The Electrification of Data: Giving Stakeholders a Reason to Care
Bringing data to life is a constant topic of conversation in FlexMR HQ. Often, we have reams and reams of information that we’d love to present back as it has relevance to the business but we pick through iteration after iteration in order to formulate the key messages and stories that have the most impact. Here I’m going to share some of the secret sauce that has really worked for us when we want to invigorate and activate stakeholders.
The Importance of Format
One of the top tips I can offer to help you focus on the key ‘lightbulb’ insights is to experiment with formats, typically we can choose visual, text, video, statistics or animation in our summaries and if you are not sure then converting from one to the other can give you the clarity you need. For example – once you have your deck, can you write into one paragraph the points you want the audience to take away?
Taking the time to thoroughly think through and write a statement for points that multiple slides of statistics supports can encourage your stakeholders to prick up their ears to the insight, and understand the relevance of the statistics in supporting this statement, as well as find it easy to engage with. I had a great chat with a client a few months ago who told me that she got the best compliment from a stakeholder – that they thought what she did was ‘very simple’ until they saw the analysis process in action and this is because she is very skilled at condensing her work into 10 succinct slides, she didn’t mind they weren’t aware of the days of toil it took to get to that point!
Visualisation to Capture Imagination
The key balancing act between, speed, quality and simplicity that drives insight production is made much easier today by the technology we have at our fingertips, creating interest and action might mean sharing graphs and tables and even making data tables available for manipulation directly to the client when results need to be delivered swiftly, but it can also mean finding the right graphic to draw attention. I did a debrief for a large media company where we wanted to really emphasise the appetite for fresh content, but the consumer choice for the type of content wasn’t very fitting with the brand image that the company was aiming for, yet it was important we let them know what the audience wanted.
We used visuals of ‘fresh, raw meat’ – steak and chops to really make the story come to life. This was some years ago now and the visuals would not have made it past my senior review, but thankfully the client was onboard with the idea. One of the stakeholders from that debrief then got in touch with us a year later and specifically referenced our creativity with the data that fed their actions afterwards – the best compliment and confirmation that the data we delivered was electrifying! Although I perhaps wouldn’t advise using that exact visual in your reports today as raw, red meat is very out of vogue.
Use Video Wisely
Yes, I am really jumping on the video band wagon; to be honest, I have been on it since 2010 when I started doing my first video interviews talking about smartphones with 10 year olds. But particularly recently, we used edited video to present data points with fantastic effect, the most important tip I can give you to use it well is to remember to present it full screen so everyone in the room can engage with it, and be sure to only ever use just enough footage to cover your point.
Encourage Inspiring Discussions
The other absolutely vital part of electrifying your data is getting to know the stakeholder, knowing what is relevant to them, knowing the language they use and knowing their point of view – that is how this client achieved the ‘simple’ insights, by knowing what the stakeholder was interested in and how they talk about it. So, I want to tell you to get to know them better, understand their experience, their personality, their current work schedule, their hobbies, hopes and dreams! But I know that isn’t the most practical advice.
We are all human, and there are just some people that we connect with easier than others– openness and attentive listening helps forge intimate connections. One skill I only mastered quite recently thanks to a tip from a colleague, is to tolerate awkward silences on briefing discussions! Now this goes against every fibre of my personality, if there is quiet, then I will fill it up with my thoughts immediately. But learning to hold back and allow for a bit of awkwardness can allow your stakeholder to open up about the real needs and pains that they want to address and give you the framework you need to produce electrifying results that they really care about.
I have another client who is excellent at engaging the whole room with the data through finding the particular insights that challenge the status quo. She believes that there is ‘no insight without tension’. This is certainly an effective way of electrifying your data, finding points that challenge the stakeholder to think differently and we must not shy away from the data story if that is what we find. If, however, tension in a room isn’t necessarily the way you want to be remembered then using some humour to make your point can be equally effective (a la ‘fresh, raw meat’!).
Ensuring a stakeholder cares about the results, when perhaps you don’t know them as well, takes a bit more creative thinking and fresh ideas; let’s take advantage of the recent quiz trend taking the world by storm and get the room guessing the right stats in your presentation! Play true or false with your surprising statistics/findings to really make them memorable for example - who do you think uses sunbeds in the UK more men or women? (I’ll let you google the answer!)
In summary, I would recommend experimenting with formats, condensing through iterations, as many discussions as you can squeeze in a calendar and injecting some humour, tension or interactivity into your data to electrify the results and ensure your stakeholders care. If you’re looking for examples, our Insight as Art postcard campaign is a great example of a really creative new format that could inspire you if you are looking for a fresh idea, take a look here.
Maria is an active member of the UK market research industry, regularly presenting new and engaging topics at industry events. With over 9 experience guiding the FlexMR’s research services, Maria builds strong long-term partnerships with clients, providing insight to effectively translate client needs into action. You can follow Maria on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.