6 Brainstorming Tools for Event Planners

BrainstormingEvent planners frequently need to brainstorm and pull the ideas together quickly. The right tools for generating, assessing and presenting ideas can be helpful when:

  • developing event themes
  • generating ideas for decor
  • designing promotional strategies
  • menu planning
  • problem solving
  • streamlining logistics

While most of brainstorming tools aren't new, more frequent and disciplined use of them can greatly enhance an event planner's effectiveness.

Generating Ideas

Tools for generating ideas can be used with markers and flipcharts, pen and paper, computer programs, index cards or Post-Its. The key to successful brainstorming is that, to stimulate the brain and bring out the best ideas, a combination of pictures and words is important. Also, every idea needs to be captured. Seemingly trivial suggestions often turn out to be the seeds for brilliance.

  • Mind Maps

Mind maps are one of the most useful tools as they make it possible for individual event planners or teams to quickly generate a range of ideas. It is interesting that eyes often glaze over when mind maps are mentioned. "We know about mind maps already." Then, why is this tool not being used more frequently? Sometimes in the search for shiny new high-tech toys, it is easy to discount the value of the tried-and-true.

 

How to Mind Map

Click for Larger Image

Idea Chains

I'd like to think that I invented idea chains. It came out of working with groups that had become resistant to using mind maps. Draw a chart with 4 - 5 columns. In each column, draw several boxes, one under the other linked with an arrow. So you'll end up with 16 - 25 boxes. Put a heading at the top of the chart. Begin at the left and let ideas flow as you come up with more ideas that are similar to those in the first column, use arrow to move across the chart.

This comes closest to the idea chain format that I have designed.

Idea Chain

Assessing Ideas

It is important to assess the viability of the ideas that have been generated. A good rule of thumb is to circle the top 3 ideas from each mind map or idea chain and conduct a deeper analysis.

  • Force Field Analysis

Force Field Analysis is a chart that places the idea or project in the center. Arrows on one side reflect ideas and on the other support for the project. This is an effective tool for getting a picture of whether or not an idea or approach has enough support to be viable. Mind maps or idea chains can be helpful tools for brainstorming solutions to clear obstacles.

Presenting Ideas

In addition to traditional presentations and reports, experiment with:

  • Infographics
    Infographics, combining pictures and words, are becoming increasingly popular with event planners. For example, here is an event planning infographic by Julius and another by Jeff Hurt about Why Images Matter when presenting ideas. Also take a look at Cvent's Catching the Mobile Wave Infographic.
     
  • Storyboards
    Originally created for animated films and TV commercial scripts, storyboards are an excellent tool for pulling together and presenting ideas. Images are on the left and associated text for each images is on the right.
     
  • Pinterest Boards

No matter whether you select a high tech or low tech approach, the key to successful brainstorming is to keep an open mind. After all, generating new ideas and thinking outside the box is what brainstorming is all about.

Photo Credits: Executive Oasis International, mythoughtsformac, drawmeanidea, serdal, phploveme

For tools to implement great ideas, consult Event Planning: Borrowing From the Project Manager's Toolbox.

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