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Creating Presentations for Stakeholders

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A column by Janet M. Six
January 18, 2021

This month in Ask UXmatters, our expert panel discusses how to create presentations for development teams versus executive teams. Since both teams support the creation of products, but deal with different aspects of creating them, they need different information that is tailored to the goals of their role in the company.

Development teams need information that affects their implementation efforts directly, including many design details. You must tailor the information you present to developers to the team’s current stage of the design process. In contrast, the executive team needs to understand how your work fits into the company’s objectives. To help busy executives absorb the information you’re providing, your presentations should begin with your conclusions.

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Every month, in my column Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: [email protected].

The following experts have contributed answers to this month’s edition of Ask UXmatters:

  • Keelin Billue—UX Researcher at Saggezza
  • Joel Grossman—Chief Technology Officer at Reigning Champs
  • Caroline Jarrett—Owner and Director at Effortmark Limited; UXmatters columnist

Q: In what ways are your UX design presentations for development teams different from those for the executive team?—from a UXmatters reader

“For all presentations, it’s important to think about the needs of the people you’re presenting to,” replies Caroline. “Typically, the development team and the executive team want to know some of the same things and some different things.

“A development team may want to know things such as the following:

  • Which areas of our work are relevant to your work?
  • Do these changes affect mostly content or mostly front-end development, or do they impact the back-end and architecture?

“An executive team may want to know things such as the following:

  • Is this thing likely to deliver on the business case we’ve agreed on?
  • Will it be ready for the launch date so we can safely align with our marketing plan?

“Both teams probably want to know the following:

  • What do you want me to do on the basis of this presentation?
  • When do I have to do it?
  • How would that benefit the organization?

“But the actions that a development team might take—such as building some software, making some changes to existing software, or planning the activities for the next sprint—are rather different from the ones that the executive team might take—such as agreeing to a future plan, providing funding, or deciding to accept or cancel a proposal.

“You should also consider that people working in different roles look for different levels of evidence, depending whether they agree or disagree with your findings or what you’re asking them to do. If they’re in agreement with you and what you’re asking them to do aligns with what they’ve already planned, your message is essentially, ‘Good news, nothing to worry about,’ so they might not look at your evidence very critically—especially if your colleagues are busy. But if you’re challenging their current plans or assumptions, you’ve probably got a lot more work to do. At least some of that work needs to happen before you create the presentation. Otherwise, they might see a challenge as bad news and, if you deliver it in a negative way in your presentation, they might resist what you want to do.”

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Presentations for Developers

“UX presentations for the development team should be as detailed as possible, but scoped for the stage of the design process,” recommends Joel. “For presentations to engineers during the early stages of prototyping, UX designers should speak to a design’s intent and the key jobs to be done for the user interface and sequences, without specifying the precise set of mechanisms for executing on them. Later on during the design process, you could skip the presentation altogether and, instead, use pair-design sessions, working on a product design collaboratively, using design tools or by creating code that you can share live.”

“In any field, it is important to create presentations and present ideas and findings with your audience in mind,” advises Keelin. “The audience for UX presentations can range from development and product teams to executive teams.

“You’ll typically show presentations that you create for development and product teams during and throughout the product-development lifecycle. A product-development lifecycle might involve creating a new product that requires in-depth exploratory research that you would need to explain to your team. However, UX-design work for existing products might require less holistic research and design. So, because of the iterative nature of design and increased communication between User Experience, Product, and Development, these presentations might be more granular and technical, as well as more frequent. You must make development and product teams aware of features that are not working for customers and adjust those features accordingly.

“A presentation to a development or product team might include information about the current point in the project lifecycle, research questions that you need to ask or that your research has answered, a test plan, research findings, and recommendations for the next iteration of the product design. The presentation might also include a discussion of outstanding questions regarding technical capabilities.”

Presentations for Executives

“UX presentations for executive teams should follow Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle,” answers Joel. “Start with the answer—in this case, either design recommendations or a synthesis of your research. Then aggregate and summarize your supporting arguments for a design solution or your research findings. Finally, if necessary, include the supporting design or research work that supports your ideas.”

“Presentations for your executive team are typically more holistic, but also are simplified and focused on outcomes rather than processes,” adds Keelin. “Your UX team might need to present a primer on UX terms and methods and provide the reasoning behind specific design and research methods. For example, if a team uses a Software Usability Score (SUS) when conducting UX research, it is important to explain what a SUS score is and why it is valuable.

A presentation to an executive team should typically include higher-level data that is easily digestible and focus on findings and recommendations. In both cases, it is important to provide quotations or video clips of research participants’ providing feedback so all of your stakeholders can empathize with participants.” 

Product Manager at Tom Sawyer Software

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Janet M. SixDr. Janet M. Six helps companies design easier-to-use products within their financial, time, and technical constraints. For her research in information visualization, Janet was awarded the University of Texas at Dallas Jonsson School of Engineering Computer Science Dissertation of the Year Award. She was also awarded the prestigious IEEE Dallas Section 2003 Outstanding Young Engineer Award. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications and the Kluwer International Series in Engineering and Computer Science. The proceedings of conferences on Graph Drawing, Information Visualization, and Algorithm Engineering and Experiments have also included the results of her research. Janet is the Managing Editor of UXmatters.  Read More

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