No one likes taking part in a dull, predictable conversation. No one likes watching boring interviews. But all of us enjoy interviews that accidentally turn into an argument or that make us feel good about ourselves. The best way to do that is to ask thought-provoking and insightful questions such as:
- What did you feel when your father passed away? How would you describe that feeling?
- Why you didn’t leave the country after those events? What impact did this decision have on you?
- What’s your attitude to those who thinks this way? Do you agree they should be…
You got the idea. Thought-provoking questions are necessary if you want your interview to be engaging and memorable both for your guest and your audience. Here’s how they contribute to that.
- Help you stand out among other interviewers.
- May lead to a series of questions and topics you didn’t expect to arise.
- Make the interviewee look good or put them on the spot instead.
These types of questions spice things up and put your interviewee on a spot. It shouldn’t necessarily be an open conflict, but it should be provocative and hard to answer right away. Easy questions have no challenge for the interviewee. So this is one way to use those questions: create a small conflict and push the buttons that may lead to a debate.
Though there’s another way to use thought-provoking questions. Put the interviewee in a spot where they can express their opinion and prove their expertise and status. Give them the green light to show their best side. That’s why people do interviews: to build their media platform, to share their ideas with a new audience, and to feed their ego.
It’s totally fine to use insightful questions to make your hero look good in the eyes of their followers. Their answers will also make their audience feel smart, valued, and honored.
Before making an appointment, I ask myself a few questions. Is it possible to do what I’m going to do without a meeting? Is it possible to solve this without another Zoom call? How else can I accomplish this task?
In half of the cases, I figure out that a meeting can be replaced with a letter, a scheduled message, a screencast, a voice message, or an old-fashioned phone call.
❌ Situations when meetings are not necessary:
- to get an unambiguous “yes” or “no” answer
- to update the status of ongoing tasks
- to request information
- to ask for or give feedback on a design layout
- to make edits and suggestions to a draft
- to make onboarding for a new admin panel of a website
✅ Situations when meetings are necessary:
- to hold the initial meeting of the project
- to present a logo, a website, or other deliverables from the contract
- to resolve a personal conflict among parties of the project
- to share knowledge and experience: one-on-one meetings, team training
- to discuss issues that require a lot of clarification: briefing, cost estimate, agreement
This principle helps to understand whether a meeting is needed or not. If my email does more harm than good, a meeting will be a better option. For example, if there is increasing friction in the project, you should not dispute via email. Discuss disagreements face to face, this way it will be much easier for you to calm the interlocutor and resolve the conflict.
Though if the text allows you to solve the problem without putting the project and the relationship with a client at risk, you may cancel a meeting and find another way to get the job done. For example, it is more productive to comment on a new design layout in Figma and then hold a call on demand to discuss the feedback you gave rather than stare at the layout you’ve never seen before.
The main secret to making more time is to reduce the number of meetings. Half of the meetings people have are fucking pointless and unnecessary.
Most people spend hours writing follow-up emails after meetings with their clients. They keep looking for the right words that will work. However, follow-up emails aren’t about the right words and metaphors. Speed and accuracy is all they require.
A follow-up email is easy to turn into a template and reduce the time of writing one to 20−30 minutes maximum. The meeting itself is where all the magic happens. Here’s a ready-to-go plan to nail follow-up emails, follow it and you’ll be able to build trust with your clients way faster than before:
- Read up and prepare questions. The best meeting is the one you’ve planned in advance.
- Show up on time, don’t make your client wait for you.
- Remind participants why you’re having this meeting and draw a short plan of what’s going to happen next.
- Ask questions, shut up and listen to the answers—that's the most important part. Your client has all the necessary information you need to solve your problem.
- Ask additional questions to clarify anything you didn’t get or have doubts about. Don’t be timid, it won’t help you to do a good project.
- Make notes during the meeting. Write down only core ideas and thoughts. It shouldn’t be a word-by-word transcript.
- Edit notes and turn them into a list of agreements, certain steps, and tasks with deadlines.
- Send the list of agreements and the following steps to your client within one hour span after the meeting. Ask them if you got it right and offer to make suggestions to your notes if not.
- I added this point to make the total number odd.
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We tend to plan everything, foresee all possible options, calculate all risks, to think about ways to retreat in advance. Most often in vain. This strategy is ineffective, 'cause most of our fears never come true. But there will always be something we couldn’t anticipate.
Our brain constantly wants certainty, otherwise, it begins to think we are in danger. But visualizing the future in detail is too costly for the brain. And when our expectations don’t match reality, it’s also painful for the psyche. Instead of trying to predict our future, we should focus on the next step. It’s a gentler approach, with no pressure and stress.
The most important step in your life is the next step. Not the one from five years ago, not the one you’ll take a year from now. Just the next step of yours.
If you have a big goal or task in front of you and you have no idea where to start, or how to approach it, try not to think of it as a big goal. Instead, think of what your next step might be and take it. This little trick will help you overcome the numbness and begin to act.
Having a plan helps our mind avoid panicking and makes it easy to star acting. Stop wasting your time, make a plan. It’s the first step on the way to your goal.