How do you explain your research work, share your opinion and give recommendations to an important audience so that you can make a difference and get others, including policymakers, to take up your research?
These were some of the ‘research uptake’ issues addressed at a ResUp Meet Up Symposium and Training Exchange held 9-12 Feb 2015 in Nairobi to explore emerging issues and advance skills and practices in research uptake.
A CGIAR-led half-day training session on ‘key messaging and pitching for impact and influencing decision-makers to take up research’ was held on the last day of the training exchange. Staff from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Potato Center (CIP), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) joined the discussion and shared experiences.
Facilitated by Muthoni U Njiru, knowledge sharing and engagement officer at ILRI, the training focused on how to prepare and deliver a pitch to reach specific audiences. A participatory agenda to stimulate debate, co-learning and new thinking was developed for the meeting. Pitching is an activity that most staff members do regularly – not always to donors – but, for example, in conversations with colleagues or with partners on topics like ‘what we do’ or ‘the benefits of a project’. It is an important skill to have/develop and not just for those who represent organizations in official capacities.
The day started with a keynote from Dennis Garrity, a senior fellow at ICRAF, on the purpose of pitching, its importance and benefits and examples of different pitching experiences. He identified the following simple tips, equating them to ‘the art of seduction’.
- Plan your talking points – talk about investments instead of research. Aim to integrate your objectives with those of your audience to provide a beneficial interaction.
- Build relationships – being too familiar with someone who you have not met before is not advisable. Know your audience and what they are looking for. Do not bombard them with information; one-pagers are more than enough to get the ball rolling.
- Practice – research shows that a higher percentage of successful persuasion depends on the use of non-verbal cues. Have an opening, a middle and a closing with an ‘ask’ that is not overly ambitious. For example, ask to have a meeting to discuss further and not a million dollars to build a school.
The keynote was followed by an interactive session on the ‘good, bad and ugly’ where participants watched trainers Juliet Braslow (CIAT) and Daisy Ouya (ICRAF) role-play two types of pitches, a good pitch and bad pitch. The aim of this session was to help participants identify the dos and don’ts of messaging and delivery.
|· Give too much information (books, proceeding etc.)· Read from a script (aim for two-way conversations)
· Make assumptions
· Blame the decision maker
· Be aggressive
· Look nervous
· Be ambiguous
· Use jargon
· Be blind to culture
|· Create a simple message with a key message· Face-to-face interactions first, before sending an email
· Praise, appeal to ego, complement (seduce)
· Exchange contact details (business cards)
· Be direct
· Get their opinion/view
· Make eye contact
· Create a narrative/story (structure)
· Adapt your pitch to the environment
· Know exactly what you want to share
· Be prepared
· Structure your ask as a recommendation
· Have a clear ask at beginning
· Give targeted material (not pages and pages)
· Offer field/site trips
· Personalize (likeability)
· Understand your audience context
Coupled with an informative presentation, this exercise provided a clear guide on the importance of having a clear message and easy dos and don’ts to keep the participants on the right track.
Groups of participants then developed pitches to deliver in a variation of the ‘Dragon’s Den’, a format loosely based on a popular TV series where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a group of investors. This exercise encouraged participants to build their capacity in communicating research, key messages and recommendations effectively. They walked away with a better understanding of how to generate a short message summary of their work and how to clarify what they are asking of their listener.
The demand for this kind of training is clear! The training room was packed full of 40 participants representing a wide range of research and development organizations who found the workshop extremely useful, with many saying it exceeded their expectations. Another common survey response was that the training should have been held over a full day.
This kind of training is becoming a popular CGIAR offering (see links to past variations ‘the art of pitching webinar, tips from previous ‘Dragon’s Den’ events in Nairobi and Lima) and we look forward to offering it again soon. Get in touch if you would like more information or to partner on a future training.
An overview the ResUp conference discussions can be found on the ResUp Storify page.
With contributions from ILRI’s Paul Karaimu, CIP’s Sara Quinn, ICRAF’s Daisy Ouya and CIAT’s Juliet Braslow.