The Beautiful Question Check List

Beautiful Questions

Although engagement is not unique to Kitchen Table Conversations designing and refining the beautiful question in this particular way is a special attribute of the Kitchen Table Conversation. All contracting starts with a presenting problem. Use this handy checklist to ensure you develop a robust and very beautiful question… and execute it well during the KTC.

Steps to Success

Step #1: Develop Initial Theme/Question with Sponsor/Client

Start with a topic, theme, or initial question defined by the sponsor, and/or client contact. Questions can run the gamut from queries about business performance and concerns, to diversity, or key implications of industry trends & controversy. This initial element may take some time to get right, but it is worth it.

  1. Clarify: Be clear about the purpose of the KTC before meeting with any potential KTC participants or key influencers
  2. Identify: the people (target audience) that is best suited to answer the question
  3. Note: your client’s goals and expected outcomes from engaging around the question so you can use this information when you are context setting in interviews & other communication. Ask ‘how does this question fit with the day-to-day running of the business

Step #2: Craft the Question with the Core Team

This is the beginning of your process of information gathering and initial analysis. Be curious; begin with a well-thought-through question but be open to feedback and pay attention to comments that may at first, seem only slightly related to the issue at hand. Interview core team members to model important aspects of the interview process. Demonstrating the interview content and format for the people who will be charged with soliciting input from the wider population builds momentum for the event. It is critical that everyone is excited and engaged before they join the KTC.

  1. Gather feedback: about the wording of the question, but also ask what is missing. Discuss any important elements that the question does not address. Enquire how the original difficulties / challenges arose and what has prevented the resolution
  2. Frame the question: This is a critical factor in creating the question and determining why this question is important. The question’s high level of relevance is what drives participants’ enquiry and energy
  3. Define context: Careful context setting assures that the question is highly relevant to the target audience’s work or professional endeavours. If participants don’t think the topic relates to their sphere of influence, they quickly lose interest
  4. Iterate the question: Incorporate feedback by using the information gathered from this core group, to set deeper context and hone the question for future interviews. Employ language you hear used throughout the target audience (but go lightly on acronyms and buzz words)

Step #4: Test the Question (with Target Audience)

Once you have written an acceptable question and have the context needed to explain the rationale for the KTC, iterate the question at least one re time.

  1. Provide guidelines: the core team and key influencers – who will, in many cases, complete the majority of the interviews – with instruction on how to test the question and key messages to use during this stage. Include enough information to allow the interviewers to ‘paint a picture’ of the dilemma or challenge
  2. Tailor a script for the interviewers: Interviewers must be consistent in their approach to each interview so that they are able to compile and articulate new information and other nuances during the next iteration of the question
  3. Gather feedback: Testing the question on wider audience, is used to refine the question and to build engagement and excitement for the coming KTC
  4. Cover your targets: The main engagement technique for a KTC is question-related, so it is essential to use every chance available to connect with the audience. Ensure that at least 20% of the potential KTC participants are interviewed and make sure feedback is solicited from at least one key influencer in each area of your target audience (eg, department, section, centre of excellence, etc.). Include enough context that the interviewees understand the dilemma and be able to articulate the purpose of the KTC to their colleagues

Step # 5: Iterate the Question with the Core Team

(normally 3 iterations)

  1. Meet with interviewer regularly: refine the question using the information they gather. Identify and flag issues, concerns, or challenge areas that should be addressed before the KTC
  2. Repeat as required

Step #6: Finalize the question with Sponsor & Client Contact …

  1. Check for Alignment: Confirm with the sponsor that the question, as iterated, will produce the desired outcome(s)
  2. Distribute the invitation: include the (now) beautiful question in the invitation as well as the context, agenda, and KTC description (see samples). Distribute it to the list of participants via the Sponsor (cc: company contact and core team/ interviewers)