By Dr. Rebecca Sutherns

Communication planning is an essential tool for ensuring your organization sends a clear, specific message with measurable results. Yet the focus of broader project planning meetings can often be on other elements of the project, with communications playing a supporting role, or even being treated as an afterthought. The Communications professional is key to helping identify the information needs of stakeholders that other team members may not have considered. But how do you make sure your voice is effectively heard, especially if your colleagues’ minds are elsewhere? Try asking questions. And not just any questions, but ones that are insightful in both the asking and the answering.

Your questions should be clear. People need to understand what they are being asked and why. They will be much more likely to provide you with relevant answers if the purpose of your question is well-defined. Your questions should generate responses that are meaningful, to you and to them.

We all like to feel competent. Consider asking questions that leverage people’s expertise. Not only will you likely learn something new, but your colleagues will feel valued and heard. They may just seek out your input next time, knowing that you were brilliant enough to highlight their specialized knowledge this time.

The wording of your questions can demonstrate your insight too. Thoughtful inquiry can frame a situation in new ways, even before any answers are suggested. If others are impressed by your perceptiveness, as demonstrated by how you phrase a question, they will be more likely to invite your opinion the next time.

Have you ever been asked a question that stopped you in your tracks? Like a skillful comedian or actor, the power of the memorable moment might come from impeccable timing. Ask your questions at precisely the right time, in the right order, and watch their impact grow exponentially.

For more on the power of asking insightful questions, have a look at Warren Berger’s book

A More Beautiful Question.

Or join me on October 28 to discover Four Game-Changing Questions for Communications Planning. Learn how asking [at least] targeted, insightful questions during project planning can help you evoke the details and clarity needed to effectively plan an innovative communication strategy that will resonate with the planning team and with other stakeholders.


About Rebecca

Dr. Rebecca Sutherns is a Certified Professional Facilitator and the CEO of Sage Solutions in Guelph, Ontario – a consulting firm that specializes in facilitating collaborative planning. She is a high energy communicator and coach who has worked to strengthen the impact of public benefit organizations for more than 20 years. She specializes in facilitating strategy development, stakeholder engagement, strong governance and effective teamwork, and has a particular gift for helping leaders make wiser decisions faster.