Debrief Like TED

Debrief Like TED – A 10 Point Researcher Guide to Presenting Research Findings

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What can market researchers learn from the TED – 15 minute high impact idea-briefings built on incisive and inspiring insights – “ideas worth spreading”?

TED idea briefings can help researchers do better debriefs, helping us focus on how we present our findings for maximum impact. So here’s a researcher’s oriented adaptation of top recommendations from the 5-star rated How to Design TED-worthy Presentations from Akash Karia.

1. Have a Hero Insight: Forget reportage, build your debrief around a single hero insight, and structure your debrief around this, positioning other findings in a narrative around this hero insight. Use “so” more than “and”

2. Soundbite your Hero Insight: Spend time ‘word-smithing’ your hero insight so people will remember it and talk about it.  Turn your hero insight into a short, snappy and surprising soundbite

3. Storyboard your Debrief: Before you write the debrief document, storyboard it to develop a simple, logical narrative flow – your debrief should be experienced as a story

4. Focus on “So What?” not “What?”: Make your debrief relevant by focusing on the implications of findings, not the findings themselves.  Use the word “you” more than “they” (research participants)

5. Big Data: Display data findings big and bold.  One huge hero stat per page (optionally with a few supporting smaller stats).  Consider a background image that shows the relevance of the data. If using charts, limit data shown and stick to simple line/bar/pie charts. Consider producing a summary infographic of your findings

6. Jobs not Gates: Lead with visual representations of your findings, not words (put words in notes/endnotes section). Bill Gates was derided for confusing text-heavy briefing/debriefing decks, whereas Apple’s Steve Jobs was lauded for image-centric text-light approach in which words were used to support images and not the other way round. Ensure your images have a consistent style throughout the presentation

7. Video Killed the PowerPoint Star: Increase the impact of your debrief with a short, high-quality (not pixelated) video trailer — a short custom video summarising your key findings. Static debriefs are dead debriefs. Consider producing a video infographic, and use vox pops and other video clips throughout the debrief to support your findings and bring them to life.

8. Don’t Bundle: One finding, one slide: Don’t bundle insights and findings.  Stick to one idea per slide to eliminate clutter, focus attention, and visualise (with impactful images)

9. Style Matters: It’s not just what you show, it’s how you show it – create visual appeal with full bleed background images (avoiding cliché images), consistent fonts (not more than two fonts – vary size for emphasis) that contrast with the image (using opaque/semi-transparent text box colours as necessary), and use the law of thirds to structure the page (Divide each page/slide into a thirds (horizontal and vertical) to create a 3×3 matrix.  Use the four central intersection points as focal points of images and text to maximise visual appeal)

10. Reference, Don’t Read: When debriefing don’t read your deck, talk around it using the narrative you have developed.  Reference your deck, and speak with passion, focusing on your hero insight, always bringing back each slide to how its relevant to the insight and the client

Of course, there’s more to a killer research debrief than this, and there are many more insights in How to Design TED-worthy Presentations, but it’s a smart start – and a refreshing change to formulaic death-by-powerpoint research debriefs with their six bullets (to the head) per slide, each with six word titles unpacked into 14 point unreadable and unread text…


Paul Marsden

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