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What's the story?

Whether it's a presentation or a report, capturing the client or audience's attention is always a challenge. So what's the best approach?


Telling a story from survey data in a presentation or a report is one of those challenges that some find incredibly easy and cause sleepless nights for others. Sometimes it’s dependent on how demanding your client is, as well as who your audience is.

On other occasions, it could be the data itself. The data comes back all positive? What’s there to say except keep on doing what you’re doing! Negative? Where do you start?!

Thankfully, most projects are somewhere in between, and the task lies in highlighting the ‘nuggets’ that the client may be unaware of, in addition to drawing their attention to issues or problems for which quick and easy solutions can be sought.

In my younger days, I loved writing stories, and my English teacher Mr Dore was my greatest inspiration, showing me the basic building blocks of telling a story, which I more or less abide by even now, in order to make a good story a compelling one for a client.

SET THE SCENE – we are bombarded with so much information nowadays and as such, don’t have the time to consume everything in detail as we perhaps ought to. So, engage the audience from the beginning and grab their attention in the first 30 seconds. Nothing crass or jokey is necessary, otherwise the sight of attendees in a presentation with their eyes glazing over, will be a painful one!

KEEP IT SIMPLE – demonstrate authenticity by not using clichés, complex terms or jargon, even if it’s things the audience understands, otherwise an interested room full of people becomes a suspicious one and loses interest.

MAKE IT RELEVANT – the response feared to any observation is “So what?”. With quant research, we’re dealing with numbers but there still has to be a narrative threaded through the story. Addressing the concerns, needs and problems faced by stakeholders will result in getting the audience on your side.

USE THEMES – join the dots between different parts of the results. You’re in control of the story so where possible, use supporting data or information to back-up what you are trying to put across.

SUMMARISE – tying up with ‘Set The Scene’, in the same way you may ask someone to describe a book or a film in a few sentences, you want your audience to walk away from the presentation or the report with some key findings.

“Death by Powerpoint” is no longer an option!

Stock image of child reading a story from