Versta Research Coaches Business Students on Turning Data Into Stories
March 5, 2020
Over the course of two weeks in February and March, Joseph Hopper, president of Versta Research, taught emerging new business leaders in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Business Administration how to analyze and present market research to business clients in a more compelling way.
“Think about your story first,” Hopper advised, “then build your survey, imagining how each measure you create will be used to support, refute, or add nuance to your story. Always report percentages of respondents, never means, correlations, or regression coefficients. Your business audience cares about groups, clusters, and numbers of people, not abstract measures.”
The idea for the sessions was the brainchild of Professor Jeffrey Parker in the Department of Managerial Studies: “Every year I have my undergraduate Marketing Research students complete a real research project for a real firm. These projects tend to be very motivating and beneficial for the students, but the output is universally uncompelling despite the best of intentions. Even the best groups who do quality research and give polished presentations regularly leave me and the client picking through piles of stats and figures to understand what the takeaway is. What they desperately need to learn is to turn their research into stories.”
Hopper visited the classes first for a guest lecture, and outlined the process Versta Research uses with tips and pointers on how to proceed with their demonstration project. The following week he visited again for a “master class” to evaluate their work and provide advice.
“The did pretty well!” said Hopper, after the classes were over. “The ones who focused on people—and specifically how many people—instead of presenting statistics and data—did much better and gave the more compelling presentations.”
Professor Parker agreed, saying the approach seemed simple, but seeing it in action was “a revelation to me.” “The way Versta approaches research (dream headlines, discovered headlines, and supporting evidence), and the way they report that research (headlines, evidence, and percentages) is going to be integral in my reshaping of the course for the years to come.”
As part of the master class, Hopper asked the students to provide their own feedback on the approach, as well. Versta Research staff are now sorting through piles of open-ended written comments and will be reporting results in a newsletter during the coming months.
For more information and tips on the approach, Versta Research has produced a series of newsletters including Turning Data Into Stories, a how-to guide that outlines 7 steps to turning data into stories, a short introductory video, and a large number of informational posts.
About Versta Research
Versta is a firm specializing in customized market research and public opinion polling. It helps clients understand their customers, prospects, and competition with expertise and academic brainpower. And it helps clients communicate that research to managers, clients, reporters, and the audiences they need to reach.