro tip: Upload your brainstorming agenda into your Switchboard room before the session and get ideas percolating before it's time to meet. This can inspire better ideas and conversation and elevate brainstorming sessions by letting you get straight down to work when the session starts. 
Sticky notes and a project proposal in a Switchboard room
Switchboard helps get the ball rolling on group brainstorms by letting you share ideas before, during, and after the session.

2. Ground rules

Kicking off your brainstorm with some ground rules isn't about stifling creativity, but rather creating a safe space where ideas can flow freely. For example, encouraging openness, ensuring everyone gets a chance to speak, and agreeing that there are no "bad" ideas. This helps establish psychological safety and sets the tone for how people should treat each other and their ideas. 

Here are some other ground rules you can set for successful team brainstorming: 

  • Withhold criticism. Agree to suspend judgment and criticism during brainstorming. Critiquing ideas too early can stifle creativity and discourage participation.
  • One conversation at a time. To make sure everyone's heard and ideas are clearly communicated, ask participants to speak one at a time.
  • Quantity over quality. The goal of brainstorming is to come up with as many ideas as possible. Encourage participants to focus on quantity; evaluation comes later.
  • Stay focused on the topic. While it's important to encourage creative thinking, try to keep discussions focused on the meeting objective so you don’t go down a rabbit hole.  

3. Creative prompts 

Now that you've covered the ground rules, it's time to pick out a few prompts or activities for group brainstorming. These can help break down mental barriers and encourage you to explore new or unconventional trains of thought

For example, a product team conceptualizing a groundbreaking new feature might push the boundaries by asking prompts that shift their perspective. For example, "How would a five-year-old solve this problem?" or "What "magical" feature would we add, and how would it transform the user experience?" Dreaming big can sometimes lead to realistic breakthroughs as you work backward to what's feasible.

Depending on the team or project, there are many different ways you can approach it. Here are some of our favorite brainstorming prompts based on role. 

  • Product teams: Imagine the most extreme user of your product—someone who uses it in ways you never imagined or pushes its limits to the max. What new feature would they love? This can help identify innovative features that cater to power users or uncover unexpected use cases. 
  • Marketing: If you had to design a marketing campaign that could go viral on social media, what would its hashtag be, and what kind of content would it involve? This encourages thinking about catchy, engaging content that resonates with your audience.
  • Sales: If you had to sell your product/service using a story or analogy from your favorite movie, book, or TV show, what would that pitch sound like? This exercise encourages creative storytelling and can reveal new angles for engaging potential customers.
  • Leadership: If you were to choose an entry-level employee to be your mentor for a month, what would you hope to learn from them? This exercise promotes the idea that valuable insights can come from all levels of the organization and encourages leaders to stay connected with different perspectives.

4. Group brainstorming time

Once you know which prompts to ask, it's time to get brainstorming! This part of your agenda is dedicated to coming up with answers to your prompts—and giving everyone the time for deep reflection. 

Here are some group brainstorming tactics you can use: 

  • Timed idea lists. This involves allocating a set amount of time (e.g., 5-10 minutes) for all participants to write down as many ideas as possible related to the brainstorming topic. The time constraint encourages rapid thinking and can lead to a high volume of ideas.
  • Silent brainstorming. This technique involves writing ideas on paper or sticky notes silently without discussing them. This approach ensures that all voices are heard, including those of introverted team members who might not speak up in a vocal brainstorming session.
  • Virtual whiteboards. Online brainstorming tools with virtual whiteboards let teams collaborate visually in real time. Participants can add text, images, and drawings, which can make the session more dynamic.
Pro tip: Open all the materials you need alongside your virtual whiteboard in Switchboard and get everyone adding ideas before, during, and after the session. This helps get everyone aligned and engaged without wasting time on unproductive context-switching between tools, tabs, or apps. 
Figma and a virtual whiteboard in a Switchboard room
Add your virtual whiteboard tool into a Switchboard room, or use Switchboard’s, and give your team better visibility into brainstorming ideas while it's happening. 

5. Sharing creative ideas

Once everyone's had a chance to come up with ideas, it's time to share them with your team. This phase should let everyone express their thoughts, and provide an opportunity for open discussion and feedback.

Here are a few ways you can approach it: 

  • Round robin. Each person gets a turn to share one idea at a time. This makes sure everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute, preventing dominant personalities from monopolizing the conversation and allowing quieter members to share their thoughts.
  • Idea mapping. Use a large visual map or board to plot ideas as they're shared. This can be thematic, where related ideas are grouped; or chronological, showing the evolution of thought through the session.
  • Flash brainstorming. Set a very short time limit (2-3 minutes) for rapid-fire idea sharing, where participants shout out ideas as quickly as possible without discussion. This high-energy approach can generate a burst of creative energy and a wide range of ideas in a short time.
  • Sticky notes. Give participants sticky notes to write their ideas on and then stick them on a wall or board. Or use your Switchboard room and fill it with digital stickies. This lets you collect ideas visually and easily organize, group, and prioritize them by group. 

