Editor’s note: Sean Campbell is CEO of market research firm Cascade Insights, Portland, Ore., and host of the B2B Market Research Podcast. This is an edited version of a piece that originally appeared here under the title, “Blow up the readout.”

How often have you sat through a long, dry readout and wondered, “When is this going to end?” After a presentation, how often do you realize you spent the whole meeting answering e-mails? After the readout, how often do you have a new list of actions to consider?

Unfortunately, I’ll bet you answered these questions “often,” “frequently” and “next to never.”

Old Way or New WayTo address this problem, let’s start with the basics. A readout is not simply a presentation of research findings. It’s the time when you have the most opportunity to impact business decisions.

Often, senior-level stakeholders will participate in the research effort for the first time during the readout. These are the folks with the power to make the business changes you’re advocating, so the readout is exceedingly important to get right. That’s actually an advantage. Your audience will arrive at the readout interested to know what you did and what you found out.

On the downside, your audience probably won’t read the findings deck in advance without some nudging. I realize that many researchers feel uncomfortable implying that reading the deck before the readout is mandatory. Usually, that results in a team of stakeholders sitting through a lecture when they would rather have a discussion.

You don’t have to live with this set of circumstances though. There is a way to get your stakeholders to read the findings deck before the readout. Simply explain the benefits of doing so and stick to it.

Leaders make cost/benefit trade-offs all the time. If they don’t play ball, reschedule the readout. This suggestion may make you nervous but think about it. Meetings are rescheduled all of the time. Why waste a chance to show that all that money spent on the research was worth it?

Make it clear that you’re starting your readout from an expectation that people have already read the deck. Establish that you will begin the meeting under the assumption that your stakeholders know what’s been researched and understand the basics of the methodology used. That way, the readout can be used as a discussion of the most actionable outcomes from the research. That’s a much more productive session than a recitation of the findings deck.

This readout model may spook you but consider how successfully schools have been using a similar model: flipped classrooms.

The flipped classroom model reverses the traditional arrangement of lecture followed by homework assignments. In the flipped model, the homework is what would traditionally be seen as lecture material. Students are expected to read and/or review video-based lectures on their own time. The in-class time is focused on applying the material through exercises, projects or discussions.

This is almost the complete opposite of traditional education models. In the recent past, students were told what they needed to know in lecture and then they did their homework at home in an effort to apply it. This led to legions of fourth-graders trying to do long division at the dinner table long into the evening. While this worked out alright for some students, it didn’t work for every learning style.

In corporate America, we’ve got the same problem.

The beauty of the flipped classroom is that it rewards learning through engagement rather than simply rewarding passive listening. We can apply these lessons to readouts for market research projects as well.

The traditional readout assumes that information dissemination is the primary goal of the readout. This traditional model assumes that discussion happens mostly outside of the readout, in the hallway and via e-mail. The problem with this model is that the discussion about the implications of the research and how it should be used happens after the researchers have left the room or the building. Frankly, that’s crazy. The researchers have done the work and have a valuable perspective to add- especially if they know the industry and have a sector focus.

For this reason, I strongly advocate a flipped readout – stakeholders read the deck on their own time and come to the readout prepared to discuss what to do with the findings. Everyone is in for a more interesting hour this way, and your stakeholders get a bigger bang for their research budget buck.

Here are a few tips to successfully flip your readout:

  1. Share the findings deck in advance. In addition, include a tracking beacon in your e-mail so you’ll know if it’s been opened or not before stakeholders attend the readout. If no one opens the deck, push back the meeting until they have a chance to. You could also use a service like Attach.io to share the deck so that you know exactly which portions of the deck were engaged with the most, whether it was read in advance of the meeting, etc.
  2. Pre-record the findings presentation. Share the recording with stakeholders a week or so before the discussion. This will ensure that stakeholders come to the readout prepared to discuss what to do with the research findings.


To summarize, the benefits of flipping the readout are:

  • Better engagement with stakeholders. It’s much more fun to hash out solutions to problems than to be lectured.
  • A quicker path to decision-making. When stakeholders are required to review the findings deck prior to the meeting, you can focus on decisions to impact in the readout. Otherwise, these important discussions, if they happen at all, depend on the right hallway or Slack channel at the right time.
  • Better use of stakeholder time. Let that hour you have with all of the stakeholders present be one where they engage with each other, your team and the research vendor. That’s a more worthwhile use of time than a lecture.


A flipped readout is relatively painless to implement and yields hugely positive results. The only reason it isn’t more widely adopted is inertia. Change is hard but if the education sector can do it, so can corporate America. Don’t do your readouts the way everyone else has done it for years. It’s time to make a change.