Effective report writing


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Effective report writing

  2. 2. Agenda Warm-Up 5 mins Introduction and Objectives : Why it matters 5 minsStructuring your story – Storyboarding and Exercise 25 minsSlide Layout, Presentation Structure and Messages 20 mins Writing Insightful presentations and Exercise 20 mins Review of our presentations – Group exercise 20 mins Ways of Working 5 mins2 Wrap-up 5 mins
  3. 3. 3Introduction and Objectives : Why it matters
  4. 4. INTRODUCTIONBackground: Why do we need to be able to make effectivepresentations? Effective presentations are essential to the way we work since they: Enable us to present complex messages in a simple and persuasive way Help to focus on telling the story and delivering real insight rather than just ―data dumping‖ Give you the confidence to step back from the detail, and focus on appreciating and responding to the emotional and political responses as well as the rational Ensure you provide your audience with the elements needed to enable and convince them to take action / make decisions as required
  5. 5. INTRODUCTIONThe purpose of today’s session is to help you improvethe quality and impact of your written presentationsObjectives● To understand the importance of varying presentation style to ensure it is appropriate for any given audience / situation● To learn how to design high quality and high impact written presentations: – Easy to understand – Compelling the desired action● To understand the importance of going beyond data presentation to drive out insights● To establish a ―Modus Operandus‖ to: – Lay out a presentation in all its component parts at an early stage – Use the storyboard to help identify and communicate the analysis needed – Use a consistent presentation format
  6. 6. INTRODUCTIONFive principles underpin all good document writing Write for your audience. Keep it simple Support assertions with facts Stay in the active voice (use verbs) TELL A GOOD STORY
  7. 7. INTRODUCTIONBeware: Written presentations may not always be the mostappropriate technique for your audience ● It is very important to know your audience and what they are likely to respond best to ● Make sure you keep your end point in mind - what is it you are trying to achieve, and what method is going to best achieve that? – Much of the presenting we do in Tesco is far more about facilitating decision-making rather than getting lots of data across ● Understanding some of the other techniques available to you should help you select the most appropriate medium: – Flipcharts – Brown Paper – Open discussion – Other (video, audio, exercises/games etc)
  8. 8. 8Structuring your Story
  9. 9. STORYBOARDINGEvery successful document tells a coherent story that youraudience can follow A scattered storyline is a sure way to lose your audience.
  10. 10. STRUCTURING YOUR STORYThis “story” should have all the elements the audienceneeds to know in order to take action Element Purpose • Roadmap “Tell them what you’re going to tell them” • What the problem is Set the stage • What we did Outline approach/methodology; build credibility • What we found Present findings • What that means Interpret findings and make conclusions • What we need to do Make recommendations • What happens next Outline next steps
  11. 11. STRUCTURING YOUR STORY The elements can be ordered in different ways depending on the nature of your audienceExample 1: start with the problem and build to a recommendation (less-receptive audience): What the What we What we What that WHAT WE NEED TO DO problem is did found meansExample 2: start with the recommendations (more receptive audience): WHAT WE What that What the What we What we NEED TO DO means problem is found did The challenge is to tell a story that convinces the audience to act
  12. 12. GETTING STARTEDWhen conceptualising your story, start with the end in mind– Write your recommendations first: – Your recommendations emerge from your solutions to the audience‘s problems — Your thesis or central argument.– Then, develop a storyline that leads logically to your recommendations.
  13. 13. 13Getting Started - Building your Storyboard
  14. 14. GETTING STARTED - STORYBOARDINGYour first step with any presentation should be to structureit into its key sections Overview of a Typical Document Structure Introduction Executive Body Section 1 Body Section 2 Body Section 3 Summary and Summary & Next Steps Objectives e.g. Market Overview e.g. Market Trends e.g. Competitive Environment Title Executive Summary Market Size Overview of Trends Overview of existing Summary of e.g. Assess Players Findings industry X Objective Growth Rates Competitive Trends Concentration Next Steps What questions are we trying to answer/for whom Market Fragmentation Trends in customer New entrants needs Information technology Company Profiles trends This clarifies the information you will be looking for.
