The Market Research Event 2012 – The Idea Distillery

The Market Research Event - Idea DistilleryWhile attending the The Market Research Event 2012 conference in November, I heard a series of talks that changed the way I saw the world of insights, both people and process included. The conference helped me develop a concept I call an idea distillery.

One of the best talks was lead by Brett Townsend, Director of Insights at PepsiCo. The basic premise of Brett’s session was focused on telling your clients a story rather than running through overdone and often rudimentary “slide walk-through”. The ability to grab the essence of your presentation and express it in a meaningful way is the goal, which leads to a higher desired impact with less baggage to worry about.

Let me describe “that guy” to you. You know who I mean. The model of a bad presenter.

He’s that guy with that PowerPoint his ad agency built him that’s supposed to make you feel like you’re floating out of sheer enlightenment and creativity. The guy with the PowerPoint that is going like all the others go:

  • It answers the basic questions…
  • It shares “who the team is” and how awesome they are…
  • It has some great pictures and well thought out zingers made just for you…

Most of all, however, it leaves you wondering what in the heck this person does and why you should care.

The reality is, “that guy” probably did a good job of communicating in totality what he does and why you should care, but how he got there is the problem.

As my mind marinated on Brett’s presentation, I began to challenge my own thinking when it came to communication skills in general, not just the world of charts and PowerPoint.

What are some basics steps one could take to put the idea distillery to use – to distill their ideas and capture their audience more effectively?

Here are a few I came up with:

1. The “Where’s Waldo” concept

The Where’s Waldo books are a great series that provide us with a lesson in communication. The basic idea is to find Waldo among a series of obstacles including people, buildings, and worst of all, false Waldos running about. The hiding places, while ranging in difficulty throughout each book, really aren’t that imaginative, when you think about it. What makes this game so challenging however, is the large number of stimuli that are not Waldo. He is standing among an enormous sea of distractions that make finding a very unique-looking individual quite difficult.

To be a great storyteller, you must be able to find the Waldo, and tell the audience about him. Describing everything you see on the page will bore your audience to death and likely force to them miss out on the core piece of what you’re trying to say. Don’t hope your audience can find Waldo in your story. Find him beforehand and communicate where he is clearly.

2. Kick the Bird

One other pitfall that we can avoid as insights people and communicators is holding out on the audience, so we can create a grand finale experience for them. This is a mistake. Once you have your core insight and story crafted, just kick it out of the nest and let it fly. Waiting to kick the bird will again lead your audience into zombie mode and lessen the impact of your very important message or story.

3. Be Honest, Be Brave

It’s tough doing steps one and two. It’s tough letting go of the standard, expected ways we often fall into. Why? Well frankly, it feels safer. By giving your audience what they expect, you’re giving yourself increased immunity against possible criticism or failure in your overall goal. You could be pitching new business, presenting findings, or selling upper management on a needed investment. If you give the vanilla spiel and cover all your precious bullet points, that gives you an alibi if things don’t work out the way you planned. “Well, I told them everything they needed. What else could I have done?”

For starters, you could have aspired to something better. You could have aspired to telling a meaningful story rather running through 50 slides of banter.

It’s hard to do this; it takes honesty and bravery to tell the story that everyone is begging to hear. However, if you can be honest with yourself about what your core idea really is and brave enough to let that story fly, the sky is the limit.

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About Josh Pelham

Josh Pelham is a currently a Manager of Research at AMG Strategic Advisors, the research and strategy division of Acosta Marketing Group. As a career researcher, Josh has worked for both large and small research firms from the supplier side. He enjoys working with creative and innovative thinkers, as well as sharing his thoughts and observations on marketing, research, and design.

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