Blogged While: On a late night flight to Houston
Mood: Cramped into a small seat and need a coffee
A great Ted Talk by Melissa Marshall (https://www.ted.com/talks/melissa_marshall_talk_nerdy_to_me?language=en) really has me thinking about how the value of research is only truly maximized when those outside of the data are able to fully visualize the findings in the same vivid manner that those conducting the research do. The focus on being able to concisely communicate research findings is a vital, and often under emphasized, end product. A need to make complex findings accessible is key not only for presenting to a client, but also allowing for a greater understanding of any actionable findings and insights within the research.
I know I am guilty of the “know what I mean, not what I say” approach where one fails to slow down in order to effectively communicate messages in his or her daily life. As a whole, we tend to place the responsibility of understanding the message on the audience and not on ourselves, the ones delivering said message. We should all remove our egos and look to spread knowledge rather than shroud it in obscure or specialized jargon and overly complex delivery. The key thing to keep in mind when using this approach is that it is not “dumbing down” your research; rather, it is making the effort to communicate effectively to others.
In the online healthcare space, we often encounter a diverse range of disease and treatment fields, from oncology to mental illness and everywhere in between. These various treatment fields and their varied research goals require working with a combination of departments and teams, all aiming for the same goal. Different target audiences may commission a research project with specific goals in mind, and the output of research insights (be they medical, linguistic, and/or quantitative analyses) may differ from the expected outcome. These resulting insights are valuable and can be applicable to a variety of teams and organizations. The need to communicate findings effectively is a necessity as the intended and ever-expanding audience may then receive the full value from the research and truly grow and learn from the findings in a manner applicable to their own field of expertise.
Through both your writing and verbal presentation you can connect with your audience by using relatable comparisons and metaphors to explain an idea. Here are 3 pieces of practical advice to effectively connect with your audience:
- Cut out the jargon that separates you from your research and from those you wish to share with. Look to remove barriers which restrict access to the ideas, concepts, and findings while placing them in an understandable context. Look to emotionally connect in order to emphasize the human quality behind the numbers and figures.
- Visually display the data in a clean and concise manner where there is no need to search for the key takeaways. This can be done in a variety of ways: using diagrams including graphs and charts as well as infographics and other visual aids and don’t over crowd your slides with too many lines of microscopic text and unnecessary extras; value the white space.
- Allow your research room to breathe on its slide. I am guilty myself of trying to over populate a presentation slide with ideas—an unwillingness to eliminate the less important facts. If you are able to remove what is not being emphasized, then you also elevate the content that is important. Try not to overwhelm your audience with data that is unstructured or too dense. In order to effectively communicate your findings, break this down into key moments that support the greater implication.
True research expertise and intelligence is not shown by confusing your audience with the basics, but by presenting the most complex findings in an accessible, relatable, and understandable manner to any audience. Try to apply this to any of your daily work and conversations, look to teach without being heavy-handed. Re-analyze your work, your papers, your presentations as you assemble them and look to apply these bits of advice to engage your audience and share your findings with a broader audience. Data can be beautiful; it’s up to you to help it shine!