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Story Telling: Lost art in market research?

We have grown up listening to stories. Stories have always been most effective way to communicate even the most complex concepts. Stories have a way of reaching our emotions and stirring us. Stories have an ability to transform information into an emotion. But looking at the world around us, we are surrounded by data. We have numbers everywhere around us and we depend on them so much that we cannot take decision without numbers.

We have grown up listening to stories. Stories have always been most effective way to communicate even the most complex concepts. Stories have a way of reaching our emotions and stirring us. Stories have an ability to transform information into an emotion.  But looking at the world around us, we are surrounded by data. We have numbers everywhere around us and we depend on them so much that we cannot take decision without numbers.

I have spent almost two decades in market research now and I understand the importance of data in decision making. However, numbers are important only to the extent of insight they give. Data alone cannot give you the whole picture, unless you understand the people behind the data- “the consumers”. Most of the stakeholders might not remember the data but they definitely remember stories the data told.

This reminds me of a team presentation long time ago. We had about 100 odd slides of data and as a junior back then with limited experience of working on presentations, I was fairly proud of that presentation. The client happened to be very friendly with me and told me very gently and nicely, that next time please let’s not put so many slides with numbers. We understand them but maybe not everyone in the organization consumes numbers in the same way. That was the first time, I guess I understood the presentation I was working on, from any other point of view.  I don’t remember in my 15-20 years’ career anyone ever telling me that I wish presentation had more slides. And that speaks volume about gap in client expectations and what we deliver in market research.

When we tell a story with emotions and connecting with real humans, I think we have more chance of making impact with the information we are presenting. Data in itself cannot tell any story unless there is connect with human element. The information you are providing might be accurate and true, but it’s just that “plain information”. It is absorbed and appreciated when you can convert this information to an insight and that requires a human connect.

 

Over years of my career, I have learnt a few important things when it comes to reporting and presentation. Here are a few suggestions to incorporate storytelling in your presentation.

 

1) Bring life into your research:  Plain numbers are boring and definitely difficult to remember and connect with. A research cannot come to life when you are presenting fact after fact through numbers. As a researcher, it’s your job to find the link that connects these facts and weave it into a story. Secret of good story telling is to know what needs to be there and what needs to be omitted. Not all facts and data you have will aid in the story that you are trying to tell.

2) Protagonist for story:  Every story has a hero or a central character. Since we are conducting research to understand the consumers, let consumers be the central character of the story you are trying to tell. It doesn’t have to be a whole blown Qual research all the time. But talking to a few consumers, might help you better understand the data as well as the consumer voice for the presentation.

3) Good Structure:  Most of good stories have a good structure. There is an introduction, plot for the story and then the climax of the story. Similar to this, your presentation needs to have a good structure. There needs to an introduction which leads to the findings. The findings need to be crisp and concise and then of course the climax or way forward needs to tie the entire presentation together.

4) Focus on Objectives:  Data can tell multiple stories. If you torture the data enough, it will tell you what you want to hear. So thumb rule is that focus on key objectives. What is the problem that your story is trying to address? Be focussed on only that and pursue the data on that thread or link. This will help drawing out crisp insights from the data.

5) Focus on insight, not on data reading:  Most of the audience is capable of reading the charts on their own. 90% people are watching videos is not an insight. This is data reading and focus on data should be on giving insights. Linking the data to consumers, help drawing a true insight from the data.

6) Keep it simple:  Sometimes when you have data from multiple sources, it’s easy to get lost in the data. But any good story telling has one basic rule- edit what doesn’t add value to the story. Every data might have multiple story points. But researcher needs to ask if this adds value to the main objective or story or is it just good to know information. Good story requires you to be a good editor of the data.

Finally, goal of every project in market research is to aid marketing or business decision making and creating impact by providing right and accurate information. This can only be achieved we share meaningful insights from the data that can create that business impact. The way to make sure key stakeholders listen to those insights is through good story telling. Story telling will ensure that your insights are heard, understood and connected with.

AEON

Published On - December 10, 2021