Baker's Dozen: 13 Tips for Better Reports and Presentations


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Thirteen useful tips for creating market research reports and presentations that get acted upon and remembered.

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  • A good report begins with a good understanding of the client’s needs and available options. The objectives are the touchstone for developing the report.A good report requires a balance of answering the objectives within the available options.
  • Find out what format the client needs Find out how the report will be used
  • Make a template based on the objectivesA roadmap for developing the reportObjectives come from the discussion guide
  • Write out the research objectives and methodology first (saves time later)Strengthens focus while moderating
  • Consider debriefs the beginning of the report writing processListen to clients and engage them in conversation (priorities can change/evolve)Debrief daily to make sure the research stays on trackHelps ensure you and the clients all go home on the same page
  • Think like a journalist – curiosity – think like CSI – solving problemsListeners are the main character – take them from A to B; from business question to insightBuild stories from beginning to endThink like a mystery writer
  • Findings should address the objectivesNo need to play back everything -- “I don’t read.”Avoid “interesting” tangents
  • Bring in relatedinsights from other projects and past experiencesWhat is an insight?
  • Headlines should concisely state a finding, rather only be a labelYou should be able to flip through the report in 10 minutes and get the key insightsThe reader should be able to thumb through and get the gist of the report from the headlines
  • Write action-oriented insightsUse verbs so they read like recommendationsExamples???1. An insight is invariably below the surface. It isn’t immediately visible or apparent.2. An insight isn’t already common knowledge or part of prevailing wisdom3. An insight leads to a new opportunity or growth potential that can be effectively exploited.Examples of insights:Coffee marketing discovered that the smell of coffee was the most important factor even though you drink coffee, it’s not a perfume. This lead to a focus on the celebration of aroma.Washing up liquid: the focus on the sparkle of glasses (wine glasses) came from the insight that you can most clearly and easily see with glass if it’s really clean or not. It’s about light, not dirt.Are Market Researchers good at uncovering Insights? We all know about fulfilling a brief – hitting the objectives.I’d say that almost every project I’ve ever worked on in market research has uncovered an insight that actually wasn’t in the brief – road-side stuff, so to speak.Maybe we should consider documenting not just what was asked for in a brief, but point out side-insights that weren’t expected.
  • Think in terms of metaphors and visuals. Visuals save you words and are memorable.
  • Educate yourself on visual thinkingPay attention to magazines and graphic designers as examples of how to highlight key insights
  • Don’t hint at findings Highlight them to make sure that findings are exaggerated/easy to skim
  • Speak to your client beforehandDebrief oftenUse journalistic instincts to make sure findings pop
  • Baker's Dozen: 13 Tips for Better Reports and Presentations

    1. Baker’s Dozen 13 tips for cooking up tasty reports Liz Van Patten QRCA Annual Conference October 2012
    2. Recipe • Framing • Storytelling • Crafting insights • Making it accessible
    3. 1. Understand client’s objectives and choices • Plan to answer the objectives • Consider the available options
    4. 2. Get agreement on reporting methods • How will report be used? • What format(s) is best solution?
    5. Report or Presentation? Teleprompter 50 – 75 words/page Poor compromise Too often the default Document 75+ words on page Preparation Discussion  Presentation Minimal words Key take-aways Images for impact 
    6. 3. Create a template from project objectives • Build a structure for the report • Start with issues in the guide
    7. Useful reports are information pyramids Insights Headlines Findings
    8. Information structured for reader segments Scan Read Study
    9. 4. Start writing before fieldwork begins • Write objectives and method in advance • Gives stronger focus during interviewing
    10. 5. Get a head start with debriefs • Listen to clients • Start process of report writing • Keeps everyone on the same page
    11. Analysis Story 6. Tell a compelling story StoryData Data Data
    12. One- third pie Two- thirds pie Three- thirds pie No- thirds pie Stories make sense of the data
    13. 7. Select findings that support your story • Focus on the objectives • Resist including everything • Avoid tangents
    14. 8. Add value with analysis • Incorporate your own unique insights
    15. 9. Make information easy to access • Write headlines not labels • Scan in ten minutes
    16. 10. Craft insights that lead to action • Write action-oriented insights • Use verbs
    17. What is an insight anyway? • Below the surface • Not common knowledge • Leads to new opportunities
    18. 11. Visualize your insights • Look for metaphors and visuals • Makes it more memorable
    19. Three communication need states • Not mutually exclusive • Varied requirements for each Multi- tasking Single- tasking On-the- road
    20. 12. Use visual emphasis to highlight insights • Bold fonts* • Colored fonts • Call-outs • Colored boxes *avoid all caps or underscored
    21. • Highlight key take-aways • Make them easy to find 13. Highlight findings that support insights
    22. Source: Tapping Encore Talent MetLife/Civic Ventures Survey
    23. Emphasize headlines to guide readers Source: Tapping Encore Talent MetLife/Civic Ventures Survey
    24. Headlines become useful Table of Contents Source: Tapping Encore Talent MetLife/Civic Ventures Survey
    25. Recipe for better reports • Understand client needs • Get a head start • Write from the objectives • Think like a mystery writer • Craft insights • Make information accessible
    26. Thank you! Liz Van Patten 631-283-7842