We’ve all been there. The research project you spent weeks on, the tricky analysis that delivered brilliant insights, the presentation to key stakeholders that went down a storm. It’s only after several weeks or months have passed that you start to get a nagging feeling and begin to wonder – did anyone within the organisation actually use your groundbreaking insights to drive change?
All too often the findings of expensive and lengthy research projects end up consigned to a dusty folder, filed away for future reference, never to see the light of day again. Even the most brilliant, actionable and business-changing insights often fail to grab the attention of those with the power or will to accomplish change. We could call it ‘The Lindsey Jacobellis’ moment.
The instant gold is within reach, but we fall just short of the finishing line by losing focus on the end goal. After all, a truly successful research project is one where meaningful actions are taken on the basis of the findings. Anything else doesn’t even get a place on the podium.
Not taking responsibility for driving action is a missed opportunity for insight teams. Do we pay enough attention to our role as disseminators of key information? How focussed are we on the challenge of finding ways to engage and inspire audiences to act?
Here’s some basic rules to give your golden insights the best chance of engaging the right people within your organisation:
Rewind to the start of the project. Getting the right people involved early so they feel some ownership is a great way to engage. Take the time upfront to listen carefully to key stakeholders and understand which insights matter the most to help the business achieve its desired outcomes. Be collaborative.
Don’t stop there - build anticipation of your findings by sharing snippets of information as you go along. Use teasers to continue to engage your audience during the research and analysis phase. Think about novel ways to capture attention - how about asking your audience to predict the research results before they see them? Anelement of competition can really help keep participants involved.
Get noticed. With hundreds of emails a day, a communication highlighting your key insights could easily disappear into the depths of the overpopulated inbox. Equally, don’t rely on your audience to look at reports or login to see dashboards. Connecting with your audience in person with either a meeting or call to highlight the most important findings will help you achieve the best results.
Avoid death by PPT. There’s nothing wrong with presentations used as a tool to convey findings – but be succinct, relevant, clear and actionable. Avoid information overload and share only the key insights and recommendations from your findings. The ‘forgetting curve’ suggests that we retain information very poorly (a week after a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation only 10% of the information within the deck is likely to be retained). So share wisely! Give access to the rest of the results and findings so that those recipients who are really interested in the detail can dig deeper if they want to.
Be very clear on the ‘so what’. To ensure your results are actionable, you first need to clearly signpost the insights that require action and prioritise them for the audience. To get top level buy-in you need to be able to cut through the conflicting deluges of information received every day. If it doesn’t pass the ‘so what?’ test, it doesn’t need to be in your findings!
Tell a good story. Grab the attention and keep it. A good story can encourage the brain to produce oxytocin, a drug that motivates co-operation and inspires us to help one another. What could be better for driving action from recommendations? Character driven stories consistently drive oxytocin production – so make sure your results tell real customer anecdotes. The voice of the customer is exceptionally powerful – good use of strong ‘real customer’ examples are not only memorable but encourage empathy and can inspire co-operation and action. Remember, storytelling is integral to being persuasive and engaging.
Be relevant – tailor your presentation to the audience. Understand who you need to persuade to act and what the barriers are to this action. Which buttons does your presentation need to press? Highlight different areas of findings for differing recipients. An R&D engineer may have a completely unique need for info to a Sales Manager. Take the time to tailor the findings to each of your key stakeholders to improve engagement levels.
Be visual. Retention of information leaps when presented in a visual way (John Medina in his book ‘Brain Rules’ suggests retention levels increase from 10% a week after a presentation to 65% if the information is presented in a visual way). In fact, why stop at being visual. Be immersive! Ditch the PowerPoints and reports when you can and think about videos, virtual reality, mini-museums – even basic handouts, props and music when used at the right time can really capture the attention.
Finally, don’t let the insights you’ve discovered disappear – create a central library and ensure that everyone knows where to find insights from projects conducted. Re-use insights, build on them, test them over time. Make your insights continually accessible.