An email came across my desk this week as I was thinking about the most useful idea for you that would build on last week's focus of ‘saying what you mean'.

It was an email from a tool that I use which was structured around a list of questions (see below).

To me, using questions like this misses a big opportunity for a coherent story and makes the audience work far too hard to grasp the main idea. Here are the problems I see with structuring communication around questions with one caveat:

The problem: structuring communication around questions almost guarantees your audience will miss your point

#1 – By highlighting the questions in bold, you are prioritising it over the answer. This then leaves you exposed to the risk that the audience may decide your communication is not important enough to invest the time needed for them to find your message.

#2 – By using questions as the main structuring device, you are at risk of providing your audience with the raw data rather than a coherent message that describes what the data means to your audience.

I have often seen people identify the questions they need to answer to solve a problem, collect the evidence and then send the list of questions with their evidence underneath as their ‘communication'.

This strategy ensures that both you and your audience miss the point. Your audience is less likely to get your message in part because you haven't articulated it to yourself.

The caveat: FAQs can be useful when combined with a powerful story

As a final caveat, I do understand that there are times that it is useful to have a series of FAQs (frequently asked questions), perhaps at the end of a presentation or information package. You will have seen our own FAQs on our site, for example.

This is not the same as focusing your whole communication around the questions, which I would caution against.

Cheers, Davina

Keywords: #questions #synthesis #structure



Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.