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



I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

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  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
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  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

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(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.