Are you listening to me, or reading the charts I’ve put up on the screen?

Or are you trying to do both. And failing.

At a debrief, our aim should not be to simply present the report we’ve created. Reports are for reading, for reflection, for reference. They contain all of the detail, and rightly so.

However, it’s a well-established fact that isn’t possible for audiences to take in huge amounts of text and interpret graphs, whilst also listening to the presenter talk.

If you present 100 slides, each with 5 bullet points with 10 words per bullet, you’re asking your audience to read a 5,000 word document whilst also listening to you talk!

The debrief should and must be different.

If you present 100 slides, each with 5 bullet points with 10 words per bullet, you’re asking your audience to read a 5,000 word document whilst also listening to you talk!

In a debrief, our primary role is to tell a clear and compelling story,

so that the audience leaves the meeting illuminated, inspired and confident in knowing how they can apply what they have learnt. If we can’t effectively communicate the outcomes and implications of our research, what’s the point in doing it in the first place?

So how should we go about making this happen?

1. We need to work more collaboratively.

Clients and agencies need to invest time both upfront and then during analysis to work collaboratively with the key stakeholders to identify and structure the debrief story to ensure it has maximum impact when delivered. Every project, every client and every group of stakeholders is different, so the approach and the story needs to be tailored to what’s going to work best. It’s not one size fits all.

2. We need to use pictures to help tell the story.

People can’t read and listen at the same time as the parts of the brain required for this are too close together. However, we can look at images and listen. Studies show that people who watch a presentation with bullet-points will only remember 10% of it three days later. But an audience that sees the same presentation with great images will remember 65%.
So we should use striking visuals to accompany our key points. (We’ll talk about the other 35% in another blog post, coming soon).

3. We need to better recognise the role of the presenter.

The presenter is Batman and our visual aids are Robin. We can’t simply rely on our slides to give the presentation for us. Being Batman means we land the key insights credibly, we ensure that our audience is fully engaged, and we therefore have a much better opportunity to drive that change in thinking and action that debriefs should be all about.

I believe that research has got a long way to go to make sure every debrief is an unmissable event, but that’s exciting as it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn, improve and then experience the difference that research can make as a key ingredient in any organisation’s success.