Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2

The Hubspot Inbound conference is coming up at the end of September. Based on last year’s attendance at the Hubspot Inbound conference, I’m guessing there may be 20,000 or more people this year.  That’s more people than where I grew up in Hays, KS. That’s why I call Inbound, and other conferences drawing tens of thousands of people, small-town business conferences. At those sizes, conference organizers are essentially creating a small town, focused on education, sales, marketing, networking, entertainment, recreation, and a variety of other activities concentrated into several days.

Developing a Small-Town Business Conference Plan

While an event of this size poses massive logistical and infrastructure challenges for organizers, it also provides opportunities and challenges for attendees who want to maximize their experiences. The typical rules do not apply at a small-town business conference. Here are strategies to maximize learning and impact from an event of this magnitude.

Do Homework and Scope Out the Business Conference Location

You would not move to a new town without learning about it first. The same holds for a small-town conference. As soon as possible, find out the titles, descriptions, speakers, and locations for all educational and learning opportunities. Prioritize where you think you’ll get the best learning, categorizing all the possibilities as “Must Attend,” “Good to Attend,” “Interesting,” and “Don’t Attend.” This lets you quickly narrow your top potential sessions. On the second pass, their proximity to each other and meetings you want to have can help you decide what your first choices are. Keep this list handy onsite in case something is canceled or a session proves not to be valuable.

Once you’re onsite, take advantage of early downtime and walk the conference center and other venues. How close are they? How quickly will you have to navigate the event (and the crowds) to get to all the sessions you want to attend? Are there certain seating spots that are better than others and more conducive to your learning style? For example, are you a handwritten note taker, tablet user, or something else – where having or not having a table to work on could make a difference?

Travel Light and Stay Highly Mobile

The sheer size of this type of business conference demands they be spread over a footprint equal to many city blocks. That means good mobility is an important asset to getting the most out of the business conference. Only you know what maximizes your own mobility, but these tips will likely help:

  • Travel with as few things as possible
    Many people want to have many things with them, including a backpack, briefcase, or purse. The more stuff you have with you, the more cumbersome it is to both get around and to find places to sit or stand at sessions. Pare down what you actually bring to the conference to only the essentials.
  • Stay as close as possible to the conference center
    This helps you avoid waiting for the conference bus/transportation system. You can also much more easily bounce back and forth to your room for calls or catching up on work.
  • Position yourself to move quickly
    Part of this is scoping out the venue and knowing short cuts, back ways, and pathways most people never go. Sit in sessions near open doors so you can get out before the crowd starts moving. This might seem a bit obsessive, but the less time you can spend waiting, the more time you have for networking (although you can use the time spent waiting in lines as networking opportunities, too).
  • Move up and fill all available space
    This advice comes from a sign at Disneyworld years ago. Crowds often bog down and move slowly. If there are open spaces, test your ability and the cultural willingness for moving along the side of the crowd to improve your position in line.
  • Take care of your feet and legs
    Make sure you have great walking shoes that allow you to move quickly and deliver maximum comfort. Compression socks can provide extra comfort when you are on your feet, on the move, and easily clocking eight or nine thousand steps simply moving between sessions.

Shift Where, When, and How You Do Things

To avoid lines and unnecessary waiting, shift where, when, and how you do things throughout the event. Knowing where everything is, when things are available, and having inventive ways to accomplish them are all valuable. Using all these to put you just slightly off routine with the crowd allows you to get so much more done.

  • Create teams and assign tasks
    Coordinate with co-workers or friends (including friends you’ve just made at the event) to split up roles. Send one person to grab food and another to get drinks when lines are long. Split up sessions and pool your notes.
  • Know where the infrastructure is and use it earlier
    Avoid waiting in lines unnecessarily by arriving early. Swing by breakfast, lunch, and dinner venues as early as possible before crowds arrive. Pick things you can eat while you move since you are traveling light with free hands. Visit the power outlets and charging stations that are off the beaten path to keep phones and tablets going all day.

What to do with all your time?

With the extra time these tips provide, you can maximize networking, staying up on the work you need to do, and maybe even look around the city in which your small-town business conference is located! – Mike Brown

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We just created twenty-five year roadmaps for a client’s strategic planning process in two hours and forty-five minutes. Start to finish, UNDER THREE HOURS.

When we say our brand promise revolves around getting brains zooming, we’re totally serious.

How do we eliminate so much time from typical strategic planning process approaches?

