Posted on: 3 December 2021
Fact & Fiction: Tell a Story with Data
Have you ever been in a situation where you have a 100 slide deck to present in 60 minutes? Listen, we have all been there at some point, but I think you can agree this does not seem like an efficient use of time.
Telling a story is crucial to get buy-in from all kinds of people; your boss, the c- suite, your client, etc. It is a skill that no one ever teaches but is critical to getting funding and other resources to roll a project out.
How to get started:
First, think about who you are presenting to and how much time you have for a presentation. Does your audience include someone who needs many details to feel comfortable giving resources out to you for execution? Chances are, it is not the amount of required information but what kinds of information different audiences need. Nobody likes to have their time wasted. By curating a presentation to a specific group of people, everyone can leave satisfied, knowing that you didn’t waste effort on presenting the information.
Presenting UX research findings for buy-in
In my experience, people often take the time to make a large presentation deck that has all the synthesized research findings. They include a lot of charts, graphs and tables. While this approach is valid to show a specific audience, like your peers and other researchers, it is often unnecessary. It can hurt your chances of engaging with decision-makers or clients.
These people often have limited time and only really need to understand the big picture. If you get too in the weeds with this group, they tend to glaze over and ask some high-level questions to summarize the presentation for them in “3 easy steps”.
The Story Arc
In general, a presentation should follow a story arc that has a beginning: what we did, a middle: what we found, and an end: what to do with this information.
This is the time to talk about what UX research and testing methodologies you applied and the overall objective of the study. This section is anywhere from 3-4 slides. Remember to keep things high level here. You do not want to open up a discussion about recruitment again or the validity of doing a particular kind of methodology.
Here is where we dive into the findings from the research or testing. This part is the meat of the presentation, and the data here is the scaffolding on which you share your insights.
Remember always to have the synthesized data prepped here and ready to go. The main areas of interest here should be the analyzed data, highlighting areas for opportunity and innovation.
If your client is giving you push back and not agreeing with the area of the opportunity, it may be time to show proof (aka the data), remembering that it is harder for your audience to argue with your research findings. For example, your client disagrees with the kinds of personas you, the hired team, have made. At that moment, it would be the prime time to pull up the analyzed (and possibly synthesized) research. By sharing verbatims, and frequency of patterns, you give yourself a solid foundation to justify your deliverables.
It is also important to note when presenting opportunities to always first showcase where they came from. That means sharing a data pattern first and then the area for opportunity. It allows your audience to understand where you are coming from when you claim a gap in their system. If you present with the gap first, your client will most likely retract, and in turn, become untrusting, defensive or even dismissive.
Now that you have shared the areas of opportunity, it is essential to call out the tangible things your client can work on to improve the experience. If you fail to do this, your client may leave the meeting with a negative attitude, having felt like all you have done is point the finger at them about what is wrong with their product experience. Try to end on a note of hope and optimism that these changes are potentially achievable. If your presentation goes well, your client may return to you to help them achieve the improvements that you have just outlined. That is because your client now not only trusts you, but they feel like you are the one who truly understands their problems.
Try it out!
When crafting your next 1-hour client presentation, try to keep your slides to a 30-40 and challenge yourself to tell the story that is compelling and needed for the audience you are presenting to. Remember to surface the relevant topical data before stating the areas of opportunity or improvement and build trust and credibility with your client.
Cassandra Wiesner comes from an artistic background and as her career progressed, she came to understand her love for problem solving and sifting through the grey to find solutions. With a heavy belief in designing responsibly, she creates products that are not only strategic and useful for different audiences but also socially beneficial to the world. Cassandra holds a BFA from York University and an Advanced Diploma of Interaction Design and Development from George Brown College.