How to get your research points across to senior stakeholders AND look good doing it.

If you’ve sought out this article chances are you’ve got a presentation coming up, and you want to ensure that you knock it out of the park while knocking their socks off and preventing your knees from knocking. Huh, who knew “knock” had so many connotations? Yet I digress.

First and foremost, congratulations! Presenting your findings is the final step in the research process and stakeholders are likely anticipating the results as much as you’re anticipating giving them.

Those study plan documents, research notes, and transcriptions must now be boiled down to 10-20 impressive slides. Condensing down weeks of hard work into a single presentation can be a daunting task, especially if the audience isn’t necessarily the most UX savvy.

We know! We’ve been there. That’s why we wanted to share some advice that will help relieve the pressure. Follow these tips to make the most out of your time with stakeholders (and hey – maybe also impress upon them the importance of conducting more research and/or increasing your research budget.)


For an in-depth and entertaining guide to user research, from planning to presentation, read our free-to-download, comprehensive ebook ‘User Experience Research 101’

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Design consistency

I too am guilty of hurriedly throwing in a dozen oddly shaped Microsoft Word text boxes in an attempt to keep the audience’s interest – that thought bubble cloud is just so tempting. But a simple, sleek design with consistent colors, fonts, and icons will go a long way in an important presentation.

If your company has a standard template go ahead and use it. If they don’t, consider creating one or talking with the team who would. If neither of those are available options do a quick search on ‘Google slides templates’ and Google will offer dozens of crisp, clean templates to choose from.

The important thing is that this allows stakeholders to come into every meeting with an understanding of what to expect and they won’t be distracted from your amazing results by all those thought bubbles.

Focus on stakeholder needs

Perhaps you’ve uncovered a fascinating bit of information pertaining to users’ attitudes towards the company’s logo. Does it fit in with your presentation on the findability of a tool on the website? If yes, include it and explain how this information spills into key point 1. If not, consider including it in the appendix.

Remember – just because the discovery is new and exciting to you, doesn’t mean it is what the stakeholders are looking to hear in their limited time with you.

As researchers, we’re trained to look for new findings but we also need to keep the stakeholder’s expectations in mind.

Related tip: include a key point in the header for each slide to verify the information you’re presenting supports a previously mentioned major finding.

Be efficient

I once had a CEO ask to just see the first three slides of a presentation so she could hurry onto her next meeting. We had spent weeks developing 30 perfectly curated slides to drive our point home.

Did it make me want to throw a chair out the window? Yes. But I was grateful to have nailed the most crucial key findings within the first few slides.

It goes against all of our academic training to trim findings down to two or three phrases. It’s painful. You want to share the thrill of your work and really dive head first into the nitty gritty. But the best thing you can do for your team, especially when it comes to stakeholders who aren’t particularly research friendly, is make your presentation efficient.

Why? Remember that stakeholders often have demands on their time, so much so that they might have their schedules sliced out down to the minute. Learning to not take their rushed manner personally will make you a wiser, quicker, and more efficient presenter.

To keep it simple here is what the first few slides should include:

  • The original goal of the research
  • 3-5 key findings
  • 3-5 next steps

In your first draft, it’s entirely likely to find you have a dozen key points that are absolutely crucial to include. But keep hacking away: could some of these key points be combined? Does each key point pertain to the original goal of the research?

Soft launch

Lastly, don’t be afraid of showing your rough draft to colleagues prior to presenting. An outside perspective may highlight points that are confusing for those not familiar with your project.

For example, UX lingo comes naturally to you but the verbiage in your presentation should be understandable to stakeholders of various backgrounds. Try presenting your ideas to someone who isn’t on the research team to see if you need to dial back on the UX-speak.

And as a bit of an aside, keep in mind that people are generally either listening to you or are reading, and very rarely are they able to do both well simultaneously. So keep an eye out on whether people are actively listening to you or reading the text on your slide and consider cutting down on the text in portions you want people to actively listen to you.

Conclusion

And there you have it. Of course these are general guidelines for a solid start, but as you get to know your audience better be sure to continue optimizing your presentations to make the biggest impact.

And of course, be sure to work on your presentation ‘soft skills’ – things like posture, eye contact, the eradication of ‘uh’ and ‘um’ from your vocabulary, and tone of voice can all go a long way to wowing your audience. Or, at the very least, make them more excited about user’s attitude towards your logo.


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