  15. 15. GETTING STARTED - STORYBOARDING Then use a storyboard to sketch out your story early on● A storyboard will guide your information needs so write one early in the project or piece of work: – Use the storyboard to help identify and communicate the analysis needed. – Do not wait until you have ―the answer‖ before planning how to communicate the result.● Creating a storyboard up-front will help you to: – Headline and visualise each page of the document. – Organize and communicate ideas. – Check the logic flow (―necessary and sufficient‖ arguments). – Check the progress of your work. – Disseminate the document early on to pre-position your audience where needed Revise headlines and rearrange slides until they tell the story your audience needs to hear.
  16. 16. There are many ways to produce a storyboard:e.g. post-its, A4 pages, flipcharts etc
  17. 17. GETTING STARTED - STORYBOARDINGMake sure you reduce your story to its essentials A Jewish male nurse plans to ask his live-in girl friend to marry him. However, he learns that her strict father expects to be asked for his daughters hand Guy meets girl, before she can accept. Thus begins the guy wants to marry visit from Hell as the two travel to meet girl, guy paints a Mom and Dad, who turns out to be cat to impress the former CIA with a lie detector in the potential father-in- basement. Coincidentally, a sister also law. has announced her wedding to a young doctor. Of course everything that can go wrong, does, including the disappearance of Dads beloved Himalayan cat, Jinxie. You don’t have to present every single bit of data - identify the important messages, and stick the rest in an appendix!
  18. 18. BREAKOUT 1A: CREATING A STORYBOARD ( 5 minutes) •Before you see any data, in your pairs, write a storyboard for your case study: • Prepare the headlines for your storyboard (on paper is sufficient) • No more than 5 headlines (i.e. slides) long • Be prepared to present your story back to the larger group • Remember that the audience should be able to understand the story solely from the headlines •Timing: 5 mins preparation
  19. 19. BREAKOUT 1B: REFINING THE STORYBOARD ( 5 minutes) • Refine your story now that you have your analysis: • No more than 5 slides long • Be prepared to present your story back to the larger group • Remember the audience should be able to understand the story solely from the headlines • Timing: 5 mins preparation
  20. 20. REVIEW STORYBOARDS ( 5 minutes)
  21. 21. 21Slide Presentation
  22. 22. Layout 22
  23. 23. You have to be consistent all through thedocumentKeep It Simple● As with any design, cut the clutter. Does 3D shading of text boxes in multiple colours make your recommendation any stronger?● Stick to one font. No more than one or two graphic images or charts per slide is another good rule.● Use the same colours and fonts throughout.● It will speed up your writing and so enhance production efficiency● A simple and standard format will enable your audience and let them concentrate on what is important. Your document has to be professional. Try to imagine you‘re designing a book that will be printed and sold
  24. 24. Each part of the document has its own objectiveThe headline tells the story ● Content (text) • Content (diagrams, graphs) ● The content explains the story support the story The kicker-box tells the implications of the story The kicker box usually answers the ―so-what?‖ question 24
  25. 25. The headline tells the storyOnly one single message per page Use headlines as the story board of your document: Use a short sentence  When reading the headlines the • Two lines maximum audience should have for the headline (but a clear idea of the one is best) whole story Write something meaningful The Headline that directs attention to Do not write empty the main points of the statements or message numbers • ―Premium customers spend • ―Loyalty distribution of three times than Opportunity customers‖ Customers‖ A well written headline focuses attention on the message the page conveys 25
  26. 26. Examples of Common headline fails
  27. 27. SLIDE PRESENTATIONYour text should present complex data in the simplest waypossible● Follow the Rule of Two where possible: – No more than two lines per sentence● Break long bullets into bullets and dashes: – Better looking. – Easier to read and understand. – More memorable.● Use graphics to add power to your presentation: – Have more impact than a table of raw numbers – Give both a numerical and a visual message.● Keep tables as simple and clean as possible: – Highlight key numbers (e.g. bold or circle) – Use logical progressions (e.g. low to high, left to right)
  28. 28. SLIDE PRESENTATION The best kickers answer the audience’s “So what?” questions● Say what the page‘s content implies for the audience: – NOT a continuation of the headline.● Sometimes used effectively in other ways: – As exception statement or counterpoint. – To sum up and end section (signal a transition).● Are short and to the point.● Are OPTIONAL—use only when a ―So-what?‖ is needed: – If you use them on every page they will start to lose their power Using kickers well can add substantial power to your presentations.
