The Visual Approach to Engaging Data
Over recent years there has been a realisation that research data is only as good as the way it is presented, causing a distinct shift towards a more visually engaging style of research output.
We talk with Charlotte Heron, Associate Director at Synergy Healthcare Research, about the changing market research reporting landscape and ways to efficiently add visual data enhancements to PowerPoint reports.
Spending resources collating massive amounts of accurate data is fantastic, but that in itself is no longer enough for research insight to be interpreted successfully. Insight needs to be presented well and it must be engaging. You may have some ground-breaking research data to present, but if it’s hidden within mountains of text or dozens of tables, its overall impact is easily lost. The market research industry has begun recognising the importance of engaging and impactful reports as witnessed first-hand by Charlotte during her time at Synergy.
“When I started in market research, you could almost get away with everything being text – proposals were text, bids were text, outputs in PowerPoint were text. If you presented that now I don’t think you’d be invited back again!”.
Indeed, it is almost unimaginable now to have purely text-based presentations of data and insights, and there is a general acceptance towards more visual portrayals of insights through creative data visualization. And it’s not only to make them more aesthetically pleasing – it also allows key insights to be communicated more quickly and effectively to key decision makers. This, in turn, allows them to make business decisions more rapidly. For time-strapped management, clear, concise, and meaningful insights are crucial.
“By incorporating visuals into our presentations, it makes them more easily accessible for our clients. People generally find it less daunting to look at something that has pictures incorporated, rather than a wall of text. You also need to make sure that your audience is engaged, and there’s something interesting on each slide”.
Beyond clearer and more effective communication of research findings, Charlotte suggests that consideration also has to be given to the overall impact your graphic and data design can have on the research buyer.
“If you send reports out to clients where the colours don’t match, the fonts are different or not the same size, the visual elements on the page don’t all line up or aren’t equally spaced – 5 or 6 years ago they would’ve overlooked that and said, ‘you’ve got a visual on the slide that’s great’, but now it just looks sloppy. If you haven’t put the effort into designing good outputs, people will question – have you put the effort into conducting the rest of the research properly or have you cut corners on that as well?”
“We have won work based on example visuals we’ve put in our proposals.”
However, the importance of good visual presentation isn’t only confined to the final research deliverable. Research buyers are becoming more discerning in their choice of supplier, with the quality of data presentation playing a part in projects being won and lost.
Charlotte discusses data visualisation as part of their tender process,
“You’re expected to have a high quality polished product and, if you don’t, it reflects on the quality of your agency. This is also something we have found with our bidding process – we have won work based on example visuals we’ve put in our proposals, but we have also lost projects because we have submitted proposals without a sufficient visual element, especially around examples of research outputs”
The importance of delivering data in an engaging and impactful way is clear, from the very beginning to the very end of the research process. However, the flip-side of this shift towards more visual research communication is that it places further pressure on the researchers themselves. Not only do they have the role of analyst, project manager and storyteller for example – but now they also need to be a data designer. The design of these creative outputs takes time and relies on having advanced PowerPoint skills (or having the budget to hire graphic design resources!). This presents the researcher with a challenge – reconciling a commitment to professional, modern, and appealing presentations using engaging data visualisation with the increasing time and resource constraints on projects.
Charlotte discusses their approach to presentations and some of the tactics they have employed to overcome these challenges,
“We try to have various different visual elements in our presentations, such as graphs, images and pictures. We use infographics to show data and changes in data and combine those infographic visualisations with text. We also have a set of example slides and rules about everything to do with how the presentation looks. But creating an engaging, impactful presentation does take time, it’s a very labour-intensive job”.
Having clear guidelines ensures consistency and a level of quality in the presentations that Synergy produces. Sharing ideas and best practices also helps to instil a visual culture within the organisation. When discussing how they overcome the time and labour-intensive work creating visual elements in PowerPoint, Charlotte refers to a new infographic plugin they have begun using, E-Tabs Vizualz. With Vizualz, Synergy is able to produce data-driven infographic elements in just a few clicks. It also allows them to re-use their created visual elements and easily update them with new data, which in turn assists the implementation of their reporting guidelines.
Charlotte explains some of the benefits the tool has provided their reporting –
“When we would add visual elements – like you can do in Vizualz – to our presentations before, it would take us maybe 40 minutes to draw up just one visual. You can imagine how long it took us if you wanted to do several! Now we can do it in a couple of minutes. With Vizualz, engaging presentations are something we can offer to clients as standard. It’s something we are going to roll out across all our presentations, and it’s so easy to use, anyone can do it.”
This combination of dedication towards producing engaging data visualisation, alongside a clear set of guidelines and appropriate tools, means that Synergy is able to communicate key insights more quickly and effectively to decision makers. Or, in other words, deliver better research that will drive future marketing decisions.
If you would like to find out more about the unique qualitative and quantitative approaches Synergy Healthcare Research applies to research visit http://www.synergyresearch.co.uk
If you would like to find out how you can easily create infographic elements in PowerPoint using E-Tabs Vizualz, visit https://www.e-tabs.com/vizualz