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Some resources for better presentations

In my last post, I talked about the need to more effectively communicate research results.  Since most business communication today includes PowerPoint, better presentation skills are a big part of better communication.

What follows are links to resources that will help you improve your presentation skills.

Blogs

Here are some blogs that are focused on public speaking and/or PowerPoint.

Six Minutes – Speaking and Presentation Skills. Six Minutes focuses on general  public speaking and presentation skills.

Speaking about Presenting. Well written general tips on speaking and presenting.

PowerPoint Tips. Tips and tricks to better use PowerPoint.

PowerPoint Ninja. Lots of practical how-to articles for using PowerPoint more effectively.

Presentation Zen. Must read blog for becoming a better presenter.  Loaded with informative articles on design and links to many, many practical examples of speeches.  There is also a book (see below) that should be on your shelf.

Slide:ology. Companion blog to the book (see below) of the same name.

Beyond Bullet Points. Blog that expands on the process laid out in the book of the same name.

Books

If you spend much time at all delivering presentations, these three books should be on your shelf.  Actually, they shouldn’t be on your shelf. They should be on your desk, next to your bed, in your briefcase, or wherever else you keep the books you are constantly referring to.

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Renyolds.  Excellent book that takes the reader through the process of creating and delivering a presentation.

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte. Excellent, easy to digest tutorial and reference on how to design presentation slides that effectively communicate your ideas.

Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® 2007 to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire by Cliff Atkinson. This book lays out a process that you can use to develop any presentation.

Training

There are many public speaking and presentation coaches out there for those who prefer that method of learning.  Another option is to join a local Toastmasters group.  Toastmasters is a public speaking organization that’s been around for very long time and has groups all over the world.  You can find a group near you on their website.

Market researchers must learn to communicate

For the past two weeks, I’ve been talking about ways market researchers could change their mindset. Thinking like a marketer and understanding the client’s business are both important front-end issues.  Today, I’m going to fast-forward to the end of a project to talk about the third way market researchers can make themselves more relevant.

Marketers, how often have you received a PowerPoint file with hundreds of slides, all completely overloaded with dense charts and difficult to interpret bullet points?

Researchers, how often have you been guilty of producing such a PowerPoint file?

From what I’ve seen, the answer to both questions is far too often.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how good your research was, if you fail to effectively communicate the results.

Market researchers tend to be detail-oriented people.  They revel in the complexity of the data and truly believe that every nugget they find is equally valuable.  The problem is that every nugget isn’t equally valuable.  By giving equal emphasis to everything, you ultimately fail to emphasize anything.

From the reader’s perspective, trying to digest a report like that is like being in a crowded room where everyone is speaking to them simultaneously at equal volume.  The resulting din makes it impossible to understand anything the crowd says.

Tell a story.

The mindset market researchers should adopt is that of a storyteller.  Bring life to your data by putting it in a context and explaining its significance. Yes, this is a lot more work than simply dumping the data from all the questions into charts, but it’s also a lot more useful.

Jeffery Henning of Vovici offers one very good way to structure a research report more effectively using an inverted pyramid approach. There are many other resources that can help you learn how to craft a story from your data.

Here is one approach to finding and telling the story in the data.

Open the story with the one big take away. You need to distill all of the research findings into one sentence that encapsulates them. This sentence is your headline.  Most people will listen to the headline and decide within seconds if they should pay attention to the rest of your presentation.  What will you say to capture their attention?

Identify the three to five main ideas that support your big take away. If you find you have more than that, you’re probably getting too deep into the details and should spend more time refining your main supporting ideas. The goal is to be able to summarize the entire research project in four to six sentences –  your headline plus the three to five main ideas.

Use relevant details from the research data to support your main ideas. Notice I said relevant details. This means — and no doubt some will call to have me burned as a heretic for this — that you might not include all of the questions from your survey in your final report. I’m not suggesting that you selectively omit data to manipulate the story to your purposes.  I’m suggesting that you need to edit if you want to craft a story that is engaging and actionable. You should have detailed tabulations of the data as a backup.  Remember, we’re talking about effectively communicating the results, and I don’t know anyone who thinks a 3-inch thick stack of tabs effectively communicates anything.

This wraps up my series on ways to become more relevant.  I hope you’ve found an idea or two that you can put into practice to increase your value to your clients and colleagues.  Up next, I’m going to take a look at one of the other big issues in research today – how (or if) to include social media in the research mix.  Don’t miss it, subscribe to Random Sampling via RSS now.

Market Researchers need to understand the client’s business

Last week, I talked about how market researchers need to think more like marketers.  Today I’m going to tackle a closely related point – knowing your client’s business.  On the surface, these two items sound like they are the same, but they aren’t.  The distinction I’m making is this:

“Thinking like a marketer” is about understanding the end game – what actions will the users of your research take (or not) based on the information.

“Knowing your customer’s business” is about understanding the context in which those actions will occur.

Thinking like a marketer helps you understand why your clients need certain information and clues you into how they may use it.  Knowing your specific client’s business helps you get to the “so what” in the data. Only by understanding the issues that keep your clients up at night can you transform market research data into actionable insight that answers marketers’ questions.

How do you do that?

If you’re working in a market research function inside a company, your job is relatively easy. By virtue of the fact that you’re in the company every day, you already have a good handle on what the issues are and how the business works. You can easily fill whatever gaps exist in your knowledge by discussing the situation with your internal clients.

Your job is a little more difficult if you’re an outside market research consultant or supplier. To understand the business issues your clients face, you’re going to need to make a concerted effort to educate yourself about the industry generally and your client specifically.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of sources for this information.

Even the most cursory Google searches on the industry and the company will likely turn up a treasure trove of background information.  Of course, the more experience you have in any particular industry, the larger your natural knowledge base will become.

We see market research companies specializing in particular industries all the time and we see some clients who place a high value on this type of specialization.  An industry focus can certainly be a smart marketing strategy on the part of a research consultant.

Eventually, though, you will reach a point of diminishing returns on additional industry expertise.  You should strive for a good working knowledge of the client’s business and issues. Remember, your client hired you first for your market research expertise and your ability to help them get the information they need.  Knowing the client’s business helps you do those things better, but no matter how much you specialize, your client will always know their business better than you will.

This background knowledge helps you answer the most critical question in any market research project.

So what?

Conducting a survey or focus groups and writing up a descriptive report of what you found doesn’t require any particular industry or company knowledge.  This type of report also leaves all of the heavy lifting to your clients. By addressing only the what, and not the so what, what you’ve really done is a data dump. You’ve left it to your client, the person relying on you for insight and expertise, to figure it out for themselves.

When you can walk into a meeting and not only tell your clients what you found, but why it matters, and provide some thoughts on what they can do with it, you’ve become a valuable ally in helping them get their job done.

Next, I’ll talk more about the third thing marketing researchers can do to become more valued – improving communication and presentation skills.  Don’t miss it, subscribe the RSS feed now.

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