  29. 29. SLIDE PRESENTATIONEvaluating each page or slide you write will help youproduce better overall documents ● Asking and answering simple questions about the various elements on each page or panel will help ensure you have clearly expressed yourself. ● Answering the questions before someone else asks them will help leverage the time you have with your audience: – Eliminating simple questions about style helps you focus on content and message. – Presenting confusing panels will result in lost time explaining the presentation ● Don‘t forget to use your spell check!
  30. 30. Structure 30
  31. 31. Each part of a presentation has its own purposeand is necessary Level of attention at it’s peak 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Title Executive Objectives Body Summary Next Page Summary Steps Should be Summarises Tells the Tells the Tells the key Explains as explicit the storyline purpose of whole story messages what willas possible and key the report again happen next messages Follow the structure and relegate to the appendix detail that‘s not necessary to understand the story
  32. 32. The executive summary should summarise thestoryline and the key message Summarises the storyline Should fit onto one page {title} • {text} Executive Summary Contain the key messages Contain the key results (profit, customer volumes, sales, etc) 32
  33. 33. Messages 33
  34. 34. The key messages are greatly dependent from thecontext of your presentation • To inform • Is the subject complex? The different • Is it very innovative kind of • To convince objectives of • Does it imply a tough decision? • To trigger action your document • What will trigger action you want your audience to take? • What are their feelings on the subject of your presentation? • What are their main concerns and interests? The audience / • Is somebody in a position to take a decision or trigger action? readers • What is their attitude towards you? • Will they be receptive or sceptical about your message? 34
  35. 35. The type of messages depend on the objective ofyour document and level of involvement Objective Type of message & examples • 39% of customers were - Premium Loyalty Inform Tell facts • 300k of the target customers + Level of involvement are Rewards redeemers • Increasing Rewarding Give coupons will grow redemption Convince rates Opinions • Customer loyalty is declining due to the economy • Target deciles 1- 5 of the model for the CCX creative Trigger • The Points Booster event Advise Action should not be repeated in its current format 35
  36. 36. Your sentences have to be short, sharp and activeWrite short sentences and Use active verbs:avoid too many adverbs Active form is especially powerful as you describe work you haveand adjectives: Effective completed or are in the process ofThe message will be quicker tounderstand. Tighten up your writing! Messages completing. ―Harvinder wrote this presentation‖Practice by trying to minimise the instead of ―This presentation hasword-count without losing the story been written by Harvinder‖ Be sharp and direct: It will focus your reader on what they need to remember Messages with sharp and short sentences are easily remembered 36
  37. 37. Write short sentences and avoid too manyadverbs and adjectives Adverbs modify verbs or ―I found the meeting ―The meeting went any part of speech other incredibly dull.‖ well, and the than a noun directors were extremely happy Look for words ending in ‗ly‘ and see if with the outcome!‖ you can get rid them by choosing a ―However, I shall not better verb. E.g. ―Janet closed the door eat kebabs again.‖ violently‖ to ―Janet slammed the door‖ Adjectives qualify a noun ―Only a mere 2% of giving more information customers redeem about the object. cheese coupons‖ ―The small number of categories was a Many adjectives add little to a sentence. major cause of low Remove adjectives like "mere," "basic," participation.‖ "essential," "major" and "fundamental." ―The Old Spice Unless you explain what you mean, dont campaign had a use words like "advanced," "powerful," powerful impact‖ "sophisticated," "flexible," or "special."
