Form, Instructions and an Example

by Tom Reeder

It often surprises me…

… at the busiest point of putting together a survey, after spending person-days creating an elegant survey instrument, very few people seem to have given much thought to those receiving the request for some of their time.  This concept seems to apply to all sorts of data collection, certain types of analysis, or anything which relies on others to complete.  It applies to work, to school volunteer work, to church events, to experienced and inexperienced managers, and to anything requiring or to anyone requesting feedback.  In the parlance of communication planning, I would think of this under the “start with your audience in mind”.

Three Critical Elements

There is no magic here.  However, I have found in numerous settings, if you consider three critical elements, you will generally be successful.

  1. Form:  Think about it from the busy person you are asking for some of their time; Also consider technology as it now gives more options on format (e.g., mail, email, web site, twitter, etc.) not available just a short time ago
  2. Instructions: Be clear about what you want your audience to do, how long it should take, how to return the information by when, and who to contact how with questions; The instructions can be baked into the form
  3. Example:  If a picture is worth a thousand words- consider an example relevant to 80% of your audience and address the common mistakes

Finally, hand several colleagues the entire package cold, and fine-tune the key three parts of your package based on their input.

This is a short note, but powerful in successfully engaging others effectively and efficiently.

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