Master the art of listening – Steve Portigal

Don’t just ask a question, then ask the next question. Try and build connection between the questions. 

“Following up, instead of asking questions, is a mindset that can really help.” “Trying to ask follow-ups is a way to get out of question-asking and a way to get more connected.”

Are there better ways to ask questions? 

  • Gathering context and collecting details
  • Probe for what has been unsaid
  • Questions to build for mental models.

There are a bunch of different questions types for each of these topics. Check out Interviewing Users for suggestions.

Ask follow-up questions!! Never expect a question to generate the answer. “You can’t come in with the perfect question. You need to adapt … know how to follow up.”

What are the top three biggest mistakes that you’ve seen companies make when conducting user research? 

  1. Where people put the answer in the question. What are the things you like to do when you go out to the movies? Do you like the food, catching up with your partner, hanging out with your friends … etc.
    People want to do a really good job for you during an interview. “It’s even worse than leading questions. You’re handing them the answers”.
    Be ok with silence. Ask the question and then do a hard stop. Sit with the pause.
  2. Capture audio, don’t take notes and just rely on those notes. People try to take notes in the field. You can’t capture what someone says. “We end up with these fairly biased documents”. Capturing the audio is preferable.
  3. Debriefing instead of analysing. Go back to them with an analytical mindset during the analysis phase. The debrief process is important to do. But then in the analysis session go back to the data. “The debrief is necessary but it’s not sufficient”.

What’s the one thing that made me successful with what you’re doing today? 

Steve kind of hates this question, and talks about why he’s struggling to answer this question.