Episode #88 of the B2B Market Research Podcast – 7 Tips For Presenting Competitive Intelligence Research Like A Pro
- Why competitive intelligence and market research analysts struggle with presenting data.
- Why the 10-20-30 slide show rule is ridiculous from a practical standpoint.
- Seven tips for making yourself a better presenter and driving more impact.
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Speaker: Sean Campbell
Welcome to another episode of the B2B Market Research Podcast. In this podcast episode, we’re going to talk about how you can make your research findings better, specifically when it comes to the area of building effective presentation skills.
Doing so can be a challenge because many competitive intelligence and market research teams have to rationalize the advice they get from those folks who act as if every presentation is some kind of TED or conference talk, with the kind of advice you really need if you’re building research findings that are going to be used in a corporate environment. We’re going to break that down for you.
Before we get into that, though, a few brief programming notes. First, this podcast is brought to you by Cascade Insights. Cascade Insights specializes in competitive intelligence services for B2B technology companies. Our specialization in B2B helps us to deliver detailed competitive intelligence insights that generalist firms simply can’t match.
To learn more about us, visit us at our site at cascadeinsights.com. You can also check out our free resources or sign up for our newsletter. With that, let’s get into the topic of today’s podcast.
Why do competitive intelligence/market research analysts struggle with effectively presenting data?
People have different levels of ability when it comes to collecting data
The thing that I find most interesting about this subject is that almost all the teams that I interact with struggle with this. People have different levels of ability when it comes to collecting data. Some may be a little bit more focused on data analytics, or more big data-style analysis. Some people might be really savants when it comes to collecting human intelligence and recruiting people.
But there is this pervasive problem about how do we present what we’ve actually collected in an effective way? I think one of the reasons that it’s challenging is that the advice that you commonly come across isn’t really that useful.
On another note, I taught public speaking classes while I was getting my masters degree. I taught about nine classes where I had essentially the whole class. I wasn’t a TA. I had to grade everybody, evaluate everybody. I had them for the whole semester. It was classes of 30 or so kids every time.
One of the things that I took away from that experience – and I think anyone does if you’ve done any kind of teaching or public speaking – is that you inherently grade a public speaking course on a curve.
One of the things that I took away from that experience – and I think anyone does if you’ve done any kind of teaching or public speaking – is that you inherently grade a public speaking course on a curve. Some people are really good at public speaking. Some people almost innately so. Other people just don’t really have the makeup to do it in an exceptional manner, but they can follow some rules and guidelines and in the end get better.
It’s also somewhat analogous to when I coached youth sports. Some kids can hit a home run after you’ve barely coached them for five minutes and other kids still can’t get the ball out of the infield four years later…no matter what you’ve said.
The point here is that you do need to take some of that advice that you hear out there that’s generally available. Then you need to marry that with what really is going to make the difference when you’re presenting to a corporate audience.
How to make “good advice” truly useful
With that, let’s take one of the rules that’s out there in common advice land: the 10-20-30 rule. This is a slide show rule offered by Guy Kawasaki. The rule states that a PowerPoint slide should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes, and the text should never be less than 30-point font.
This is, from a practical standpoint, ridiculous. You’re not going to give a presentation to your VP that has pictures that you grabbed from Big Stock or Getty Images which are pictures of cute kitties or people jumping off cliffs and then go ahead and use this big 72-point Comic Sans font. You’re just not going to do that.
This type of advice makes all the sense in the world for what I call bumper slides where you are trying to transition from one topic to another. It makes a ton of sense if you’re giving a TED talk. I do similar things when I give conference presentations and I have really major themes that I want to communicate.
When you’re talking about research findings, people are expecting a few things at a minimum. They’re expecting…
- You have a point of view,
- You have some kind of opinion about the data itself
- You actually have lots of data.
You can’t communicate lots of data all that clearly with just a bunch of pictures and a bunch of massive-sized fonts.
The point however is not to throw out the rule entirely. It’s to use it appropriately. You see these things over and over and over again, these things that make sense, if you’re giving more of an emotionally-driven talk.
