As most UX professionals do, Dan started out his career teaching windsurfing and other water sports. Having travelled the world, Dan settled down into the role of freelance graphic designer, a path that eventually led him to Head of Design at Smile.
Of late, Dan has been sharing over a decade’s worth of experience in UX via actionable templates on LinkedIn. These templates address skills such as growing your career, assessing your competency, and developing your communication skills among others.
I had a chance to collaborate with him on a template you can use to structure your research presentations. This article covers how we thought through that template.
Stick around to the end to access the template!
When structuring your presentation, Dan’s advice is to put your conclusions up front and centre.
We’re taught a very flawed form of storytelling in school. You start by providing context and talking about your methodology. Your most important conclusions come at the end.
This structure can only work if your audience (in this case, your teacher) is being paid to read your report (in this case, they are).
In a work environment, everyone is busy with their jobs already. They don’t have the time to read through your methods, approach, or participant demographics, before reaching the actual findings. If anything, they are incentivized not to!
This template ensures that you start with the most important conclusions before moving on to the details of how you arrived at them.
You are likely to reach several conclusions over the course of a research project. It wouldn’t make sense to include all of them in the first slide.
While testing our AI notes with users, we reached several takeaways.
We discovered that some users reviewed the notes via the transcript, and others reviewed them on a summary panel.
We discovered UI issues that confused our users.
We discovered that researchers, especially those short on time, loved the AI notes.
Not all of these findings are equally important—some stand out as particularly crucial (can you guess which?). Therefore, not all of these findings get to land on the first slide. Instead, we picked the three takeaways that would impact our future decisions the most.
Dan suggests thinking of this first slide in your report as a landing page. A landing page would tell you why you should care—your top findings will cover that.
A landing page will also provoke your emotions, and connect you with the human aspect of the product or service. Your first slide should do the same. Provide testimonials that link people to the claims you’re making. You can do this by pulling direct quotes from your user interviews and attaching them to your findings.
If you can put the actual faces or videos of users in—even better. The more you can make a human connection between your stakeholder and your user, the more impactful it’ll be.
Looppanel lets you record your user interviews and instantly create shareable clips from them.
Check us out to improve your slide 1!
Your key takeaways and direct quotes won the attention of your audience. Now what?
Once you’ve hooked your stakeholders, the next step should be to tell them why your research matters! Why are they even here? What is the problem you have been trying to uncover?
The rest of your organization has very little context on research. They do care about business goals, however.
The best way to communicate the rationale for your research is to connect it to the goals your organization is trying to achieve.
For example, you may have researched why users were uninstalling your app after a few days.
Connect the dots!
In the case of our AI notes experiment, our finding was that users loved our AI notes, but there were UX improvements we could make in how they were being consumed.
These, by themselves, might be great for the team to hear.
Still, we would tie them to our larger goals:
Goal: We want to make it 10x faster and easier for User Researchers to run effective research.
Relevant Metric: The number of people using features that save them time (Weekly active users)
Key finding: the AI notes experiment showed this feature is loved by users because they are able to save a significant amount of time—this is expected to grow our Weekly active user base.
Once you’ve shared your key takeaways and provided people with a reason to care, you can move on to sharing your findings.
You will ideally share one finding per slide. Then, support this finding with relevant data points and recommend a course of action based on this finding.
This basic structure is also close to what McKinsey and other consulting firms recommend for their presentations.
You shouldn’t rely exclusively on pie charts or quotes from users or heat maps or tarot cards.
Ideally, support your findings with at least one quantitative and one qualitative data point. For example, you can mention how 9 out of the 10 users you interviewed said they didn’t use your voice notes feature. This will be more impactful, however, if you can also then include usage stats from your app and show how rarely the voice notes feature is used.
As stated above, you should try to include your recommendations with your findings as well.
It’s far too common for researchers to provide neutral findings and leave it up to their stakeholders to think of a plan of action based on them. As long as you can back it up with solid reasoning, Dan suggests adding your recommendations too.
If nothing else, it will help get your stakeholders thinking.
The more you can take off their plate, the easier it will be for them to use your report.
This suggestion is definitely controversial in academic circles. Your recommendations will carry your biases and won’t, therefore, be all that good. While this does hold some truth, researchers in a corporate setting can afford to lose a little academic soundness if it leads to your research being used.
Besides, says Dan, you’ve probably been trained to observe your biases, unlike your stakeholders. Anyone who thinks of action steps based on your report will be biased. You will probably be the least biased, so make that recommendation anyway.
This is where you discuss how you reached your conclusions - how the proverbial sausage was made. Of course, most of your stakeholders are interested in the sausage and not the process you used to come up with it, so it’s best to reserve these details for the last.
In most organizations, your professional expertise will be trusted and people won’t look into the methodology you used. Regardless, Dan recommends adding your methodology to your presentation to make it more robust.
This will include the number of participants in your research, their ages, location, and other relevant background information.
User metadata, as they call it in jargonworld.
In addition to demographics, you should also mention if you faced any challenges that make the research findings less reliable. Did you find enough relevant participants to validate your research findings?
For example, you might be conducting research for an app with one million predominantly elderly users. If you interviewed two college students using your app and they claimed to hate a feature, you should highlight that your sample size was small and didn’t represent the user base. Without that context, you will be conveying that 100% of the people you interviewed hated a feature Product Managers may then use this to delete that feature.
💡 Since the methodology is at the end of your presentation, stakeholders might miss out on any potential red flags in your approach. Dan recommends mentioning these red flags right at the beginning so that people can approach your findings with a grain of salt.
To read more from Dan, check out his LinkedIn profile and his personal website!
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