From Beginner to Winner: 5 Tips for Rookie Brainstormers

When I showed up for my first day at Coyne back in 2009, my first official professional endeavor, there were a lot of emotions at play. I was excited, anxious, happy – but most of all, nervous. Cut to my first brainstorm in an agency setting – my nerves were off the charts. Over the years, it’s been evident that I wasn’t the only one, especially since 70 percent of Coyne employees under the age of 24 find brainstorms to be one of the most intimidating parts of their job.

With so many creative minds in one room, it’s easy to feel inferior or as if your opinions or ideas don’t match up to the rest of the agency’s. While there’s certainly a learning curve, it’s also a common expectation for each brainstorm attendee to speak up and be heard. According to 90 percent of executive team members, including our CEO, speaking up in brainstorms is the best way to become more visible with leadership. Does that scare the crap out of you? Beginner brainstormers, look no further –here are the top 5 tips to navigating the brainstorm waters and be known as the creative genius behind the agency’s most prestigious clients:

1. To Scribe or Speak? – That’s the question. Answer: BOTH! A lot of times, entry level employees are asked to scribe for brainstorms. It’s an important job. The only way the teams can look back at a wild brainstorm is to consult the notes, so it’s incredibly important to be on your best scribing game. However, it’s also important to offer up your own ideas whenever possible. Is there a pause in the brainstorming action? Shout out that idea that’s been in the back of your mind! Is there a build you can recommend? Go for it! There’s a clear correlation between writing down an idea and sparking creativity. There’s also a unique opportunity for you to impart wisdom the room hasn’t heard of yet. Speak up!

2. Research that Sh*t! – Depending on the brainstorm, sometimes the team in charge will send background materials ahead of time. If they don’t, it’s a good idea to shoot them an email and ask for any thought-starting materials. Coming to the brainstorm with a quick bulleted list of ideas or even the beginnings of an idea, even if it’s – “Pop-up Shop??” is immensely helpful and will immediately take the pressure off you to produce ideas on the spot – especially when you’re first starting out in professional brainstorms.

3. Be a “Hook”er – Even if you’re not confident enough to throw out your own ideas yet, there will be plenty of ideas flying around in any given brainstorm. If someone says something that you think you can build on, go for it! It’s never frowned upon to “hook” onto an existing idea. Sometimes, the right tweak makes the idea that much stronger, or gives it the newsworthy angle it needs.

4. Don’t Be Negative Nancy – It’s a common caveat for any rookie brainstormer to preface their contribution with “This may be a dumb idea, but…” or “OK, you may hate this, but…” If you are hating on your own idea before we even hear it, why would anyone want to listen? You’re basically asking for someone to start checking their email on their phone or tune out your idea. Be confident in your idea, as you never know what it could turn into.

5. Be Bold – If you ask the most creative minds in a brainstorm if they have good ideas 100% of the time, they’d laugh at you. Everyone falters, and not everyone is creative every moment of the day. But they’ve tried and failed and learned from those mistakes, and that’s why they know what works for clients when brainstorming big, small or in-between ideas. Don’t be afraid to speak up and sell the room on that “crazy” idea-that-will-get-you-fired because it might be the one that gets you promoted.

Danielle Paleafico, Senior Account Supervisor
Danielle Paleafico, Senior Account Supervisor