The healthy latte that Starbucks just introduced.
Those exciting new features on Facebook.
That month-old startup company down the road from your office.
What do all these things have in common?
That’s right. Many of the brightest business ideas were born from brainstorming sessions (meetings).
Maybe you have some bright ideas of your own. Maybe you would like to share those ideas with others who can help you put them into action.
Or maybe you need to communicate with others to solve a business problem.
Either way, in order to participate in a brainstorming session effectively, you need to use the right language.
In this post, we will show you 30 powerful phrases you can use to communicate in a brainstorming session.
But first, let’s look at what a brainstorming session is all about.
How Does a Brainstorming Session Work?
In a face-to-face brainstorming session, you would sit down with a group to generate (produce) as many creative ideas and solutions as possible to meet a business need or solve a business problem.
Before this meeting, you would probably do some brainstorming on your own and come up with a list of ideas to bring to the table.
These days, with technology, brainstorming has gone online. Corporate giants like IBM, for instance, use social networking to conduct brainstorming at many locations simultaneously (at the same time).
According to an article in Success, in one such online brainstorming session, over 150,000 employees in 104 countries contributed their ideas. As a result, 10 new IBM businesses were born. Isn’t that amazing?
The Language of Brainstorming
A brainstorming session involves making, accepting, rejecting and evaluating suggestions. To be an effective participant, you need to master the language of brainstorming. By language, I’m not only referring to business English. (Although that plays an important part in brainstorming, too.)
The nature of a brainstorming session makes it important to be professional, especially when rejecting or disagreeing with suggestions. It’s important to use a diplomatic (polite and considerate) tone. A slight shift in your tone could give a very different meaning to some phrases.
In other words, how we say something is as important as what we say. This is definitely something to keep in mind when participating in both face-to-face and online brainstorming sessions.
Okay, now let’s move on to some common business English phrases for communicating more powerfully in brainstorming sessions. You can use these phrases in both spoken and written communication. I hope they will serve as a starting point for you to explore and expand on their usage.
30 Powerful Business English Phrases for Communicating in a Brainstorming Session
Let’s start by creating a brainstorming scenario: In this scenario, we have people generating ideas for a venue (setting) to hold a product launch. Here, we will see some business English phrases that I will explain in greater detail later.
Ben: Let’s hold the launch right here in the concourse (open space in a public building) of our office building.
Adam: That’s a good idea but there might be a problem with space. The concourse is not very big and parking is somewhat limited.
Carol: Why don’t we hold it at a hotel instead?
Diane: That looks like it could work. A hotel’s much grander (fancier) and has ample (plenty of) parking.
Ben: I’m not too keen on that. We might not have the budget for it.
Diane: How about the convention center downtown? I think we might be able to secure (get) a more reasonable rental rate there.
Adam: Sounds like that might be worth a try. Do you think it’ll work?
Carol: Well, yes and no. The convention center has great facilities but it’s a little out of the way. Most of our customers are in this part of town.
Ben: I don’t think that would be a problem. It’s not that far and the traffic should be smooth.
Adam: Great. Let’s keep it in mind and come back to it later.
1. A phrase with “could,” “might,” “should,” “would” or another modal verb
One of the most powerful phrases you can use during a brainstorming session is one that includes a modal verb. These are special verbs that express ability (could), possibility (might, should) or request (would). They are small but powerful words to use for softening the effect of your tone in a discussion. Note how they are used in the above scenario.
As we have already discussed, a big part of brainstorming revolves around suggesting ideas and solutions. These phrases will help add a more diplomatic tone to your suggestions.
2. Let’s + [verb]
“Let’s hold the product launch here.”
Beginning a sentence with the word “Let’s…” will make you sound positive about working together toward a common goal.
3. Why don’t we + [verb]
“Why don’t we use the convention center?”
Phrasing your suggestion in the form of a question is a great way to set a softer tone.
4. How about + [“-ing” verb]
“How about holding the launch at the convention center?”
5. What if we + [verb]
“What if we consider another venue for the launch?”
6. I think we + [modal verb] + [verb]
“I think we should decide on the venue now.”
Beginning a sentence with “I think” or “Maybe,” even if you’re very certain about something, is a good way to sound more diplomatic.
7. Maybe we [modal verb] + [verb]
“Maybe we could decide on the venue now.”
Rejecting an idea or suggestion comes with a risk of offending someone or hurting their feelings. So we should approach this very carefully. Not only should we keep our body language neutral (relaxed and non-threatening), we should also use as diplomatic a tone as possible.
Starting a sentence on a positive note, even when we’re about to reject someone’s suggestion, will help to soften the impact (effect) of your message.
8. That’s a good idea but…
“That’s a good idea but we may not have the budget for it.”
9. Your suggestion sounds good but…
“Your suggestion sounds good but we’ll need to check the rental rates.”
10. I can see some problems with that.
Instead of telling someone the problem outright, soften the effect by saying this first.
11. Let me think about this.
Instead of an outright “no,” it’s more polite to say you will give it some thought.
12. I’m not too keen on + [verb/noun]
“I’m not too keen on using the concourse area for the product launch.”
“I’m not too keen on the idea of the convention center.”
The use of the words “not too” softens the impact of rejecting the suggestion. You may substitute the adjective phrase “keen on” with other adjective phrases, like “interested in” or “happy about.”
13. I’m not really + [adjective] + [noun/pronoun]
“I’m not really convinced the concourse is a good venue.”
“I’m not really sure we have the budget.”
The use of the expressions “really” and “I don’t think” softens the impact of the rejection.
14. I don’t think this would + [verb]
“I don’t think this would work.”
“I don’t think this would be the best venue for the launch.”
Accepting or agreeing with someone’s suggestion is easy. However, instead of a direct “Yes” or “I agree,” you may want to communicate different degrees (levels) of agreement.
If you’re very sure, you might say…
15. That’s a good idea./That’s not a bad idea.
16. This is just what we need.
17. Let’s try that.
If you’re not very sure, you might use these phrases:
18. This looks like it could work.
19. That might be worth trying.
20. It might work.
“Looks like” and the modal verb “might” show uncertainty.
If you’re even less sure or don’t know, you might say…
21. Maybe. I’m not sure.
Evaluating suggestions involves reviewing ideas and solutions, and selecting the best one to use. This usually involves discussing each idea or solution in detail and asking questions to generate feedback.
Here are some good questions to ask during evaluation:
22. What do you suggest?
23. What are your thoughts?
24. Do you think this will work?
If an idea or suggestion sounds good but you need more time to think it through, you could use these phrases:
25. Let’s look at this again.
26. I think this needs a lot more thought.
27. This idea has potential (possibilities), but it’s not quite there yet.
28. Let’s keep this in mind and come back to it later.
If you only agree partially (partly) with a suggestion, or accept only certain aspects (parts) of an idea, you could use these phrases to lead into saying which parts you agree and disagree with:
29. I agree up to a point.
“I agree up to a point. The convention center is a great venue but it’s not very central.”
Use conjunctions like “but” and “however” to link opposing (differing) viewpoints.
30. Well, yes and no.
“Well, yes and no. I like the idea of using the concourse. However, I don’t think it’s available on the date of our launch.”
Now you’re all set to shine at your next brainstorming session.
Remember, these phrases are only a start.
Feel free to brainstorm different ways of making them work for you. Good luck!
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