How to Present Research Data in a Way that Inspires Action

It's one thing to collect data and feedback - but quite another to analyze and present the data in a way that is clear and inspires action.

The Power Presentation Outline

Here's a presentation outline that you can use the next time you have to put together a killer presentation using research data.

  1. The Burning Issue. This is a single statement that takes about 10 seconds to say and makes the audience take notice.  A great example would be something like "Every minute we spend in a meeting, one of our customers has chosen another company to do business with."  You can already feel the power of that statement - and even more importantly - you can't MAKE this kind of statement without data.  If you're pulling a presentation like this together, you'll find that while your presentation opens with the Burning Issue Statement -- it's often the very last thing you will figure out as you go through the outline.

  2. How the Burning Issue Came to Be -- WHAT HAPPENED?! In the previous section your audience most likely reacted with a "WHAT?!  How can you say something like that?!"  And in this section - it's up to you to explain the facts that have led you to such an audacious statement.    This is the section where all your wonderful research findings go.  Here's a helpful hint.  If you're doing charts or a PowerPoint - remember to make the header portion a conclusion statement that supports your burning issue.  For example "200 Incoming Sales Calls Answered by 1 Person" then show a chart with incoming calls against number of customer service reps.

  3. Your Brilliant Idea. By the time you're done with your background presentation of data above, your audience should be begging to know - "What should be do?!"  And this is the section where you wrap up your analysis into some wonderfully brilliant and exciting recommendations.  Remember to use lots of pictures and show how each recommendation will improve the situation.

  4. Why it's Good For You - The Payoff: Finally, don't forget to tell the audience why your recommendations are so great for them.  Give them the payoff in terms of how they will experience the benefits of your brilliant idea.  Get them thinking about how wonderful and easy their life will be with your solutions and recommendations in place.

  5. Tell Them What to Do. Don't forget the call to action .  What do you want your audience to do?  Don't even begin without knowing what you want them to do -- and be prepared to do that.  For example, if you want to schedule another meeting - be sure that everyone has their calendars on hand to schedule that.  Do you want them to sign something?  Be sure to have copies ready and available.  The biggest mistake people make in communicating data findings is NOT having a call to action and being prepared to get the audience moving.

Final Hints on Slides and Other Forms of Presentation

  • Treat your presentation of data like a story.  Workout the characters, the problem, the solution, etc.  This gets the audience involved in the outcome.

  • Use PowerPoint - Powerfully.  Treat your PowerPoint like a TV screen.  You wouldn't want to watch TV if it was nothing but text and charts - so don't make your audience look at that kind of PowerPoint presentation.  Use LOTS of pictures and few words.  In try to stick to 5 words per slide.  Use pictures to communicate emotion and the essence of what's being conveyed.

  • Create a video!  Video technology has become so accessible to everyone that it's insane not to use it to get your point across.  Use video to show comparisons, demonstrations or provide evidence of your observations.

Remember, today's technology and tools have freed researchers up to make our data meaningful to our audience - so let's communicate it powerfully.


Good news and bad news.  I went in search of some presentations to show you exactly what I'm talking about and guess what?  Couldn't find too many.  I did find this one; it's about an extinct language.  It's not exactly what I had in mind -but it does use several of the principles I mention here:

[slideshare id=5630456&doc=hi-iambo-101101005232-phpapp02]