Understanding Your Audience When Sharing Research

One of the most valuable things about research is its ability to transform the way a community or group thinks about itself and others. However, communicating research effectively requires an understanding of your audience and how they will process and perceive the research findings. The suggestions below outline a few ways that you can better share research data to be as understandable as possible for your audience.

  • The first thing to consider in presenting data is to understand how familiar (or unfamiliar) your audience is with the research topic. Is it the first time they've heard information like this? If not, are you using the data to change their views or to reinforce an existing view? Depending on the size of your audience, you might also consider a brief overview of the research methodology (who conducted the study, how many people were interviewed, etc.) to help give some context.
  • Secondly, think about the questions your audience will have about the data. Presenting research to the advisory board of a company will look very different to sharing statistics in a church sermon, even if it’s the same data set. A helpful question to ask is: “What is my audience’s next steps after hearing this research?” The answer to that question will largely shape not only what data you decide to present, but how you choose to do so.
  • Lastly, consider the format you’ll be using to share the data. You might verbally share simple statistics, use PowerPoint slides if you have several findings to cover, or even a printout if there’s a lot of detailed charts to discuss. Go twice as slow as you think you should—it takes a while for an audience (of any size) to absorb and understand what you and the data are communicating.



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