We recently asked a number of HRD research consultants, evaluation specialists and communication experts to share some words of wisdom on two key show-and-tell questions: “What is the best way to present research results to management?” and “Is there any special knack to presenting bad news outcomes?”
As you would expect of a question containing the phrase, “What is the best way to…,” we received a lot of “it depends” answers. The most frequent “it depends” we heard revolved around the issues of purpose and audience.
John F. (Jack) Anderson, Anderson and Berdie Research, Minneapolis, puts the issue of purpose in a handy perspective: “When you’re commissioned by an organization to do an evaluation or any kind of program or personnel research, it’s because someone wants an answer to a question. But beyond that, we have an obligation to present the results of our work in a way that allows the decision makers in the audience to determine some course of action. If six months after you’ve presented your findings nothing has changed, you haven’t really done the job you were commissioned to do.”
Though others said it differently, the “cause some action” focus seems to be a good touchstone. To paraphrase Anderson and the others interviewed, the purpose of any presentation of field research findings, such as an evaluation study or needs analysis, is to communicate in a manner that allows others to formu¬late and instigate a course of action.
Another way to say that is when we report findings to a sponsor or client, our one and only goal should be to cause someone to do something. Until you can answer the questions, “Who do you want to have do what and how do you get them to do it?,” you can’t start planning a presentation. At least not a presentation with a chance of communicating something specific to someone.
Even if you are reporting that everything is okay in a program, work group, system or whatever it is you are studying, there is an action goal. The desired action may be to gain consensus that the program should continue unchanged or uninterrupted. It could also be that your goal is to keep the program funded. It might even be that you want to demonstrate your competency and worth. Regardless of specifics, every presentation needs a clearly conceived action goal.
Source : Training Magazine