But they don’t really make us a lot of sense if you’re trying to focus on research findings.
Let’s talk about some of the things that I think could really help to make you a better presenter and to drive more impact when you’re actually building out and delivering that set of research findings.
Tip #1 – Ask yourself – what decisions are you trying to impact?
Is it clear from the very beginning – when people sit down, when they put their butts in seats, or they open their eyes to the monitor (if the presentation is virtual) – what decisions your research is trying to impact?
Your research effort should have, from the very beginning, some set of decisions it was trying to impact. Were you trying to change marketing? Were you trying to change the sales process? Were you trying to actually change future products that your company’s going to create?
And is that clear from the very, very beginning of the talk?
Tip #2 – What uncertainties remain?
No research study is going to answer every question every executive or leader may have. So what uncertainties are you leaving on the table? Say this research won’t answer this, or this. In the same way, what uncertainties do you believe you have removed by virtue of the data and the insights you’ve collected? Those are two things right off the bat.
Tip #3 – What new data have you added?
This is one of the more insidious ones. You see people who build out presentations with no new data included. When you really look at where the data came from, you realize it’s just aggregated data. They haven’t actually added new data.
There’s no sin in that inherently. Of course, I would say that if your presentation is all aggregated data, I don’t really think that’s a great presentation. And I don’t think that it makes sense to call it research findings.
In essence there is a time and place to include aggregated data (data that’s already been collected by others.) But the point is to make it clear in your presentation this is not new data and this is just something you pulled from somewhere else. That way, the reader, the listener, or the viewer essentially has the ability to very quickly see, “Ah, this is the new data. This is the fresh data that I need to pay attention to.”
Tip #4 – What’s your perspective?
Everybody comes with inherent biases. They come with essentially an inherent understanding of different pieces of the market. Do you really understand the sales side, and so that’s the perspective you’re speaking from? Do you really understand the market or the ecosystem, and that’s where you’re coming from? Make that clear up front so you can say this is where you feel you have the greatest strengths in terms of what you can communicate about these findings. And maybe there are some other areas you’re not as familiar with.
Tip #5 – Make it clear what your audience is supposed to do next.
What should someone do next, as in tomorrow, next week, next quarter? What should you do next when you get done listening to or reading these findings?
Tip #6 – Use the inverted pyramid
Remember the inverted pyramid method you might vaguely remember from other classes you’ve taken?
How many times have we seen presentations that don’t use this method appropriately? I saw one from a group I was working with the other day. The core thing they wanted to communicate, the core action they wanted someone to take after reading the findings was embedded down on slide 39.
Put the decision you want them to take up front and assume that people are going to sit and listen to your rationale for at least 20, 30 minutes, if not a whole hour, when you give that presentation.
The reason people do that is because they essentially want to build up the story from the ground up. They’re reluctant to simply just put it out there and say, “This is what you should do, and now I’m going to support it.”
Instead, they build it up in an opposite way. They lay out all the data until people are almost knocked senseless from looking at slides. Then they finally make their point, which maybe is safer in a sense that your audience is somewhat comatose by the time you actually make your major point and are hence willing to accept almost anything, but it doesn’t actually help affect change.
Be brave, be bold. Put the decision you want them to take up front and assume that people are going to sit and listen to your rationale for at least 20, 30 minutes, if not a whole hour, when you give that presentation. Give yourself the latitude to explain yourself after you’ve made the key point, and put it right up front.
Tip #7 – Have you used your scissors?
Lastly, what slides have you cut? If, at the end of the day, all you remember doing is adding slides, I can tell you right now, your presentation has too many slides. If at some point, you’ve never whipped out the delete key and gotten rid of a slide, the deck’s too big. The same thing goes with an appendix. If your deck doesn’t have an appendix, it probably needs one.
With that, lets wrap up this podcast, and thanks for listening. Hope to have you along on the next one. If you want to find out anything more about us, go to cascadeinsights.com, or sign up for our newsletter.