The real result of any research project is not the final report – it’s the growth that happens as a result of business owners acting on the findings. Too often, great research ends up shelved because there is no action – or even outright disbelief. As researchers, it’s our job to present our findings so that they influence future decision making. Of course, working with your stakeholders to understand any preconceived ideas heading into the research will help to frame the discussion, but you’ll also want to understand the personas that will be consuming and acting on the research.
We have found that there are three types of research consumers that need special attention. Each should be communicated with differently. Knowing which one you have in the room will help considerably with presenting your findings in a way that would lead into action rather than disbelief and resistance.
1. The Impatient Executive
This is the guy with very little time and strongly preconceived ideas. This individual is very smart – but be careful, they are VERY confident in their view of the world. Communicating with this person is all about the executive summary. Make sure you get to your 3-4 top takeaways within the first 5 minutes of the meeting. Then watch carefully for any reaction. If your research matches their beliefs, no problem. Present the Executive Summary, they’ll agree, and will very likely leave the room early, happy that the rest of their team is getting a good validation of what is going on.
But keep an eye out for the place in the executive summary where the eyebrows come together, the blackberry is put down, or the ever-so-slight frown appears, then make sure you spend a little extra time on that area. Put a special emphasis on the anecdotes picked up in the research for that topic. Share the one opinion that was the outlier and then frame that as the clear exception.
2. The Data Lover
This persona is the researcher’s best friend. They will love you and your findings, and will spend hours drilling down into the subtle details of the findings. The trick with this persona is to make sure they don’t derail the meeting with minutia that will bore the other attendees, or even worse, prevent you from getting to the real meat of the study. If you know you have one of these people, a pre-brief with just them is a good idea. Offering to “Take it offline to do the deep dive in this subject” is also an option – one that will be deeply appreciated by the Impatient Executive.
3. The Skeptic
This persona simply doesn’t believe in research – any research. Their belief in the way the world works is based on years of experience, and a fact or two isn’t going to override that. The trick to communicating with this persona is to start with the parts of the project that do match their world view. If you can lead off with one or two things that the skeptic agrees with, they’ll have more faith in the research and be more open to hearing the next point that is out of line with their beliefs.
Of course, that still leaves you with the most challenging scenario – the meeting with a big group of people including all of these personas, plus a few more. Our best advice – do great research so you are confident in the meeting; get that executive summary in early; ask for questions to be held until the end if you’re getting off schedule; and then do your best to be dynamic and engaging.