Creating Brainstorming Sessions That Work

April 19, 2016

Brainstorming is a numbers game, the more ideas you have to choose from, the better your chances are for success. So, just how do you go about generating lots of amazing concepts that meet and exceed your goals? 

I asked Arabella Pollack, interim director of Strategic Communications at Columbia University and Founder of Greystoke Insights, to reveal the secret sauce to brainstorms at NYWICI's Night Out on April 12, 2016, which was sponsored by Columbia University, School of Professional Studies

Here’s what Arabella told us:

Set Goals

  • Make sure that you know what you’d like to get out of any facilitation session

Choose Participants 

  • Pick no more than 25 people and ensure that the right stakeholders are in the room


  • Give everyone enough information so that you can hit the ground running once you all gather.  Insist that everyone is prepared and reads the material in advance of the session.

Session Set-Up

  • Go to a locale outside the office that’s more comfortable and minimizes work distractions
  • Casual dress helps break down hierarchies and barriers
  • Have food and beverages


  • Review the goals
    • Set the rules and reinforce them when necessary
    • No mobile phones or laptops (except person taking notes)
    • There are no bad ideas
    • Respect for everyone’s thoughts
  • Make it fun
    • Come up with creative exercises to get to the goals – collages, drawing and any kind of structured play can help generate great ideas
    • Use an Elmo doll from Sesame Street and when someone gets too longwinded they get the stuffed animal.  Why? Elmo stands for — Enough, Let’s Move On!
  • Break up into groups to develop more ideas and keep the energy levels high

Gain Consensus

  • Using post-it notes makes it easy to organize ideas into themes
  • Have everyone vote on the best ideas


  • Keep records of all the ideas, even those that weren’t used. They might come in useful in the future
  • Send a follow-up email with all the ideas that were selected
  • Detail what will happen with the ideas and when
  • Keep participants in the loop as the ideas are developed

Slideshow images: Jan Goldstoff

Posted by: 
Lori Greene

5 Networking Tips for Introverts

April 12, 2016

networkingIn our digital age, the job application process feels anonymous. You submit your resume and cover letter online andit disappears into what seems like a black hole. Does it ever reach anyone? Does anyone even read the letter you’ve worked so hard on? You may never know. This makes it more important than ever to know someone in your field or at the company you’re applying to.

Networking is essential to building professional relationships. It can help you learn about your desired industry, land your dream job or make a career change. Creating and maintaining a strong network can bring you from an invisible online applicant to a job seeker who was personally recommended for a job, internship or informational interview.

Not everyone feels comfortable stepping into a room full of strangers. The pressure to make connections can cause people to over-think and over-stress about networking. It’s tough to make a good impression when you’re sweating over how to keep the conversation going. Whether you’re an introvert or someone who just gets nervous networking, here are a few tips to make it easier:

1) Prepare Beforehand: Most people will prepare for a test, a meeting or an interview, so why not prepare for networking? If you’re not outgoing or have trouble coming up with conversation starters, plan out what you want to say or ask others ahead of time. It’s also helpful to develop a short elevator pitch about yourself, so you’re ready when you hear the inevitable “what do you do?” question at a networking event. When in doubt, just ask the other person about themselves.

2) Bring a Friend: You don’t have to go it alone! Enlist a friend to attend a networking event with you. Even if they aren’t in the same industry as you, it can be good practice and talking to strangers might make you feel less awkward with a friend by your side. Plus, the two of you can find the other straggler to strike up a conversation. Approaching strangers is a lot easier in a pair.

3) Focus on Quality over Quantity: Many introverts can find themselves over-stimulated and downright exhausted after talking with a lot of people at once. If you feel the same way, focus on only a few connections instead of trying to introduce yourself to everyone in the room. Go up to someone who looks shy or reserved and strike up a long conversation. They’ll appreciate having someone to talk to, and you’ll make a strong connection. Give yourself a goal of having three or four significant conversations before you leave the event.

4) Ask Interesting Questions: A cut-and -dry, overused question like “where do you work?” can result in a pretty short reply. Most people at a networking event have just left work, and they may not want to keep talking about their jobs. Try more personal questions, like “what do you do for fun?” Odds are, you’ll find a hobby in common. You may think you have to talk about work to make a professional connection, but getting to know someone personally can be just as effective.

5) Learn Your Strengths: Whether in meetings or in networking sessions, the person who talks the most and the loudest can at first glance seem the most valued. That’s not always the case. Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking and her TED Talk will teach you more about what qualities make someone an introvert, and how valuable those qualities are to a company. They will make you proud to call yourself an introvert.

Hopefully these tips will stop you from feeling overly anxious, not knowing what to say, or panicking if no one talks to you at first. Remember, everyone there has the same networking goals as you: to talk to and connect with others.

Posted by: 
Allie Carmichael

Salary Negotiation Tactics

April 5, 2016

Salary NegotiationFailing to negotiate your salary can cost you a raise and even prevent you from getting the promotion you deserve. According to PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide, “Women are more likely than men to state that they are uncomfortable in starting salary negotiations — 31 percent vs. 23 percent.

Many women dread negotiating their salary requirements. Overcoming that reluctance, however, can yield long-term benefits.

In a recent Twitter chat, cohost Alyssa Gelbard (@ResumeStratgsts) shared insights on salary negotiation. Alyssa is founder and president of Resume Strategists, a career consulting and personal branding firm.

Why are women far less likely to negotiate their salary?
As women, we’re conditioned to play by the rules. Negotiating feels like we’re playing outside of them. We also avoid negotiation because it’s uncomfortable. Most people don't have the confidence to speak up for themselves.

How does one prepare for a salary negotiation?
Research the position’s salary ranges, taking into account geography, company size and market conditions.

What are the most effective salary negotiation tactics?
Asking for more in the total compensation package, such as bonus, commissions, incentives, vacation or tuition reimbursement.

How do you know exactly what to ask for in a salary negotiation?
Be prepared! Be sure to look into your position’s salary range on PayScale, Glassdoor, Vault Careers and Salary. All great resources! Also, talk to current/past employees to find out about the company’s flexibility. They may have strict salary ranges.

According to Alyssa, salary negotiation should begin when you receive the offer. “Then you will know you’re having the conversation with the right person.” Benefit packages should also be considered when negotiating your salary. “Added benefits and perks can sweeten the pot.”

Still fearful? “Talk to someone who has been through this kind of a negotiation. Ask about their experience and what strategy they used,” says Alyssa.

Happy Negotiating! 

Read the transcript of this Twitter Chat on Salary Negotiation and coverage of past NYWICI events on the topic: The Art of Negotiation and Mika Brzezinski: Knowing Your Value

Posted by: 
Rodeena Stephens