  38. 38. Use active verbs:Active verbs form more efficient and more powerfulsentences than passive verbs. The main character is the subject of a The subject of an active voice passive voice sentence but sentence performs the action of the something else performs the action: verb: “I throw the ball.” “The ball is thrown by me.” “You are loved by me.” “I love you.” The subject (―You‖) sits passively while the The subject (―I‖) is the one action (―loving‖) is performed by somebody performing the action (―loving‖). else (―me‖). “Stores are visited twice a “Premium customers visit week by Premium customers” stores twice a week.” “The Fairy CCB has been “5k customers redeemed the redeemed by 5k customers” Fairy CCB”
  39. 39. Exercise –Make the following sentences as sharp as possible ● Although the idea behind the Booster event is received favourably, it does little to influence customer perceptions. ● Overall awareness was very low, largely driven by minimal in- store presence. ● Therefore these figures do reflect that the points booster did not deliver any uplift and sales were even less for these products, compared to the 10 weeks average weekly sales beforehand. ● However, the most imminent priority is to get more visibility in store to create a buzz now (rather than at the end of July) – cut through is currently very low. ● The recommendation is not to run for as long and as such, there are a few options to consider. Current word count is 108. How low can you go?
  40. 40. 40
  41. 41. Exercise –Make the following sentences as sharp as possible ● The Booster Event idea was well received, however the actual event did not influence customer perception ● Minimal in-store presence drove low awareness ● The points booster drove zero uplift ● Recommendation is to: – run the event for less time – increase visibility in-store and create a buzz now A 45 word version
  42. 42. 42Writing an Insightful Presentation
  43. 43. WRITING INSIGHTFUL PRESENTATIONSYour presentation should always move beyond simplyrelaying the data you have dug up “What’s going on” “What to do about it” Data Analysis Insights Recommendations Pivotal Point ● Insights are about not taking data at face value but looking deeper and asking why ● Insights are frequently based on a new connection your findings make possible, or connect two seemingly disparate ideas. ● Usually related to the ―What that (data) means‖ part of your story. ● Most often triggered by a ―So-what?‖ question You’ll impress your audience a lot more if you think beyond the obvious data.
  44. 44. WRITING INSIGHTFUL PRESENTATIONSInsights typically come from asking “why?” whenpresented with a finding Analysis Why? Insight • Why are they better/worse? • Why is that declining/ increasing/not● Market trends • New perspective changing?● Competitive positioning • Important result • Why did they do that? • Increased understanding● Customer perceptions • Why didn’t this happen? • Better focus● Relative cost performance • Why are these 2 things different? • Key issue● Internal capabilities • Why look at it this way? • ―Killer finding‖● Historic trends • Why isn’t this important? • ―Aha‖● Industry ―forces‖● etc. Insights are clearly different to data and findings
  45. 45. WRITING INSIGHTFUL PRESENTATIONSThe real power of insight is in the ability to translate it intoaction Insight So What ? Conclusions • So what is the key issue ? • What is really wrong ? • What does it really mean for us ? • What is the impact ? • What could we do about it ? Analysis • What are the options ? Recommendations • What are the benefits and costs of changing ? • What are the next steps for us?
