Most clients enter into a research project never quite knowing what’s going to come out at the other end, which can make it feel a bit like Russian roulette. What’s more, creating impact with research and insight can be a big challenge. For our clients, delivery of the final report and debrief signals the start of their work in activating the insight and creating real strategic value within their organisations. It’s a process that takes time and commitment, and places great emphasis on the report and insight being of the highest standard. So, now we know how important the debrief is, let’s take a look at how to run market research client debriefs like a superhero.
Delivering a good debrief is like giving a concert performance requiring courage and commitment. You need to have done the practice and be ready to engage and inspire your audience. When executed well, the debrief is a unique opportunity to help the client take the insight and new learnings and build out a series of goals and actions that will activate the value in the research. They'll need help from you, their research partner, acting as a powerful ally and supporting key findings. Two key attributes of any good debrief are engagement and inspiration.
Preparation is important. Before going into the debrief, you should know who is attending (and who isn’t) and what their objectives and potential take-outs from the session will be. Only by knowing this will you be in a position to present them with something relevant and engaging to them individually. Your goal as the researcher is to encourage them to be curious and inquisitive during the debrief. This can be achieved before the debrief by way of emails or even mailers to attendees. Think about using quotes and verbatims from the research to tease them and get their attention in the run up. This will also ensure they attend and make it harder for them to duck-out at the last minute as sometimes happens.
Inspiration comes in the form of the content itself, but also the style of presentation. Your role is to help the client select the most relevant and impactful insight and go forward with it, so you should bring the client into the presentation as much as possible, as if you were facilitating a workshop. Simply presenting to them won’t cut the mustard, nor will it make it memorable for them!
Why debriefs are so powerful
Debriefs present a unique opportunity for your client to engage with the senior stakeholders and decision makers within their organisation. Armed with the knowledge you are providing, they become the frontline for change and often form the beginning of a refocusing on customer needs. It is up to you to arm them with the tools they need to make their next steps a success and create a feeling of excitement and passion that will drive the work on beyond the insight phase. Being memorable is important, and to be memorable, debriefs need to be properly planned and executed with a touch of class!
Here are some things to think about:
- When you send on the final report to the client, encourage them not to circulate it in its entirety. Work with them to simplify key findings
- Develop a clear set of implications for different departments and make the findings relevant to those departments
- Pave the way for a discussion on the next steps by identifying the key stakeholders that need to be at the debrief meeting. Make sure that they’re all in the room when it happens, sometimes easier said than done
- Discuss with them challenges they might now face in delivering these insights to the wider business, and explore how you can help
How to run a debrief
Having lived and breathed the research, and likely written up a painstakingly detailed final report, you are in an ideal position to lead the debrief for your client and answer any questions that may arise. However, presenting your unabridged findings with a 30-slide deck won’t win you any friends. There are several tricks to presenting a great debrief, one of which is to take your audience on a journey using story telling techniques.
- Centre on the single most important key insight and build your debrief around this. Storyboarding this insight will help you connect all the important dots together. In a meeting that lasts and hour, you’ve got 30 minutes for the presentation, so think along the lines of 3 minutes per slide, give or take an introductory slide and a final slide on the next steps. Jettison the additional details and save these for the follow up.
- Focus on the implications of the findings (and not the findings themselves) for each business area and always lead with visual representations. Text heavy justifications of findings that focus on methodology and details aren’t for debriefs. Try and anticipate any questions that may arise (see point 6) and then save the relevant detail for the notes section at the end.
- With help from your contact, agree on a logical narrative and theme which will help your presentation flow and make the story relevant to the departments of key stakeholders present. Be clear on what you want to achieve with the insight, who you are presenting to, what you want to present and how you want to present it. Try and steer the presentation
- Videos help bring objectives to life, and they often have a greater impact on stakeholders than stats do. As part of our research methodology, we’re normally able to get participants using video media that they submit via our Together platform. Consider putting together a branded video montage that answers key objectives set out in the original research brief.
- Consider producing a main infographic summary of your findings. Like all good collateral, infographics are tricky to produce at first, but once you become better-practiced they’re invaluable to help people focus. They’re often the slide that gets reproduced then circulated within the client organisation.
- Practice makes perfect. Before you deliver the debrief, run through the deck with a colleague who has an appreciation of the study, as well as the client. Similar to your research brief, get them to critique it and roll play or pre-empt possible questions from other stakeholders.
Delivering a great debrief should be seen as a big step forwards in helping your client activate the insight you’ve helped uncover within their organisation. Finally, and as cheesy as this might sound, try and enjoy it. The debrief is your chance to shine. As long as the work has been put in and the results are solid, this is where you can showcase your unique value and contribution to the project.
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