6. Voting on ideas

Once you've collected all the ideas, you need to vote on the most promising ones. This means implementing a structured idea-voting process that lets you prioritize and identify the best concepts

Here are some ways to cast your ballots: 

  • Dot voting. Give each person a set number of dots (stickers or digital equivalents) to place next to the ideas they like the most.
  • Ranking. Ask participants to rank their top 3-5 ideas in order of preference.
  • Binary vote. Each participant votes "yes" or "no" on each idea.
  • Polling. Use digital tools to create polls for each idea, so you can vote in real time or async. If you're using Switchboard, you can create and add polls directly to your brainstorming room, and get anonymous feedback when ideas are fresh in everyone's mind. 
Poll open in Switchboard
In Switchboard, you can poll participants directly in your brainstorming room and get anonymous answers async and in real time.

7. Next steps

Good news! You've come to a consensus and picked a winning idea. Now you need to clarify how the ideas will be processed, refined, and integrated into the workflow. This means you need to delegate or assign responsibilities, set deadlines, and make sure momentum from the session is carried forward. 

Essentially, everyone should leave the brainstorm with a clear idea of what they need to do next and when it’s due. This helps keep things moving forward on schedule and people engaged as they’re looking forward to seeing their ideas come to life—and benefit the company and end users. 

In Switchboard, you can populate your room with your project management tool and assign tasks while you're in the meeting. Or you can keep a Google Doc open detailing action items and next steps, so everyone knows what's expected of them. 

How to host an async brainstorming session

Sometimes, meeting in real time doesn't make sense, especially if you're coordinating across teams, departments, and time zones. Juggling a bunch of calendars just to find a slot that works for everyone can waste time better spent actually contributing ideas. 

If this sounds familiar, try penciling in some time for async brainstorming on your agenda. This can give everyone more control over their schedule and time for meaningful focus work, which improves productivity. Psychologists confirm that when people enter flow state, they're usually happier, more productive, and can come up with more original and interesting ideas. All of which can make brainstorming with your team more effective. 

Pro tip: Host your next async brainstorm in Switchboard and keep all the apps, tools, and documents you need to get inspired in context. When you do decide to meet, everything's already there so you can just pick up where you left off. No wasted time hunting for things in tabs, email, or Slack threads.  

A brainstorming meeting agenda: The key to unlocking great ideas

Whether you brainstorm in the car on the way to work or in a meeting, the core practice remains the same. You need to create an environment where people feel relaxed enough for ideas to flow, and that fosters the type of friendly back-and-forth discussion needed for true innovation. 

When you know how to structure brainstorming meetings, you make it easier for people to enter a flow state and contribute meaningful ideas. By contrast, structureless meetings–even brainstorming–can cause people to feel like their time isn't being respected, leading to burnout and lower productivity and engagement. That's why you need to know what belongs on a brainstorming meeting agenda so you can get ideas flowing better. 

Among other things, that includes meeting objectives, ground rules, creative prompts, and time carved out for group brainstorming and individual contributions. All this makes it clear to everyone when and how they're expected to contribute and ensures they have a space to do so.  

When you make Switchboard your home base for brainstorming and project work, you get dedicated rooms that save your work and make everything multiplayer. That means you can work together on anything in the room side by side—without sharing links or screens. Because all your work is saved, you can even allow people to hop in and make contributions on their own schedule, rather than calling a formal meeting.   

Create the right conditions for creative collaboration.  
Switchboard lets you host interactive brainstorming sessions on a huge canvas and work side by side on all your favorite apps and tools.
Sign up free

Frequently asked questions about brainstorming meeting agendas

What is the purpose of a brainstorming meeting?

The purpose of a brainstorming meeting is to get people's creative juices flowing and engage in the creative process with your team. During a brainstorm, you use brainstorming techniques like asking people creative prompts to spark ideation and teamwork. 

How do you facilitate a brainstorming session? 

To facilitate a brainstorming session, you need to come prepared with agenda items, a reasonable time frame, and techniques for idea generation. For example, icebreaker questions to increase team camaraderie and flow. Then you need to follow the agenda and clearly explain what the different stages are. Finally, you need to make sure everyone's ideas are heard, have a voting process in place, and the ability to document next steps and assign responsibilities. It's the facilitator's role to also check in with people throughout the session and follow up after it's over to ensure ideas become reality. 

Do you need a brainstorming meeting agenda template? 

No, it's not necessary to have a template to create a strong meeting agenda. However, it can be useful to use one so you're always following the same process. To create your brainstorming meeting agenda template, just follow the steps above and adapt them to your needs.

Stop, collaborate, and listen

Get product updates and Switchboard tips and tricks delivered right to your inbox.

You can unsubscribe at any time using the links at the bottom of the newsletter emails. More information is in our privacy policy.

You've been added to our newsletter full of tips and Switchboard updates.

You can unsubscribe at any time using the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Create the right conditions for creative collaboration.

Switchboard lets you host interactive brainstorming sessions on a huge canvas and work side by side on all your favorite apps and tools.