  46. 46. WRITING INSIGHTFUL PRESENTATIONSExample: GravityAn apple falls on Sir Isaac Newton’s head and he discovers Gravity Data Analysis Insight Conclusions Recommendations “What are the facts “What information “What new, “What do we “What should we / used as input for can we deduce important and believe is you do based on the analysis” based on the facts useful result is happening or what the conclusions” and some inferred or proven” could you do assumptions” based on the results” • An apple was • The same apple • Something • There is a force • Don’t get in in the tree was in the tree caused the of attraction between two • Something hit and then hit me apple to fall between any big masses or me on the head on the head from the tree two masses you’ll get hurt ! • It hurt • The apple fell • The force is from the tree proportional to • It was an apple the product of masses
  47. 47. WRITING INSIGHTFUL PRESENTATIONSExample: Weyerhaeuser Particle BoardDeveloping a value proposition Data Analysis Insight Conclusions Recommendations “What are the facts “What information “What new, “What do we “What should we / used as input for can we deduce important and believe is you do based on the analysis” based on the facts useful result is happening or what the conclusions” and some inferred or proven” could you do assumptions” based on the results” • We produce • Furniture • Laminating • If we could • We should particle board makers board is more produce thick produce thick • Our customers laminate costly for board we could board (at a higher are furniture narrow boards customers than charge a cost) and charge makers together to buying thick premium as a premium make thick board this would • Competition is board lower overall currently on cost to the price • This takes time customer
  48. 48. BREAKOUT 2: BUILD YOUR SLIDE ( 15 minutes) Now that we have the headlines – start to build your slides: • With your nominated slide use the charts and tables to support your story and build your slide • Build your slide and check it conforms to best practice. • Add relevant insight and make sensible recommendations • Be ready to present the slide back to the group Timing: 15 mins preparation
  49. 49. REVIEW SLIDES ( 20 minutes)
  50. 50. 50Finishing Up
  51. 51. FINISHING UPEnsure your presentation adheres to the basic guidelineswe discussed • The overall presentation: – Has a logical structure. – Builds toward recommendations and next steps. • The headlines: – Capture the panel‘s principal message. – Are written in clear language. – Tell the story on their own. • The slides: – Tell a top-down story. – Provide solid data to support the assertions in the headlines. – Present that data in a simple way – Are insightful
  53. 53. Write for your audience
  54. 54. Support assertions with facts
  55. 55. Stay in the active voice (use verbs)
  57. 57. Final Check – Does it pass the elevator test? Imagine your presentation is going to someone very senior. They don‘t have any background on the topic and have just two minutes to devote to it.Could they pick up the report and understand it without explanation? If not, simplify!
  58. 58. 59Follow-Up Exercise
  59. 59. Follow-up Exercise You’ve been asked to bring along a paper-copy of a presentation you have put together Pass this presentation to the person sat three seats to your left Review your colleagues presentation in-light of what has been learnt in today‘s session. Some suggestions for: Is the story lucid? Is the structure coherent? Is the layout clear? Can the messages be made simpler? Is the output insightful? Are the recommendations actionable? Be ready to present back your improvements to the larger group A follow-up session has been booked in a few weeks time where will go through your homework and the improvements suggested
  60. 60. 61Appendix
  61. 61. Slide Presentation Checklist The Layout is Simple All the pages are consistent. Slides are numbered – v. important, especially if presenting face-to- face. Layout There are diagrams, charts and maps to support my messages; not just bullet points There are few colours used in the document The kicker boxes answer the “so what?” question The reader can understand the main idea of the document from the Title Page The objectives of the document are clearly told at the beginningStructure The executive summary gives the key messages of your document Headlines are linked logically and tell a story. There is only one message per page. In all pages, the content supports the headline Each headline is explicit (and a real sentence) The sentences are short, direct and use Active verbsMessages Every element on each page is useful to understand the story. No redundant elements (including words)! Data sources are stated and All supporting information is relegated to the appendix
  62. 62. Bullets are not your only option! • Do not just use bullet points: insert diagrams, charts, maps to support your messages. There are great templates at: http://extremepresentation.typepad.com/blog/the-new-36-layouts- that-p.html Inputs and Outputs Improvement Steps • {text or graphics} • {text} • {text} • {text} • {text} “The worst way to stop a bullet is with your head” – Abraham Lincoln