Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sit up and take notice of research - making the late hours worthwhile!

Market researchers aren’t traditionally renowned for being ones to burn the candle at both ends: we’re not working for McKinsey after all (and our salaries reflect this, ha ha!). Occasionally however, there are times when more hours in the day are definitely welcomed to meet those pressing deadlines.

Most of my work relates to continuous tracking projects in key sectors, and therefore one can know to a good degree what work is required when, regarding data checking, queries, and dispatch to clients. These have got to be done on a monthly and quarterly basis, so a bit of forward planning in Outlook will keep you right in terms of how to schedule work and minimising any likely workload clashes.

Occasionally however, things do get tight. Especially when client presentations are scheduled. In one recent week, I had a client presentation, report checking duties (nothing’s ever simple!), a visit from my main client (who’s responsible for about 65% of my work) for a whole afternoon, and an article to write for the trade press.

Although the reports have their deadlines, the presentation takes slightly more priority, for me at least. So, two and a half days to generate the data needed, then make it look nice and pretty in PowerPoint, with accompanying summaries, commentary, animation (but remember children: less is more. Don’t go overboard on animation, use it wisely), then the simple matter of LEARNING what I’m going to be discussing. Two and a half days to do what normally should be given a week’s allocation. The “Mission Impossible” and “A-Team” theme tunes start stirring up in my head…

Needless to say, a fair bit of Lucozade, Pepsi Max (and for good measure, chocolate Hob Nobs), sees you through into the small hours. Three or so hours’ sleep later, and it ‘s time to get up at some ungodly hour to get to the client’s offices on the south coast for 9am. Let’s hope my old friend Mr Adrenaline helps me through the morning presentation. Rock n’ roll…

Thankfully it does – and the presentation goes down a treat with the client, much better than I’d even expected (I really should stop being so cynical). There’s a nice discussion and interaction with the guys and girls from the client, and whilst there’s always the risk of someone asking you a killer question (to which the standard operating procedure of “That’s a good question, let me go back and check, and I’ll get back to you on it”, normally suffices), there’s nothing worse than NO response. I’d rather dodge rotten tomatoes and be subjected to mild heckling than being subjected to silence.

Sometimes I also present in conjunction with other departments. Clients like this as they enjoy an all-round appreciation of “who’s, how’s, and why’s” as well as simply the “what’s and how many’s”. It’s also good for myself and my counterpart in the other department, as we can help each other out and add our opinions to the discussion. Oh, and also offer some additional firepower if we get into a tight spot ! We’re looking to increase the number of ‘joint manoeuvres’ undertaken for client presentations, as it’s more fun, and more engaging and informative for the client.

The presentations are one of the most enjoyable parts to my research work: few things are quite as nice as seeing clients really sit up and take notice of some of the findings and react, “Wow, that’s REALLY interesting, I never knew that at all”. It’s even better when the presentation has officially finished and some nice informal words of praise come your way as laptops and projectors are being packed away.

An unexpected surprise reaches my inbox the following day: one of the chief analysts in yesterday’s presentation has kindly taken the trouble to write to us, thanking us for our time, and praising our presenting and the slides themselves. Needless to say those kinds of emails really give you a lift.
And almost make the pressure and effort beforehand seem worthwhile…