Effectively Presenting Online Survey Results: You are the star!

Think for a moment about your all-time favorite movie. For me, it is the Wizard of Oz. I was 7 years old when I first saw it. I sat in my living room with neighborhood friends, propped up on a pile of pillows. The music started, the lamps were turned off, and my sense of time just disappeared. Two hours later the lights came on and I was thrust back into the real world against my will… What a ride!

Now recall the worst movie you ever saw. Time crawled, you daydreamed, and you couldn’t wait for it to end…

If you’re planning to present your online survey results to a group, which experience would you prefer to recreate? Not that we expect a survey presentation to be as captivating as the best movie ever, but can’t we strive for that? Of course we can — and here are some tips to help.

Be the Star

If you’re making a formal presentation for more than five people, you really want to be the star — the focus of everyone’s attention. You need to exude credibility and authority, so that all eyes are on you. To achieve that, here are five key presentation problems, and their solutions:

1. Unwanted distractions — Few things drain a presentation’s momentum like a simple question that you don’t have the answer for, and pausing to flip through your notes only makes it worse. People are mentally heading for the lobby while you search.
So don’t. Draft a colleague to be in the room with you during your presentation. Make sure they have important project documents at their fingertips so that if somebody in the audience says, “Can you tell me how Question 28 was worded?” THEY can look up the answer, while YOU stay firmly on center-stage.

2. Unnecessary delays — Can’t I just say, “I’ll get back to you later”’? No, you can’t. You’re still losing momentum. A simple question should be answered quickly and with absolute authority. Only truly complex, or tangential, questions should be flagged for later follow-up.

3. Disorganized house-keeping — You need somebody to take notes, watch the clock, and keep things organized for you. That’s your colleagues’ job. They note any follow-up required, let you know if you’re ahead or behind schedule, find answers and support your position as the star. So having a colleague or two ready in the audience really is crucial.

4. Hecklers — There are few things more disruptive to an actor’s performance—or a presenter’s presentation—than someone in the audience who’s antagonistic toward the topic or presenter. In this context a heckler is a market research cynic who deliberately tries to derail your presentation with annoying questions and comments. It’s immature behavior, but it happens.

So how do we deal with them? First, if you know who they are likely to be, meet with them one-on-one before the presentation. Often you’ll discover that they’ve had a bad market research experience in the past or they have a pet peeve about the topic. Meeting with them ahead of time — while it can be uncomfortable — may disarm them before they get started, allowing you to concentrate on the topic. Don’t know who they are? Be prepared with a strong introduction that includes why you chose this specific research methodology, how you determined the sample size, and how your online survey participants were qualified for the study—those are the three most common questions.

5. Poor Preparation — Walk in totally prepared. If you’ve got hand-outs, print them the day before to avoid “broken printer syndrome”. Rehearse your presentation; actually stand up and practice it. If you can’t find time to do the whole thing, do at least the first 15 minutes or so, so that you can nail the most critical takeaways.

Dim the Lights!

There we have it — 5 points to guarantee a stellar presentation, to put your name up in lights.

Well, actually there’s no guarantee, but using these ideas, and a bit of careful thought, can go a long way toward keeping your presentations fresh, interesting and under your control. It really comes down to anticipating the potential rough spots. Whether it’s a customer survey presentation or a blockbuster hit from Hollywood, without all that work behind the scenes, it’s just not going to come together. The star’s job — YOUR job — is to make it shine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Korostoff
Kathryn Korostoff taught market research best practices at 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.