Have you watched the news lately? It’s no longer a “talking head” reading current events out loud for 30 minutes. It’s a multimedia event that changes components every three minutes. An anchor introduces a topic and then cuts to a colleague or a video or brings in a guest. There are visual displays—maps, charts, and photos—with music and sound effects. While some people may decry the loss of “real news,” multimedia helps keep the audience engaged.With this in mind, think about what is going to happen the next time you complete an online survey project and need to present those results to your colleagues, management team, orexternal clients. Do you want to be the boring talking head? Of course not. You want to keep your audience awake!
Fear & Boredom in Research City
Even if you have never done an online survey project, it won’t surprise you that these types of presentations can quickly bore an audience. Nobody wants to sit through an hour of charts and graphs….nobody. So, when we're presenting our market research survey results, our goal is to avoid death by PowerPoint.“Death by PowerPoint” is a tongue-in-cheek phrase many presenters use when talking about the phenomenon of putting your audience to sleep by presenting too many slides. PowerPoint can be a powerful tool when used well. Unfortunately, it tends to be abused. Here are four tactics to ensure you deliver a great presentation without torturing your audience.
- Open Strong: Always open with three to five (no more than five) key takeaways. Tell people what the key takeaways are up front to tease them and whet their appetites before you launch into the full presentation. If you open up with a few of these “aha!” points, you'll have their interest. Sometimes it’s best to include a couple of somewhat controversial points—again, to get their attention. Better still, craft a four-minute script about your opening points and deliver it as a verbal-only introduction before you even start your PowerPoint. This strong opener (well memorized of course) will impress your audience and start you off with good momentum.
- Tell Them What's Important: Also tell them why. When you’re presenting your survey results, you aren’t going to necessarily present every question in the survey and every answer to every question in the survey. That may be overkill. Instead, focus on what’s important. It’s your job as the researcher to prioritize content for your audience, and one of the ways you do that is by doing a little editing. So, as you’re presenting research, you need to be able to say, “This is an important result and that is why I want to share it with you.” Then explain why it is important. You may think the “why” is obvious, but trust us, it's not always obvious to your audience. You really need to spell it out for them and make it very simple, like, “Here's this result from testing some marketing messages. This one particularly resonated with our target market. This is important because it isn’t currently included in any of our marketing materials or packaging…”
- Include Audio or Video: Just speaking and presenting slides will put most audiences to sleep after 15 minutes. If there's any way you can incorporate video, animation, or audio, do so. Even if it's not directly from the research effort itself, you may find some good material simply by searching YouTube.com about online survey methodologies or about context relevant to your topics. For example, if you are doing research on the digital camera market, you may be surprised to find dozens of YouTube videos about digital cameras, and you may find that some add relevant context or back up a point you are making. Just by adding a little media, you can add a lot of interest to your presentation.
- Use Quotes: If you’ve done an online survey, you may have one or two open-ended questions, and that means you may receive some very interesting verbatim quotes. Audiences love verbatim quotes. You can show them data, data, data and not convince them about a key conclusion, and then one compelling quote—in the respondent’s own words—convinces them. So, whenever possible, use quotes. Emphasize quotes by placing just one per slide in a large font.
With a little planning, you can present your online survey results in a way that will not just keep your audience awake, but also incite conversation and interest. You will know you have instigated their interest if they ask questions, or simply keep their eyes on you—and don’t peek at the news programs they have streaming on their smartphones.Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center