For Impact


You can communicate MORE and engage MORE through questions .

For Impact Ideas | | Nick Fellers

Yesterday we were with 70 grantees, partners and friends of the San Diego Social Venture Partners. In terms of live engagements, being with a great group on a sunny day at Mission Bay was not shabby.

We devoted an afternoon segment to ENGAGEMENT. ENGAGEMENT around the message. ENGAGING the right prospects. Maximizing ENGAGEMENT on a first visit.

One of the exercises we did was intended to illustrate how much more you can communicate 1:1 through questions.

We had participants split into pairs that didn’t know each other. We then gave one person from each pair a goal. Within a five minute time frame the goal was to COMMUNICATE – that and only that – which you need to in order to get the other person to say, “Wow, I get it. I think I understand what it is that you do. That’s pretty cool.”

On a first run the presenter usually starts spewing information. The listeners are all visibly overwhelmed… as a facilitator I can see them struggling to make sense of the information coming at them.

After the exercise listeners said they felt rushed, overloaded, confused… and those that where able to ‘understand’ generally said they had to WORK HARD to understand.

Should a funder have to WORK HARD to understand what you do?

On the second go around I over-facilitate the exercise. I instruct the presenter to ask at least 10 questions within the five minutes of the other person – such as, “What do you know about the Red Cross?”

I don’t know how the experitiantial exercise will translate to you in print but the lessons are POWERFUL.

Presenters said:

  • WOW! I was surprised that I was able to communicate so much more — in the first two minutes alone.
  • Not only did I feel like I was communicating more but it was ENGAGING.
  • It was WAY simpler when you just asked a few questions.

Listeners said:

  • I didn’t feel overwhelmed.
  • My head didn’t hurt and my mind didn’t wander.
  • I wanted to keep learning even more.

As humans we seek order. There is actually a principle for this called Gestalt. If we’re just talking (spewing) one-on-one without a framework then we’re actually DISTRACTING the person we’re trying to engage. That is, their brain must leave our conversation to start sifting and parsing the information – discerning a framework.

We could offer a framework – through the use of a visual or the rule of 3. The best bet is to actually give the other person all of your information using his or her EXISTING FRAMEWORK. Ask questions to find out what they know and then build your message around that.

Bonus: When a person talks, he or she is ENGAGED. By asking questions you’re not also ENGAGING them at a much higher level.

Double bonus: People like to hear themselves talk. If you can get the other person talking it’s never a bad thing.