The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. Vol 3 Issue 9   October 2007

Written reports and supporting data are an important part of any market research project, certainly. But combining these with a final, oral discussion of the findings can make all the difference. Read on as we explain why…

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Julie Brown

Mark Palmerino
Executive Vice President

Four Score and Several Presentations Ago

While surfing the Internet last week (it was lunchtime), I happened across the now famous “Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation,” written by Peter Norvig. Norvig, currently Director of Research at Google, sat down one evening in early 2000 and converted Lincoln’s seminal Gettysburg Address into a six-slide, bullet-point presentation, complete with technical difficulties at the start and “speaker notes” at the end.

The resulting presentation was brilliant, and the hilarious parody quickly gained attention and buzz as it made its way around the Internet. Seeing Norvig’s masterpiece again after so many years got me thinking (as so many things do!) about good market research. In particular, it reminded me of the important role an oral presentation can play in the effective communication of research data.

In other words, while it’s certainly necessary to provide written detail and support as part of any market research project, the live discussion that goes along with the “cold, hard, facts” is often just as important.

A few reasons why…

  1. A live presentation allows audience needs and interests to direct the discussion.

    A written report, by its very nature, is closed-ended. If it’s well done, it will be comprehensive and cover the topic from A to Z, but it’s still a form of one-way communication, directed by the report-writer.

    The audience involvement that naturally occurs during an accompanying oral presentation, on the other hand, allows the presenter to dive deep on topics that the audience finds particularly interesting, useful, or confusing (sometimes all three at once). Unlike a written report, whose emphasis tends to be on thoroughness, an oral presentation is more concerned with saliency — making sure that what matters is discussed and understood.

    Interestingly, the definition of “what matters” may vary tremendously based on audience makeup. Level of responsibility within the organization, familiarity with statistics, and even degree of interest in the topic at hand, are all examples of audience characteristics which may have an impact on where the discussion leads. Unlike the “one size fits all” nature of a written presentation, a live discussion focuses where it needs to.

  2. A live presentation leads to new insights.

    When you’ve got intelligent, engaged people around the table, discussing the research together, new insights begin percolating. It’s a chance for the participants’ ideas to mingle together, often resulting in a level of understanding that nobody had before, or uncovering new questions that need further exploration. It’s ultimately much more useful than simply having each team member sit alone in his/her office and read the final report in solitude.

  3. A live presentation leaves room for emotion.

    As Norvig’s parody so cleverly reveals, a “just the facts, ma’am” approach to information can boil the clarity, message and emotion out of even the most persuasive argument.

    By the same token, the written report in isolation can miss the forest for the trees. Bringing the team together at the end of a project to discuss the research, on the other hand, allows the story to come off the page. After all, market research is conducted with the intention of influencing business decisions within a particular context, much of which may be lost in the absence of a hearty discussion.

In the end, the research reporting — like the research itself — works best when there’s an opportunity for give and take among those involved. And while budgets and other constraints may not always allow for it, a final meeting of the minds can make the difference between a project that has real impact, and one which “the world will little note, nor long remember.”

— Mark

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Mixology (Putting research into practice)

There’s no shortage of information available on the topic of how to give a good presentation, and if you’re feeling the need for a brush up, a quick walk through your local bookstore will no doubt turn up several excellent resources.

When it comes to presenting market research results to clients in particular, however, we’ve found the following guidelines helpful:

  1. Build in structured opportunities for brainstorming. Rather than just leaving 10 minutes at the end for discussion, create intentional “breaks in the action,” where people are encouraged to engage with the presenter and with each other regarding the topic at hand. We deliberately bill our presentations as “working sessions,” to make it clear at the start that the audience’s active participation is welcomed.
  2. Share your written results in advance with at least one client insider. Nothing can derail a presentation faster than an erroneous assumption or a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the nature of the client’s business. Before standing up in front of a room full of people, therefore, share your presentation with a knowledgeable insider and walk through it together to make sure nothing critical has been overlooked or misunderstood.
  3. Involve one or more team members who actually worked on the research as co-presenters. It’s fine to have the big guns in your organization give the final presentation, just make sure you’ve got others along as well who can speak to methodology, interpretation of results and other research fundamentals. As the article above makes clear, you can never be sure where the discussion may lead (that’s a good thing!), so make sure you’ve got people in the room who can speak to all levels and flavors of questions.
  4. Check your grammar and spelling. We know, this should probably go without saying, but we’ve all sat through overheads and reports that contain obvious grammatical and spelling errors. Needless to say, this kind of thing can be distracting, and deserved or not, cause audience members to question the validity of the research itself.


Four Score and Several Presentations Ago

Mixology (Putting research into practice)

Twist and Shout

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Through this research, one of the world’s leading certification organizations will help the IT industry better understand global recruitment and training challenges and solutions. Interviews will be conducted, and results published, worldwide.

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The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data.


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