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#morethanapartyplanner – Asking the Right Questions

“I hadn’t thought about that. That’s a great question” I hear this often when working with clients and I take pride in it. With all new ED projects our team holds a discovery session with the client to learn more about their business, their stakeholders and the ‘why’ behind the event or project. Some clients are taken back that we don’t start off with the 5 W’s; who, what, where, when, and why but instead focus on the last ‘W’ first. Why are you choosing to host this event? Why now? Why is this important to you and your organization? Stephen Covey says ‘begin with the end in mind’; starting with the intent and purpose behind the project is critical to then best determine the course of action for all other decisions to be made. 

Of the many things we gather in a discovery session, these three are crucial: 

  1. A Temperature Check: Before starting a project we need to understand what the climate is like within your organization and amongst your stakeholders. Take an employee event for example, if there has been recent structural changes, heavy workloads, layoffs or uncertainty, we need to know that in order to ensure the communications we write for the event reflect the tone and culture to the individuals reading them. You have the insight into your organization and how the team is feeling, we have the expertise to creatively write and curate an event that acknowledges the current state of morale while also moving forward, celebrating or recognizing accomplishments. Showing vulnerability to acknowledge the struggle will go much further than just glossing over it and trying to rally the teams for the next stage or goal. The answer to this question gives us insight into the current emotional state of your organization 
  1. Your Definition of Success: Have you ever considered what your definition of success is when you start a new project? It’s an interesting task and reveals a lot about how an individual sees and measures accomplishment. Not to mention, each person around the table might have a different definition of success- which is a good thing! In order for us to help you achieve your goals and ‘why’, we need to know from the beginning how you will determine if it was successful. Is it based on the number of leads generated, employee feedback, satisfaction surveys etc. As with any metric, we need to know what we are measuring before we start. The answer to this question gives us an insight into what is of most importance to you. 
  1. What Keeps You Awake at Night: Although you’ve hired us to work with your team to drive the project forward, there are still many other priorities on your plate that we are not aware of. We need to know your greatest stress point so we can help alleviate it.  For many clients, it is not related to the project, but if we know what the internal pressures are, we can help to plan the timeline around them. If we know you have a big board meeting in a certain week, we’ll do our best to get any decisions or answers we need from you well in advance or not bother you until after. On the other hand, if you are most concerned about the project, then we’ll send you weekly check in emails to update you in between meetings. The answer to this question helps us to communicate with you effectively and to be aware of competing priorities in our timeline and planning to ensure it doesn’t become too much for you or the team. 

Let me finish with a short story of a recent, brilliant, question that was asked during a discovery session- and no, it wasn’t my question this time! 

In working with a client for their upcoming podcast series, Erin asked: “If the podcast was a chair, what kind of chair would it be?” The look of surprise on the client’s face lasted for a moment but while they thought about it I was in awe at what an amazing question it was! Think about it, it’s simply a different way, a different perspective to think about the project. It challenged the client to think about the end result with how and where they envision their target market listening to their podcast. The answers they give us will tell us significantly more about how they envision it. Is it a leather recliner by the fireplace in a library or study? Is it an Adirondack chair in the backyard or by the lake? Is it a high stool at a noisy bar? Or is there no chair at all and it’s in the gym or on the river valley trails while someone is working out? 

We challenge you to not only strive to ASK great questions but then to truly LISTEN to the responses.