Delivering Research Results In Your Audience’s Native Tongue (which likely isn’t statistics)

When delivering research results it’s easy to assume that your audience is going to be able to read everything, including those beautiful charts and graphs, and instantly understand it all. But you’ve heard the expression, “It’s all Greek to me”?

Sure you understand. This is your project — your “language” — and you speak it every day. To others though, especially other professionals who don’t spend much time with online surveys, it’s likely to sound a little too much like “blah blah blah…” What’s obvious to you won’t necessarily be obvious to them.

As a researcher and presenter, it behooves you to make your results easily understandable. Otherwise your research time is wasted, lost in the translation. It’s up to you to make it as easy as possible for these people to get the key “aha!” findings from your survey results.

So here are four things you can do to make it easy for non researchers to understand your online survey research results:

1. Use Simple Labels— You’re catering to the lowest common denominator here, and the KISS principal applies. Keep it simple:

• All charts should have a title.

• The exact wording of the question should appear under the graph or in the text, with the actual answer options.

• Make it clear how many people answered that particular question, and if you used a sub-group, define it. If Figure 3 is based on the entire sample, but Figure 4 is based only on men, call it out.

• Make sure those vertical and horizontal axes are labeled clearly.

2. Give examples— This may sound like overkill, but it’s very helpful to your readers to show them an example of how to read a chart or graph. Think of it as a translation from the Greek. If the chart shows the survey results for color preference on your new widget, highlight one of your results so they know how to read it without asking (which few people will do—nobody likes to admit they can’t read a chart). Saying, “As Figure 3 shows, 87 percent prefer green” makes it crystal clear — perfect.

3. Suggest uses for the data— When delivering research results, especially to non quantitative people, it’s critical to show them how to use them.

• Using our previous example of the green widget, there are a few possibilities: “This data suggests that we may want to consider green in the first generation of our new widget product” or “it may be worthwhile testing specific shades of green in our next phase of research” should be enough to push your listeners in the right direction.

• Maybe your research identified two positioning statements that seemed to resonate well with your target market. Great! Now tell your reader what that means: “We want our packaging to be consistent with these positioning statements,” or “We’ll want to share these positioning statement results with advertising and PR”.

4. Give them a “Top 10” list— People love it, and it’s something that the non quantitative person can instantly grasp. Boil down the Top 10 findings from your research, inject a little humor if you want (a la David Letterman), but keep it short. You want ten short (less than 25 words) sentences on a single sheet of paper that will trigger recall of your more elaborate charts and convey the key points.

It’s all about the “aha!” — that moment for your audience when what sounded like Greek suddenly makes sense. It’s a lot more difficult for people who are a bit removed, who don’t hear the “language” of research every day, especially if they’re not quantitative by nature. Using these points, though, you can make it easy for them, and make your time spent researching count.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Korostoff
Kathryn Korostoff teaches Market Research best practices at for Ask Your Target Market, and is the president of Research Rockstar, delivering Market Research training and support services. She can be reached at KKorostoff AT ResearchRockstar DOT com.