How to Present Survey Results to Your CEO

January 2, 2014

Do you dread presenting your survey results to your CEO? Despite having worked hard on your market research project to collect and analyze the data, do you fear she will not be satisfied with the results, or ignore data all together because she doesn’t like the outcome?

If you’re having trouble communicating your survey results with your CEO, it could be that you are not presenting the key metrics that she actually cares about – metrics that affect revenue or are tied to her job’s performance. Or perhaps there are flaws in your data.

Here are 5 survey steps you can take that will allow you to confidently present your results and gain the trust of your CEO.

5 Tips for Better Survey Results

  1. Have a goal
  2. Have an action plan
  3. Get buy-in
  4. Have a reasonable sample size
  5. Avoid survey bias

Define Your Survey Goal and Objectives

You need to have a clear understanding of the purpose of your research. This is your survey goal. This is what you hope to understand or achieve with your research. Your goal should be tied to a key metric.

For instance, your ultimate goal may be to:

Increase the annual renewal membership of your health club.

This goal is the key metric your CEO is interested in! With this in mind, you can define your survey goal.

Our survey goal tied to this key metric might be:

To determine if our club members are satisfied with their membership and if not, why?

Now we can set our objectives. Think of these as the data points. Be specific and only use objectives that you can measure and are willing to follow through on.

For example, based on our survey goal, our survey objectives might be to:

  • Determine if overall members are satisfied with their membership
  • Determine if members are satisfied with the facility
  • Determine if members are satisfied with the equipment
  • Determine if members are satisfied with the fitness classes offered
  • Determine if members are satisfied with the spa services offered
  • Determine if members are satisfied with the cleanliness of the facility
  • Determine if members are satisfied with the knowledge of the training staff

Your objectives will determine what questions you ask and how you ask them. Our survey questions will look something like this:

  • Overall, how satisfied are members with the club’s facilities?
  • How satisfied are members with the facility’s equipment?
  • How satisfied are members with the fitness classes?
  • How satisfied are members with the spa services?
  • How satisfied are members with the cleanliness of the facility?
  • How satisfied are member with the knowledge of the staff?

You get the idea.

Create an Action Plan

Set a clear action plan for each objective. Plan for all scenarios, especially ones that end in ways your CEO might not want to hear. Make sure that your survey questions are phrased in a manner that allows you to measure the results so you know where action needs to be taken.

For instance, if you receive a significant percentage of members who are not satisfied with your Nautilus machines, be prepared to make an investment in new equipment. If you know you don’t have the budget for new machines, it might not be worth asking questions about them. If a significant proportion of members were not satisfied with the cleanliness of your facility, be prepared to present your cleaning staff with a checklist of items to be taken care of and follow through with a daily inspection. If you know the extra work would require more cleaning staff members, be sure your CEO knows that it could mean hiring more people.

The action that you take based on your survey results is what gives value to your survey. Stick to your objectives and avoid any questions that do not provide a metric to your survey goal or allow you to take action.

Get Stakeholder Buy-In

Once you have defined your objectives and actions that will be taken based on the results, get buy-in from all of the stakeholders involved.

This includes your CEO!

This way, decision-makers will have a chance to approve your survey’s goals and objectives, giving them far less reason to dispute results later. Setting and managing expectations up front will avoid a lot of questioning later as to why you didn’t collect data on a different metric.

Your stakeholders are usually the ones you who will be acting on the data so it is imperative that you get their buy-in if you want to affect change.

Calculate Your Sample Size

The last thing you want when presenting your data to your CEO is for her to question the soundness of your numbers! When planning your survey, it is important to consider the number of responses you need in order to draw statistically sound conclusions.

The number of responses you need is dependent on several factors including your population size, confidence level, and the margin of error you hope to achieve. In general, the larger the sample size the greater precision you have when making inferences about your population.

You probably don’t need as many responses as you think. When collecting responses it is more important that you get a valid sample of respondents and that the selection is random so as to avoid survey bias (more on that below). You also need to consider if you are going to segment your data. If so, you will need to gather a statistically sound number of responses for each segment (population group) that you select.

If you’re not sure how many responses you need to collect, you can reference a sample size calculator or chart, like one found in this Alchemer article. As a general rule, if you have a large population size, 400 responses is usually enough to draw sounds conclusions.

Be sure to discuss sample size with decision-makers before you distribute your survey. We’ve counseled many frustrated clients who have gathered tens of thousands of responses (far more than what’s needed for a statistically sound study), only to have results rejected by decision-makers because they erroneously believed a sample size should be based on a percentage of clients, rather than the “400 magic number” we’ve found.

Avoid Survey Bias

Don’t get caught with leading questions that skew your results and ruin your credibility! This is a common problem if you are emotionally tied or close to the subject matter. You may not even be aware that you have angled a question for a particular answer. You can avoid this by having others who are not as emotionally involved review your survey.

For example: Instead of asking “Our Nautilus machines are old, do you think we should replace them?” ask “Are you satisfied with the quality of our Nautilus machines”

Let your respondents decide for themselves on the matter without your input. Although it may be more economical (and easier to get buy-in) to take an obvious action, taking a more expensive and less obvious action could lead to improved satisfaction and therefore, overall success and return on investment from your survey.

Again, be sure that your sample is sufficiently random to avoid skewed data. Include a fair representation of all segments of your survey sample. If one segment of your population tends to respond differently than another segment (male vs. female for instance) then your results will be skewed if you don’t have a fair representation of both segments.

Also be aware of bias in the interpretation of your data. You probably already had a hypothesis when you designed the survey, but make sure your presentation supports the actual results.

Don’t let your hypothesis become a self-fulfilling prophecy by leading questions toward it! What you thought data was going to show and what it actually says may not be the same.

Hopefully your action plan accounted for all scenarios and you are well prepared.

Confidently Deliver Your Survey Results

By considering the key metrics that matter to your CEO and designing your market research around them, you will have her attention from the start of your presentation. You can now confidently present your survey results knowing that you have a valid sample size, have avoided survey bias, and that decision makers have approved goals and objectives and are ready to act on them.

You already have buy-in, so get to the point! Don’t rehash every detail of the entire implementation process during your presentation. Focus only on the key metrics that affect the bottom line. Then present your action plan. Be prepared with an implementation plan.

Follow up with a report on your membership renewal rate after implementing your plan. Armed with your member’s insight, your action plan should result in an increase. You will look brilliant and gain the credit you deserve!

Share your tips on how to confidently present your survey results to your CEO!

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