What can we market researchers do to engage and stimulate our audience?
Here are four quick tips on how you can grab – and hang on to – the attention of your market research audience.
1. Make a point – fast
When it comes to research data, more often than not, it’s a sea of information that is easy to drown in. ‘How do I make this report/presentation the best it can be?’ ‘How do I make my findings more compelling?’ ‘How do I..?’
The list of questions we researchers ask ourselves is endless. And then, as if trying to answer every possible question swarming in our heads, we often try to pack so much information into our insights that we risk ‘drowning’ our audience.
But no matter how complex the issues at hand are, there is always a key message that researchers must get across if they are to get the audience hooked. Appropriately, they call it a ‘hook’ in journalism. Research insights are no different.
The key message must be present in the title, the first sentence, the first paragraph or the first slide. That way the audience will immediately know what they are in for. Here are some of the examples of recent news headlines that get straight to the point:
‘Protests cause chaos in Bangkok’, ‘Michelle Obama to mark 50th birthday on Friday’ and ‘Kanye “punches teen” over racist slur’?… Well, you get the picture.
2. Keep it SS (Super Simple)
Why are white papers so popular? And why do most people dread reading comprehensive reports on research findings? The answer is simple – it’s the simplicity of the former and the complexity of the latter. It’s not that white papers are simplistic, but when well-written they can present the most complex information in a simple, easy-to-follow way.
In the same way we like white papers, we prefer bullet points over long unbroken paragraphs, single or multi-choice questions over batteries of questions, etc. It’s not that the audience can’t take in complex information. But if it’s laid out in a confusing and uninspiring way, no one will care enough to take it in.
The bottom line is we are all far too busy to try to make sense of boring or confusing information, so keep it super simple.
Here are a couple of great quotes on simplicity that are sure to inspire:
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’
― Leonardo da Vinci
‘If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.’
― Albert Einstein
3. Repeat, recap and reprise
Think of your report/presentation as an infomercial. Short-form infomercials are typically 30 to 120 seconds long. In such a short time, there is only so much information one can squeeze in without ‘losing’ your audience. So, instead concentrate on the key message and repeat it over and over again. The best way to do this is to re-state the key message in a different way.
This approach may seem unnatural, but it’s the best way to keep the audience focused. Consider the infomercial for a household product, Slap Chop. It’s just over two minutes long, but see how many times in the first 30 seconds the presenter tells you that this product is designed for, well, chopping things. Pay attention to how he paraphrases the key message.
4. Strike an emotional chord
And last but not least, tell a story. Long presentations and reports can put to sleep even the most attentive audience, but not if they convey a story. Stories help create visuals in the audience’s head and trigger emotions that amplify the impact of the key message.
Stories can be used as a form of proof to support facts and figures. For instance, the reason why case studies work so well is because they are essentially stories. A presentation or report can begin with a personal story that the audience can relate to. A well-told story will be remembered for years to come even if other details fade in memory.
Here’s an example of a TED talk delivered by Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of one of the world’s largest marketing agencies, Ogilvy & Mather UK. He began his talk with a story about ‘Ted Evil held every two years in Burma’. In fact, his entire talk is a story-driven narrative, laced with humour. In this case, the presenter’s strategy was to keep the audience alert and engaged by telling humorous stories.