It’s difficult to have conversations with strangers. It’s even more difficult to pull of quality consumer research on a small budget. However, I believe that great consumer research involves great conversational skills as well as embracing the art of presenting.

My meaning of “presenting” is an interaction with an audience involving the formation of a big idea and the collection of feedback.

In my opinion and experience, the sooner you can get over speaking in public on a mission for a bigger idea, the sooner you get your hands on some quality consumer insight. Leverage these insights with your marketing or content management teams to inspire bolder new work.

Feedback is now your friend.

Presenting was a strong trait of mine while in school. I knew I was hideous in math and science, but put me in front of people and that’s when I shined. It was something about the interaction and the opportunity to present an idea or opinion outside of the bounds of a report. Afterwards, you receive some (hopefully) honest feedback about your work and how you could improve next time.

That’s free feedback towards my self improvement and excellence. I love it.

During presentation times, especially in college, I remember two distinct types of performers:

The Get Bys did exactly as their name implied. They did what they needed to skim by the requirements. When paired up with more enthusiastic people, the Get Bys often would volunteer themselves for maybe an introduction or conclusion. They strived for the least amount of work for the most impact. The audience wasn’t much of a factor for these people. The thrill was in getting the task done quickly, and perhaps to pass the class.

The Go-Getters knew what they needed to do in order to complete the task. They seized the moment as a means of communicating an original idea. This was more than an assignment– it was an opportunity to speak your mind to the masses.

If you have always been a Go Getter, I salute you. You can now take those skills and use them to benefit your own consumer research, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I dare you to take the concept thrill of public speaking and tinker with it. Instead of presenting an idea to the masses, take the same mixture of information seeking, curiosity, and bravery to get to know your audience a bit more. Seek out that feedback. Instead of getting you closer to a passing grade, this feedback can now bring some beneficial momentum to your content.

Consumer opinion and feedback continue to proliferate as the next hot social app hits the scene. There are countless opportunities on the web for people to give their opinion on their social network. While you can mine for as much social media data as you’d like, a well-executed, in-person testimonial still can pack quite a punch.

Testimonial time.

There are plenty of blog posts and articles about what makes or breaks a testimonial. Find a medium and format that best suits your style. I enjoy the “reverse testimonial” style of Sean D’Souza. (NOTE: If you have a favorite, let me know via the comments below and I’ll add them to this paragraph citing you and your feedback muse.)

This is where those conversational skills come into play. An eye on what makes a great presentation and capturing a big idea can maximize the return on time spent with willing clients. Just be sure to compensate them for their time. Oh, and don’t forget to say thanks.

Just like a good presentation, practice beforehand! There’s nothing worse than embarrassing yourself in front of one of your beloved clients. It’s especially worse when you have one of those reputations as an expert or authority in something or another. That’s a hit to your cred, rep, swag, steez, etc.

Also, don’t waste any time once you gather and process the information. Boil down your findings into little nuggets of truth about your clients. After you do this a few times, you may start to notice trends and commonalities between these little truth nuggets. Maybe it’s discovering how your clients discover your product or service. Perhaps it’s uncovering in what ways your competitors lost those clients’ business, leading them to you.

Whatever those discoveries may be, they can help you supercharge your messaging. Couple that with a solid strategy and sufficient resources, you can end up with some powerful content.

For the Get Bys in the audience, I hope you can revisit those rusty presentation skills. Re-engineer them into a testimonial seeking machine. Embrace that hunger for seeking the big idea and the discovery of truth about your audience. Use these findings– these insights– to your advantage.