I was reading an interesting article in Quirks today – “Three steps to better presentations”. It got me thinking about how our roles have changed.

In the ‘old days’, you’d pitch up at the clients offices with a large stack of computer printout, some acetates and an OHP. An hour later, after running through all the charts, you’d leave and move on to the next project.

So what’s changed? The industry has moved on. Our clients have moved on – they have far more information to digest, and far less time. They certainly don’t have time to find the ‘interesting bits’ themselves. I guess the other major change is that it is increasingly uncommon for us to present to an entirely research literate audience.

So, how’ve we adapted? I think it boils down to three concrete deliverables:

1. Insights, Consequences and Recommendations

Every presentation we do finishes with this type of chart.

  • An insight has to earn its place to get in. It has to tie back to the business objectives of the research. It gets road-tested with our end client before presentation to a wider audience. It’s in their ‘language’
  • A consequence is what this insight means for the business.
  • A recommendation is what the business should do with this insight. Again, road-tested before dissemination.

The benefit of this approach is that this final chart serves as a ‘one-pager’ for management, both summarising the project, and setting out an action plan.

2. The power of three

Every project, be it £5k or £200k, has three of us on it. One takes point, one takes cover, the third comes in at the end to sense check, question, and critically appraise the output.

3. Keep it Simple, Stupid

Part of the role of the ‘third man’ is to distil and simplify and we follow very similar rules to James A. Rohde in his article in Quirks:

Clarity – Does the slide have a point? If you have to explain the point, the chart goes in the appendix

Purpose – The slide content should support this point. If it doesn’t, change or remove the content

(I’d also add to James’ points)

Story – There needs to be a narrative flow to the presentation – a beginning, a middle and an end. Not because we’re budding script-writers, but simply because it’s so much easier to engage an audience and for them to remember content if it follows an evolving ‘plot’.