The quality of the ideas that come out of a brainstorming session is largely dependent on the quality of the brainstorming session itself. And that takes some planning.

A lot of people hate meetings. Heck, maybe most of us hate meetings. But they are necessary sometimes, and that includes when you need to put your best minds together to come up with new ideas. Here are six tips to make sure that your brainstorms are productive and worth your time

1. Have An Agenda Ready to Go Beforehand

Trying to wing it is never a good strategy for a brainstorming session — or any meeting for that matter. If your only outlined plan is that you want to come out of the meeting with some good ideas, you’re doing it wrong. If you have no real structure in place for achieving those good ideas, you’re not going to be nearly as successful as you would be if you went in with an agenda.

Consider structuring your brainstorming session around a common technique, like mind mapping or word banking, and be clear in your instructions to your attendees. With an agenda in place, you can turn the session into something fun instead of rote and monotonous, and you’ll support more creativity along the way.

2. Set Expectations for the Group

Ask each attendee to come up with a few ideas during the meeting. By asking everyone to participate, you open the door to ideas that people might have otherwise kept quiet about. Every single idea has value. Even if an idea is not viable, it might lead to other ideas that are. The more ideas you have, the better, so let your attendees know that everybody will be expected to participate. When everyone contributes an idea or two, it works like wildfire to inspire other great marketing or content marketing ideas to consider. 

3. Go Over Each Idea

Remember, there’s always value in an idea. Even those that initially don’t seem to have much to offer. To eke as much juice out of every single suggestion, go over each idea that the group brings in. It’s about quantity first, then quality later. 

To structure your session, segment the ideas into ones that are a priority and ones that warrant more discussion later on. Since time is of the essence in any meeting, stick to the high priority ideas during your initial session and then circle back to the other ideas later, even if that means hosting a follow-up meeting.

4. Fill In Any Gaps

As you flush out the best ideas from your brainstorming session, work them over with your team to identify and respond to any glaring gaps. What resources are needed to bring this idea to life? What are the biggest benefits and drawbacks? What marketing goals can this idea help achieve? What’s standing in the way of making this idea come to life?

Filling in these gaps isn’t just about pushing ideas into action. Poking holes in your ideas is a key step in an effective brainstorm. It forces you to play devil’s advocate and hone in on any potential drawbacks before putting time, effort, and money into an idea. It’s also a great exercise for looking at your ideas from all angles so you can work out as many details as possible before going all-in.

5. Establish Next Steps

Hopefully, by the end of the meeting, you will have at least one or two ideas worth pursuing. To make sure that action happens, you want to establish what the next steps are and designate a point person for each step.

In marketing, as in all business endeavors, good ideas aren’t enough on their own. You need to have a plan in place for executing those ideas and making them into a reality. Break down the steps of research and development and assign people to the task so you can be sure your best ideas are actually moving forward.

6. Schedule a Follow-Up Meeting if Necessary

Many brainstorming sessions aren’t a one and done thing. There’s a good chance that you’ll need to reconvene at some point to discuss the specifics of putting one or more ideas into action, and going over those ideas that didn’t make it on to the high priority list. You can schedule a follow-up meeting at the end of the first session to create a timeline for next steps, or you can wait to schedule it when the necessary tasks have been completed.

Brainstorming sessions shouldn’t be painful, nor should they be aimless. When you go in with the above tips in mind, you give yourself — and your team — the benefit of a set plan and strategy. As for what comes out of it? The sky’s the limit.