I just wrapped up reading a book titled slide:ology written by Nancy Duarte.  As I’ve mentioned before numerous times on the Bunker Blog, my most enjoyable part of my work is creative design with regards to reporting.  Market research may be viewed as an uncreative and arithmetical career (let’s face it, sometimes it is) and as a result, many people within an organization shy away from getting too close to the research process. Therefore, we often take the time to utilize graphical and design elements in our reports that help our clients interpret the data at the most basic level, without overwhelming them.

The main theme of the book is using Microsoft PowerPoint to create presentations.  In market research, there is a big difference to what Duarte discusses as a presentation and what we often discuss as a report.  Although both may be done in PowerPoint, a traditional market research report is viewed more as a deck or document than an actual presentation tool.  This book focuses solely on using PowerPoint as a true presentation tool.  Nonetheless, the tips and recommendations are useful for any document in PowerPoint, no matter its intention.

Among aesthetic, design, and layout tips, she also focuses a chapter solely on displaying data, which is music to a market researcher’s ears.  Here are the five basic tips provided by the author regarding data presentations:

1.   Tell the truth.  Above all else, credibility is of the utmost importance when delivering a presentation.  Depending on the audience, you may need to be willing to provide access to the full data set if more in-depth questions arise from your findings.

2.   Get to the point.  The author poses a great question you should be asking before any of your presentations: “What would I like my audience to remember about this data?”  In other words, don’t waste your time elaborating on 12 different data points when there is only one worth discussing. Consider the example below: Rather than wasting time discussing the mean, median, and mode for all 12 months, instead focus your time on discussing how your new customer service technology was launched in March, which resulted in a steady gain in mean satisfaction scores afterwards. 

Market Research Syracuse NY

3.   Pick the right tool for the job.  Think you always have to display your data in chart or graph format?  Think again.  If you have a finding that is better suited to show separately than embedded in a chart, do so.  In the example, what is more effective?  Is it a horizontal bar graph that displays the percentage of respondents who remembered an advertisement from a variety of sources (32% television ad, 20% radio ad, 12% online ad, 62% newspaper ad) or should you just call attention to the main takeaway using a different format? 

Market Research Syracuse NY - Newspaper

4.   Highlight what’s important.  This is one tip that’s useful for both true presentations and PowerPoint reports.  Take some extra time on each slide and highlight what’s important in your pie chart, line graph, or bar graph.  Use a contrasting color outside of your template to catch the reader’s/viewer’s attention.  For example, let’s take a line graph that uses multiple trending lines comparing satisfaction among five different products over the course of the past 12 months.  You are presenting to different divisions within the company – each division handling a different product line.  Highlight the satisfaction line pertinent to each division’s product for each presentation.

5.   Keep it simple.  Eliminate clutter.  Seems obvious, but sometimes market research firms get caught up with putting too much data on one page.  Avoid unnecessary bullets or additional design features that might distract your audience from the real point of the slide.  A simple correction tip Duarte mentions is not using chart/graph legends, you should just embed the identifier or label right in the graph.

If you work with PowerPoint on a daily basis and work in market research, I’d encourage you to take a flip through this book.  In essence, the PowerPoint report/presentation that market researchers deliver to our clients is our product, the final deliverable in a very service oriented process.  The tips in slide:ology are bound to make that product better.