You may develop a number of reports, in different formats, for different sets of stakeholders. Work with your primary users and stakeholders to determine when and in what form they want to receive evaluation reports. Also determine who you will involve in viewing draft and interim reports.
Points to consider in choosing the format are:
- How does the audience prefer to receive information – text, graphics, numbers, written, visual or a mixture of all of these?
- What is the preferred length (or duration if an audio/visual presentation)?
- What access does the audience have to information technology (this may inform whether you use web-based formats)?
- What is the purpose of the report and how does this inform the choice of format? Purposes may include:
- keeping stakeholders engaged during an evaluation
- providing feedback to and maintaining the commitment of people collecting data during implementation
- flagging emerging findings and implications for ongoing program development and for the evaluation
- presenting interim recommendations
- seeking feedback on draft reports to assist in identifying causal factors
- informing planning, funding or policy decisions
- broader dissemination of findings to support use
Traditionally, written reports have been the main form of media used for evaluation reports. However, we now know that the full technical report is not enough to meet the learning needs of our audiences. The presentation of your report should help your reader quickly and easily understand your key points.
Increasing report readability makes it more likely that readers will be able to learn from the report.
Reporting in the order of importance allows readers to easily access those things which they are most interested in. These are generally the findings and recommendations which, therefore, should appear early in the report. Less relevant details, such as the evaluation background and methodology, belong in an appendix or can even posted online for reference.
- Aide memoire: A short document that summarizes key findings and recommendations.
- Executive Summaries: including an executive summary which is a shortened version of the full report.
- Final Reports: ensuring they are readable, straight to the point, and use a writing style that promotes understanding regardless who the target audience is.
- Interim reports: presenting the interim, preliminary, or initial evaluation findings.
- Memos and email: maintaining ongoing communication among evaluation stakeholders through brief and specific messages about a particular issue
- News media communications: sharing news relating to evaluation findings through press releases.
- Newsletters, bulletins, briefs and brochures: highlighting particular findings or angles on an evaluation using shorter communications such as bulletins, briefs, newsletters, blogs and brochures.
- Postcards: collecting information quickly in order to provide a short report on evaluation findings (or an update on progress).
- Website communications: disseminating information such as that coming from evaluations via a range of web based tools.
Presentation audiences are likely to be most interested in only a portion of the full evaluation report, such as the key findings or a lesson learned about evaluation methods. Thus, it is wise to focus the presentation on only that portion, while making the fuller report available to anyone interested.
- Conference: discussing a set topic or theme in a large group of people at a set venue.
- Feedback workshops: a meeting in which stakeholders and evaluators can discuss the evaluation's findings and recommendations.
- Teleconference: facilitating discussion of evaluation findings via telephone.
- Verbal briefings: providing specific information to an audience of interested participants allowing for a structured question and answer format based on that information.
- Videoconference: gathering data, communicating information about an evaluation, reporting findings, receiving feedback, and planning for utilization.
- Web-conference: bringing people together from around the world using the internet.
- Displays and exhibits: drawing attention to particular issues and assisting in community engagement.
- Flip Charts: providing a useful way of interacting with your audience and therefore allowing you to present your own ideas and results and also to immediately record input, feedback and ideas from your audience.
- Posters: presenting your evaluation findings in the form of a poster provides a good opportunity to get your message across in a clear way while also providing opportunities for feedback.
- PowerPoint: organizing and communicate information coming from evaluations in the form of a slide show which can be used at a meeting or conference.
- Video: highly flexible and immediate medium which allows you to make an emotional meaningful connection with the audience.
Creative and/or interactive
Presenting your report in a creative or interactive manner may be the most relevant means to get your information across if the context allows for it. You may consider working with an artist, a graphic recorder or designer to produce creative or interactive displays.
- Cartoons: allowing readers to see a point differently, add humour, and break up large sections of prose.
- Data dashboards: a visual communication tool that is best used for monitoring progress against goals; information is regularly refreshed and updated, often in ‘real time’.
- Infographics: displaying complex data and messages visually in a simple manner for easy comprehension.
- Photographic reporting: making your report more appealing to readers and also making the key messages more memorable by including photographs.
- Poetry: communicating the experience of participants can be achieved by presenting some of the findings in the form of a poem.
- Reporting in pictures: presenting information in an alternative way and therefore increasing understanding of your results.
- Theatre: communicating evaluation findings and engaging intended users in responding to them.
Simple graphic design principles applied to your reporting documents will ensure readability and maximize learning. You can use design elements and visual depictions of your data to assist the reader.
- Arrangement: aligning elements on a page or slide so they are organized and systematic
- Colour: selecting colours thoughtfully can bring attention to key information and encourage interpretation
- Images: creating or inserting graphics to complement narrative and make a visual impact
- Text: applying fonts and style changes to make reading legible and thinking easier
Also refer to the task visualising data to find options.
- A Short Primer on Innovative Evaluation Reporting: This book by Kylie Hutchinson outlines four principles for communicating results effectively and ways to make your key messages stickier. It also presents a range of innovative options for reporting.
- Visual language for designers: presents visual design principles based on the science of how people perceive, process and understand graphics.(Connie Malamed)
- Evaluation Report Layout Checklist: distils the best practices in graphic design, particularly created for use on evaluation reports. (Stephanie D. H. Evergreen)
- American Evaluation Association’s Potent Presentations Initiative: this site contains several helpful tools for evaluators designing and delivering presentations, including a set of Slide Design Guidelines. (AEA)