Many researchers learn on the job to create slides that dutifully answer the questions in the Objectives, and in the guide or survey.
But is this what’s best for the client?
In my opinion, creating slides this way makes them feel like they were made by a vendor—not a strategic consultant.
- Because you need to properly diagnose your client’s problem, going way deeper than their list of objectives, what they say in the RFP, or in a meeting.
- Because the majority of deliverables are written from your point of view as a researcher —who thinks like a researcher, and doesn’t step outside themselves to think and write for their audience, who are mostly not researchers–they’re marketers, executives, creatives, product people, engineers, the C-Suite. Most report writers are writing from the researcher perspective, too.
A new template, cool colors, “prettier” slides, or “storytelling” can’t turn that unclear, wordy writing into an engaging, impactful, strategic deliverable.
There’s a reason for this—and my clients understand this—and it’s what I want to help you with, too.
It’s Just The Way Things Are Done
The convention that I see over and over again is to report answers instead of extracting Ideas. Reporting answers looks like “key findings”, “occasions”, “awareness”, “[product] appeal”, “reasons why [x] does [y]”, followed by a listing out of those things. There were X number of questions in the discussion guide, or in the survey. Here’s the answers, with all the punches in descending order, for totals and all the relevant subgroups, to every question you asked us to ask. Beep boop. 🤖
Problems with this:
- The first problem with this way of reporting “key findings” is that you’re not addressing what the audience wants. And your audience, across all those roles I mentioned earlier, actually wants one thing. And it’s not “I hope they show me every single answer to all 50+ questions in the discussion guide”. What is the one thing all our clients actually want from our research deliverables?Yup: To feel smarter, and better equipped to do their jobs.
- Which leads to the second problem—is you’re burying the lede. Is your audience interested enough in your series of “Key Findings ” slides to keep following your train of thought until you finally land on an Insight, Thought-Starter, or Recommendation? What if key people in your client audience don’t have any practical use for anything said on the first 10 slides? The first 15? Who is a deck like this serving?
Again, I understand that many of you learned on the job how to create research decks from a boss or mentor, and it’s just the way things are done, but… it doesn’t have to be.
A Missed Opportunity
- The third problem with this, by listing out Key Findings slide after slide, you haven’t told the client how each Insight relates to each other. What’s the clear relationship between them? Do they follow each other in time, phases, or some other chronological order? Is one Idea foundational to the others? Is there an iterative or cyclical relationship? Can the whole deliverable follow the framework of a customer journey? I promise you, there is a logical relationship, and perhaps even a framework there that can be made visual.
This is what is meant by “storytelling”—but I don’t call it that, because “storytelling” makes people feel like they have to try to present the Hero’s Journey of Conjoint, or talk about a packaging concept test like it’s The Godfather. It’s incredibly goofy, and when that doesn’t work, researchers can feel like it’s because they just aren’t good storytellers. But all they needed to do was take their great Insights, and create slides and visuals that follow the structure that emerges between the Ideas uncovered in the research.
Typically, this one is a time problem. By not taking (or allowing themselves) the time to think this through, they’re sacrificing what could a potentially powerful, impactful deck in favor of just cranking out surface-level slides that technically meet the deadline. I’ve reworked many a Frequencies deck for a client, and found a powerful framework within that had been left undiscovered.
Your PowerPoint Slides Don’t Have a Design Problem.
None of these points is addressed with a template, hiring a designer, or taking yet another course on how to make more “exciting” slides (that no one in your company will ever use).
And this is why thinking “my slides need to look prettier“ isn’t helping you at all.
The sooner you can identify and articulate…
- The emotional and financial drivers of your client audience (rather than “Objectives”…)
- The Ideas your client audience actually want and need (rather than frequencies or answers to questions…)
- A logical, easy-to-understand, easy-to-visualize framework for those Ideas (rather than slide after slide of “Key Findings”….)
…the faster your deliverables are going to make your clients see you as their strategic consultant—not just a vendor.
Back over to you.
If you need help, just reach out. We’ll discuss how you can transform your decks into consistently impactful PowerPoint deliverables that drive strategic consulting relationships with your clients.