Earlier this month Observation Baltimore hosted the June QRCA DC Chapter event with Liz Van Patten. Liz shared an amazing presentation on Writing Reports that Engage Your Audience. Her expert ideas are uniquely creative, easy to execute and were clearly demonstrated during her own audience-engaging workshop. We followed–up with Liz after her presentation to pose some additional questions:
Q: What is the importance of an engaging report?
A: We all want our clients to read reports and act on our recommendations. If reports are not engaging, the findings will not be listened to and we will not have affected change nor done our jobs.
Q: How much more action does an engaging report produce versus a less engaging report?
A: That’s hard to measure, but what I do know is that our clients have internal audiences to convince. They need clear reports with actionable findings so that they can report research findings on to higher levels of management within their organizations. The more effectively they can socialize our reports internally, the easier their job is and the better our partnership with them will be.
If we (outside researchers) issue a clear, concise, actionable report, it makes our clients look like heroes.
Q: Storytelling is a current buzzword throughout the industry. What are your thoughts on this?
A: Storytelling helps humanize research respondents. It makes them real people and presents their challenges and motivations in a way that facilitates identification with them – we can all relate to human values. Storytelling elevates research findings to a level higher than verbatim quotes or “data dumps” and brings research findings to life.
Q: What 3 tips do you have for new report writers?
- Focus on the findings that tell your story. Don’t worry about including everything.
- Structure your report in reverse. Key takeaways up front; build your case after that.
- Think more like a crime investigator or detective and less like a reporter – what are the clues that lead you to solid insights?
Q: What 3 things are hardest to change for those who have been writing reports forever?
- Including too much information in the body of the report (vs. appendix). Focus on telling the story.
- Make it readable and accessible – avoid “research speak” and get out of the academic sentences. Focus on findings.
- Use visuals. Open up the creative door to thinking about reporting in ways you haven’t before.
Q: What is the #1 worst report blunder?
A: The text is too dense. There is too much on each page, with no focus. Research report writers need to learn to direct the reader’s eye.
Be direct. Be concise.
Q: How can the industry improve report writing overall?
A: Training. With the recent hiring freezes there is a very apparent gap between researchers who have been writing reports for many years and junior researchers who have not yet learned how to put together an engaging report. This gap is becoming more and more evident creating a great need for training researchers on report writing, within corporations and at the supplier level.
In conclusion, researchers need to make their clients look like heroes. They need to help organizations uncover insights to be able to make better decisions. If we write clear, concise, engaging reports we will achieve our goals.
To find out more please contact Liz Van Patten at 631-283-7842 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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