11 Ways to Speed Up Your Strategic Planning Process

Via Shutterstock

Here are eleven things we do differently to speed up developing strategy:

  1. We design the strategic planning process to fit your organization and team – not the other way around.
  2. We eliminate unnecessary parts of developing strategy and do away with all the complex templates to complete.
  3. We’ll use highly productive strategic and creative thinking exercises.
  4. We’ve done this hundreds of times, so we know how to adapt our strategic planning methodology so it’s highly efficient for you.
  5. We surround your team with strategic thinking exercises and structure so even inexperienced people will succeed at strategic planning.
  6. We employ online surveys and online collaboration tools to minimize the need for your team to travel and spend time in big meetings.
  7. We bring the fun to strategic planning, so the time will zoom by more quickly than you can ever imagine.
  8. Our collaborative strategic planning approach gets more people participating concurrently, increasing the planning pace.
  9. We know which corners to cut and which ones we can’t move past until we figure things out.
  10. We listen to every conversation and capture bits and pieces of interaction that fit your plan.
  11. We don’t like spending any more time than you do on strategic planning, so we’re always working to streamline it.

Put it all together, and that’s how to speed up developing strategy.

Contact us right now so we can work together to speed up developing strategy for your organization, allowing you to move into implementation faster than ever with a better plan than you had this year! – Mike Brown

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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

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You’ll never guess what I’ll be doing during my rare free time the next few months.

Serving on a strategy planning team for an organization where I am a member! (See busman’s holiday.)

I’m part of one of ten small teams within a seventy-plus-person volunteer group developing a multi-faceted strategic plan. An external consultant is leading the process along with the organization’s top leaders. Our first meeting was last week. Reflecting on it the next morning, something struck me: this is the first time I’ve participated in someone else’s strategic planning process in over a decade. That means it’s perfect for:

Since we were promised an “easy, five-step strategy planning process” extending through early December, the timing overlaps many of you conducting your own strategic planning process cycles.

5 Reactions to Someone Else’s Strategic Planning Process

Here are early reactions relative to how we’d facilitate a collaborative strategic planning process at The Brainzooming Group.

Via Shutterstock

What Worked?

  • Engaging a Big Group of Participants – It’s fantastic to reach out to seventy volunteers to participate in strategy planning. The final plan can’t help but benefit from so many different perspectives.
  • Using Humor to Make Strategy Planning More Fun – The facilitator was funny, conveying humor both through his comments and slides. Plus, he took the required shots at strategic planning as a discipline to put participants at ease.

What Didn’t Work?

  • Providing a Template to Inexperienced Strategic Planners without Structure –Typical of most strategic planning processes, the facilitator showed us a three-column template to complete for a meeting next month. Each team is on its own to fill out the template. Other than defining the template’s three column headings, no one provided any structure or strategic thinking questions to help the ten teams effectively do their best work.
  • Not Incorporating Previous Strategy Planning Experiences to Make the Process Smarter and Easier – The facilitator works for a local organization that does this type of plan for related organizations. Each organization deals with many of the same issues, yet the strategic planning facilitator didn’t provide any frameworks or exercises to better address these issues. That’s where we’d want to speed up the process by eliminating redundant steps.
  • Leaving People to Gather Information Completely on their Own – For many of the areas in the strategic planning process, there are reference sources and experts pertinent to our organization’s priorities. Yet, the facilitator didn’t offer any materials beyond suggesting some people to call. Honestly, this omission creates a huge time waster for volunteers surrendering their off-hours to participate.

What’s Next

It will be interesting to see how rapidly and successfully our team and others move the planning ahead toward our mid-October deliverable.

Looking back, there were no major surprises among the things that didn’t work. Those are all fundamental strategic planning process shortfalls. The Brainzooming Group works hard to eliminate these.

If you’re thinking about how you can avoid these and other gaps in your own strategic planning process, contact us at The Brainzooming Group. Let’s chat about how to streamline your strategic planning this year in dramatic, results-oriented ways. – Mike Brown


fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

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Ask most business executives about strategy, and they don’t spit out well-articulated strategy statements.

Instead, executives talk about customers or growth or cost cutting or new markets or a whole variety of other areas that can contribute to business success.

That realization was a breakthrough in how we would create a strategy development exercise back when I ran strategic planning for a Fortune 500 corporation.

The consultants we worked with to help us develop our first big strategic marketing plan back in 1997, didn’t provide productive structure to help us. To them, a strategy development exercise involved PowerPoint slides with boxes and grids to complete. It was about fully-formed answers with no real support to help business and marketing managers do the strategic thinking to develop their strategies. The process was difficult, slow, and only worked because the consultant staffed the engagement with a bunch of MBAs that did the work for our people. They billed high-dollar hours like crazy, turning a single strategic planning initiative into a seven-figure annual engagement.

Over time and hundreds of strategy development workshops, we changed all that.

The Secret to Making a Strategy Development Exercise Faster and Easier

We streamlined strategy by giving our own people a strategic planning structure allowing them to showcase their experiences, knowledge, and perspectives. We sped up the process by assembling a multi-functional team that together had many more great ideas than a single marketing manager. We time-constrained strategic planning so that we spent less time on non-productive speeches and information sharing, instead focusing on productive strategic conversations.

And importantly, when we developed a new strategy development exercise, we actively used creative thinking techniques to help them very naturally think about typical strategy issues in very different ways.

