We all know it, but sometimes we shy away from doing it: Ask more questions.
It’s the solution to not knowing enough, having misinformation, being unsure, and being sure while being clear. It’s the way we know how many pieces to print, what style the design needs to be, what emotion the message needs to create and by when we need to have sign ups or registrations.
So, why is it that we sometimes shy away from asking enough questions? Here are the 3 of the most common reasons:
We’re not sure what questions to ask:
How many times do you get part-way through a project and realize you didn’t ask a necessary question, or how often do you get a proof back from a department, and they say “This is nothing like I was anticipating…”? – In that moment you may be frustrated, realize you’ve wasted time, or get frustrated at the feedback because that person doesn’t ‘get’ your design. It’s ok. You didn’t know you needed to ask that question, but there are 2 things you need to do in that moment:
- Ask – once you realize you didn’t ask a question, ask it now – don’t wait!
- Write it down – when you realize you’ve forgotten to ask a question about a project, write it down and remember to ask it next time.
- Create a Project Scope Outline – when you’re going into the project, ask how many copies need to be printed, by when do we need it in hand, will it be outsourced, will it be used on Facebook… etc. Develop your process of what questions to ask (See some ideas at the bottom of this blog post.)
ACTION STEP: Next time you sit down to start a new project: end the conversation with “Is there anything I didn’t ask that you wanted to add?” Sometimes the other person will say “oh yeah, I need to have it by Thursday…” or “Can I get it printed large enough to fit in this frame?” or “Could we have 200 on hand by…”
We’re afraid asking will look like we’re incompetent:
How many pieces do you want printed? What if that sounds like “I have no idea how many kids we have on a weekend.” or “Would you like a 4 x 6 postcard or an oversized 6 x 8?” could sound like “I’m not sure what size a standard postcard is.”
At the end of the day, you’ll look way more incompetent if you print 200 pieces of 6 x 8 then realize they don’t fit into the 200 4 x 6 envelopes that were already handwritten with addresses.
ACTION STEP: Ask the question in a different way: “There are a lot of options and I want to help you choose the best option for your needs. Are you thinking that you’ll mail these out or hand them out?”
Or, the next possibility…
I don’t want to bother someone who’s not detail oriented by asking for details:
I know the feeling… someone says ‘You’re the web guy, just build me a website.’ or ‘You know the style I like, just go for it’ and we all know this means ‘I’m going to reserve the right to veto anything, and if you don’t get it right, I’m going to question if you really get me.’ This is especially difficult if it comes from someone who’s in leadership – they’re busy and you don’t want to bother them, but you want to get it right.
ACTION STEP: Create a mockup. Cut out a piece of 4 x 6 then cut out a piece of 6 x 8. Scribble on it with a pen with info, logo, a box that says “pic goes here”. Even though you’re getting the info you would have asked for, this looks a lot more appealing to someone who’s not detail oriented. If you cut out a 4×6 and they say “wow, that’s really small” then they’ve answered your question.
If they’re getting flustered with the details, or it’s taking longer than they anticipated, setup a time to discuss again and bring a mockup to that meeting.
A solution that covers all 3 is to build a process that asks all of the necessary questions. For some, this is a PDF, a printout or an online form that asks if it’s print or digital / quantity needed / timeline needed by / collects who, what where, when, why, how questions / target audience / discovers if they have any specific designs or styles in mind. A good starting point could be CMIForms.com – a FREE tool for incoming promotion requests.
Despite which of these categories you fall into, and to what degree, the solution is going to start with you. No incoming request form is going to be 100% complete, and you’re always going to have to ask a question – learn to be confident in what you bring to the table, and be willing to consider what is the best way to relate to the other person to get the best input they have to offer based on their personality.