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Presenting Forward-Looking Recommendations: All research presentations are not created equal

Posted on  9 October 12  by 

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Traditional research presentations are often narrowly focused on single brand-level issues, and make recommendations related to the current planning cycle. This type of presentation can often effectively answer specific business partner questions, but does little to drive business partner and researcher engagement with high-level strategic decisions.

Microsoft Research developed a presentation format which challenges researchers to develop and present predictions and forward-looking recommendations, prompting researchers to explore and incorporate a broad set of data sources, and boosting impact on the most important issues facing the business.

Presentation elements that motivate engagement

The Scenario presentations that Microsoft assigns to its researchers include four key elements that motivate researchers to collect and synthesize information and build strategic recommendations:

1. High-altitude business topic

Scenario presentations address the most important issues facing the company in the years to come. In order to understand high-level issues, researchers must look at company and market data and trends. 

2. Scenario probabilities

Presentations must include probabilities that describe the likelihood of business and market scenarios occurring 3-5 years in the future. This challenges researchers to take risks and draw relevant conclusions from research findings.  

3. Forward-looking recommendations

Including recommendations which describe the actions business should take to address market trends makes presentations relevant to business issues, and increases uptake of findings.

4. Exposure to senior decision makers

The assignment is not to create hypothetical presentations and ideas, but valuable insights and recommendations that are presented to senior decision makers in the company. The added element of knowing that scenarios and recommendations will be publicly exposed to scrutiny prompts researchers to include evidence from multiple sources to shield ideas from questions and pushback.

Driving engagement and impact

Microsoft found that the scenario presentation assignment leads researchers to seek out new sources of information and push their thinking on topics and issues areas that they had been assigned. Business partners learned to expect and ask for these presentations when addressing high level issues, increasing research’s position as a trusted partner.

MREB members, access more details on how Microsoft’s researchers present forward-looking recommendations.

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