It's Not Enough to Collect the Data:
Presenting Evaluation Findings So That They Will Make A Difference
Suppose you have hired an external evaluator or are doing an internal evaluation for your program yourself. After all of the hard work is done evaluating the program, how will you present the findings so that they can be used to make decisions about the program. Ultimately, your task is to provide information that can be used in decision making, either concerning how to change what does not work in a program that is already carried out or to better design and implement new programs. The way you choose to present the results of your evaluation should be based on:
- Who are your audiences (i.e., the funder, the staff, etc.)
- What kind of information they need (e.g., evidence that the program has achieved its goals)
- How they plan to use it (e.g., to prove that the program is effective)
- When they need it
- The data that you gather can be (please see Designing an Evaluation: Issues to Consider): Quantitative (numerical, such as test scores, etc.), Qualitative (non-numerical, such as anecdotal material). And can be presented in either a verbal or a written format—and, usually, both methods are used.
When you present your findings in front of an audience, for instance during a workshop or a focus group, you should choose a format that suits your audience. However, some general strategies are usually recommended:
- Convey a serious content in a way that is not too formal
- Use language that is as simple and clear as possible (e.g., avoid jargon)
- Do not provide unnecessary details
- Use as many visuals as you can
- Involve your audience (e.g., use activities, ask questions, etc.)
- Be friendly and use some humor when possible
- Check the timing (a long talk gives a bad impression as a too short one)
- Practice in advance—so you will reduce your stage fright and
- Ask someone to give you feedback
The written presentation of your findings is usually a final report. To be useful—and used—a written report should:
- Provide the relevant information—and nothing more
- Be clear, readable, and appealing
- Be suitable to the style and needs of those who will use it.
Thus, writing the final report you should:
- Provide a brief summary of the content
- Present the most important information first
- Avoid unnecessary details
- Use a concise style—use short sentences and paragraphs
- Use a simple language—avoid jargon, use active rather than passive verbs
- Use visuals, colors, bullets, nice fonts that can appeal to the users.
Visuals are indispensable for an effective presentation of the evaluation findings, whether you choose the verbal or the written format. They :
- Are easier to understand than written text
- Can provide a greater amount of information at once
- Simplify complex arrays of data
- Capture the audience's attention
- Add elegance and value to your presentation.
Tables and graphs:
- Are used to summarize and clarify the information provided by quantitative data. Sometimes, qualitative data as quotations, can be added to further clarify or explain the graphical representation of numerical information.
- They should be prepared first—the written text or the verbal presentation should be used to explain the graphs and tables.
- Should be clearly and carefully titled, labeled, defined with foot notes, etc, so that they can be self-explanatory.
Software like Excel 97, or SPSS 8.0 allow the use of several options in terms of colors, fonts, symbols, etc. to make graphs and tables appealing and interesting.
You can use several kinds of figures—however, maps are always worth to be included because they:
- Are extremely powerful, immediate and elegant ways to present your results to the audience.
- Can convey an infinite array of different information
- Can be used to show changes brought about by the program (in number of people being reached, in neighborhoods being changed, etc.)
Several GIS (Geographic Information System) software packages are now available and can be used in the presentation of evaluation results.
It's always a good idea to choose a metaphor (a map, journey, or mountain for example; please see How to Focus an Evaluation) to represent the essence of :
- What you have focused on in the evaluation
- What you have learned from the program evaluation process
- How the evaluation process was carried out
The best metaphor then:
- Is simple
- Is familiar to the audience
- Is easy to relate to the program evaluation issues being addressed
- Reduces the complexity of the information provided
by Manuela Ivaldi