This fundamental change in planning happened over a ten-year period. The Brainzooming strategic planning process was the result.

Brainzooming is all about streamlining strategic planning, making the process engaging, and the outcome actionable.

Sound like the formula your organization needs? If so, contact us, and let’s talk about the possibilities for develop faster, more successful business strategy at your organization! – Mike Brown


fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make Planning Strategy More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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I don’t remember the exact year, but our Marketing department hired Chuck Dymer to speak to our team during a quarterly meeting. At some point during the talk, Chuck pulled out a copy of that morning’s USA Today and made a connection between an article and his pre-planned talk.

That moment influenced me tremendously.

I wanted my creative thinking skills to be strong enough to do the same thing. I wanted to be able to look at something random and make a valuable, intriguing connection to something already planned or underway.

My reaction that day led to exploring ideas for how to boost my creative thinking skills to make comparable intriguing connections.

In the strategic planning session Chuck and I co-facilitated last week for an organization’s future vision, he did it again. As he discussed a forward-looking analysis we prepared for our client, he pulled out the USA Today from that morning and connected it to what we were going to cover during the day.

I was so excited, because I didn’t know he was going to do that.

Creative Thinking Skills Test – Bending the Random to the Planned

The experience prompted this idea for a creative thinking skills test: If you think you are very creative, how can you work your creative skills to intriguingly connect something you have planned for days/weeks/months with a random piece of information from that day’s USA Today?

Via Shutterstock

When you can connect the pre-planned to the surprising or random, that’s a fantastic indicator your creative skills are delivering! – Mike Brown

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Based on executives visiting the Brainzooming website, there is considerable interest right now in “strategic planning icebreaker activities.”  I guess that isn’t surprising. This is the time of year when most organizations that are going to do strategic planning are thinking about it or have already started.

2 New Strategic Planning Icebreaker Activities

Here are two brand new ideas for strategic planning icebreaker activities. They both materialized last week. One is from a misunderstood comment at a strategic planning workshop. The other is a spin on a strategic planning technique someone told me about.

#1. Why can’t we have nice things?

Walking up to a small group at a Brainzooming strategic planning workshop, I mistakenly thought one participant said, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” That was enough of an inspiration to jot the idea down on this sticky note.

It occurred to me that this could be one of those fun strategic planning icebreaker activities to start a conversation about challenges and roadblocks an organization is facing. As it’s shown here, people can introduce themselves, then state a reason the organization can’t have nice innovations. Nothing about the question suggests whether the responses must be serious or silly. You may want to arrange for an early participant to share a silly answer to keep the tone light.

#2. Fill in the Blank

The second icebreaker activity idea came from someone telling me about a strategic planning workshop exercise where they used fill-in-the-blank questions. That made me remember the Match Game television program. On the game show, contestants completed a sentence by filling in a blank. The players scored points based on whether celebrities matched their answers to the typically suggestive questions.

Why not use a similar approach for strategic planning icebreaker activities?

Based on the same theme of getting a conversation started about innovation challenges, possible questions are:

I’m thinking we’d print the questions on sheets of orange paper, allowing people to answer them in writing and then hold them up as they introduce themselves.

Remember: These Are from the Brainzooming R&D Lab

We haven’t tried either of these in a real workshop yet, but we will soon. If you beat us to it, contact us about how they go! – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation

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Chuck Dymer and I led the first step in a client’s multi-day strategic planning process this week. The client wants to envision its organizational role decades into the future. This initial visioning exercise was hugely successful and fun.  And fun was an important expectation since they found us by Googling “strategic planning fun” and downloading our eBook on the topic of fun strategic planning.

We have been preparing the strategic planning process design for this workshop over the last month. Along the way, our two client sponsors have been incredible with their level of engagement and participation.

All of their involvement paid off via the five-part strategic planning process workshop addressing multiple strategic priorities. The support they provided and roles they played were integral to making the visioning workshop a success. They are a great example of how a client can powerfully support strategic planning success.

13 Ways to Support Strategic Planning Process Success

If you want strategic planning to be more productive in your organization, here are 13 ways our clients made it happen that you can do also:

  1. Be present and active throughout the process
  2. Actively take part in identifying who to involve in the strategic planning process
  3. Devote the appropriate amount of time to understanding a workshop’s design and strategic thinking exercises
  4. Greet workshop participants as they arrive
  5. Describe the process to participants in real words (not jargon) that people understand
  6. Introduce the facilitators with enthusiasm
  7. Play along with the icebreaker activity
  8. Stimulate ideas among other participants without dominating a conversation
  9. Smile throughout the workshop
  10. Ask constructive, probing questions to generate ideas
  11. Engage people that aren’t participating much (if at all)
  12. Refer back to information sharing and activities earlier in the workshop
  13. Summarize the results with passion and hopefulness

If you do these things as an internal strategic planning sponsor, you are setting the stage for making your strategic planning process a success! – Mike Brown


fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make Planning Strategy More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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