6 Clarifying Questions

When you’re so far along you seem to have lost your way, sometimes it’s easiest to map your way back to the beginning.

Often a PowerPoint presentation can become so packed with bullet points, charts and graphics that we lose our sense of clarity, direction and focus.

But you can find your way back to your goals by mapping your content to the 6 primary signposts that underlie every effective communication experience: who, what, where, when, why and how.

It may sound basic, but that’s the point. No matter how elaborate, detailed, complex and involved your story is, you have to clearly answer these 6 basic questions, or else you’ll lose your audience, and your own understanding.

Try out this technique to clarify your message and bring an existing PowerPoint presentation back on track:

Tip: Choose File–>New to create a new, blank PowerPoint file, and Save it. On each of 6 blank slides, type each of the following words in the headline area: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? (Or, you can download this pre-formatted file here.)

6_questionsNow choose View –> Slide Sorter. These 6 slides are your "visual buckets" or "note cards" that will hold the 6 focusing ideas of your story. Return to your existing PowerPoint, choose View –> Slide Sorter, and ask "Who is the subject of my story? " Return to Slide 1 of your new PowerPoint, and write the answer to your question over the word "Who?" in the headline area, as in the second column of slides in the example at right (click on the image for a larger pop-up view). Repeat this process for each of the other 5 slides.

Once you’ve got your 6 new slides, you still have to storyboard your ideas into an engaging and memorable structure and illustrate your ideas with meaningful visuals. But at least you’ve cleared your mind of the PowerPoint clutter and have now returned to the basic building blocks that form the solid foundation of your message.

In any and every case, these 6 clarifying questions will help you focus your way to your destination, which can only help both you and your audience get there easier, faster and more effectively, too.

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