The skeleton (from Greek σκελετός, skeletós “dried up”) is the body part that forms the supporting structure of an organism.’

‘Supporting structure’ – that’s the key, I believe, to excellence in shaping all sorts of deliverables, and in my MR world these are the likes of proposals, discussion guides, questionnaires and debriefs.

However, utilising a skeleton is not only important to us, on agency side, but has also tremendous value for our clients and addresses common client problems head-on. For example, having a supporting structure in place early in the research process gives stakeholders the opportunity to feed into important documents, such as discussion guides and questionnaires, and therefore minimises the risk of over-filled discussion guides right from the start.

As an example, I recently shared a skeleton discussion guide with our client, who was then able to discuss it with her internal stakeholders. This allowed for engagement and enabled them to fully align, plus it facilitated the communication of areas where these wider internal stakeholders were required to provide input and stimulus. Sharing this information early on with a simple one-page document clearly had great value for all.

Skeletons are not only integral at discussion guide stage, they are also incredibly effective to reducing the discussion topics right down to the core elements of the story to be told, which is of utter importance for the client researcher. Identifying the core elements is key in lending clarity to the story and ensures that all team members on client and agency side are aligned on the findings and the story to tell. This crucial process in the development of the research presentation helps minimise information overload as well as ensures information is excluded which would not add clear value to the story.

Our very own Tessa Brayford and Cathy Haw recently led a training workshop for BHBIA on how to bring research presentations to life. Some of the key areas discussed were the importance of the story to be told, its core and how to best communicate it. What better way to achieve this than with the use of a skeleton. A simple one-page summary of the key insight / topic to be covered and an illustration of the flow of the story to be told – the beginning, middle and the end.

I strongly believe that by using a support structure along every step of the way, and with the continual input of client stakeholders, we are able to produce the best possible key deliverables on every single research project.


By Victoria McWade

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