Creating an annual report that will capture attention

News | March 29, 2017

By: April Weiner, MBA, Foundation Manager of the National Court Reporters Foundation

In the age of the Internet, text messaging, and social media, humans have perfected the art of skimming. It’s been scientifically proven that the human attention span is 8 seconds, according to research conducted by Microsoft. And that research was conducted in 2015, so considering the downward trend in attention spans from 12 seconds in 2000, by now we might be down to just 7 seconds.

This isn’t great news because reading the preceding paragraph alone took me 10 seconds—and I wrote it, so I could read it faster. Basically, the aforementioned study would suggest that I’ve already lost all of my readers.

If you are still reading, then Is your annual report longer than the first paragraph of this article? Of course, it is—which means you’ll likely lose your readers pretty quickly, too, unless you provide something that will attract their attention and hold it longer than that 8-second average.

That something is images. The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings eerily true for anyone charged with writing content (for the web, for social media, for annual reports, etc.).  Enter the infographic. If you aren’t familiar with the term (it’s okay to admit that, I had to explain the concept to executive leadership and Board members when I pitched the idea), an infographic is an image that represents data or information. It’s essentially a chart, but it’s more engaging and visually appealing than a bar graph or histogram that probably comes to mind with the word “chart.”

Ethos3, self-described “presentation champions” created an infographic detailing the importance of using images to convey messages. Skimming the infographic helps make my case, but I’ll summarize some key findings: “90 percent of information sent to the brain is visual”; people retain “80 percent of what they see” versus “20 percent of what they read’; “40 percent of people respond better to visual information than plain text”; and people will be “40 times more likely to share” visual content on social media.

With this in mind, we at the National Court Reporters Foundation decided to create an infographic of our own, recapping what our organization accomplished in 2016. In addition to all of the benefits that infographics provide as outlined above, our infographic, which we dubbed “2016 in Review,” is optimal for all communication forms (email, social media, and print), with some minor size and orientation tweaks.

Our donors loved it. We’ve received so much positive feedback about the infographic this year, and I don’t recall any feedback from the text version last year. Since our programs don’t change significantly from year to year, it seems that the presentation is what made the difference in capturing our donors’ attention this year. Avoiding the use of “annual report” in the title, which likely conjures up visions of long, uninteresting content, probably didn’t hurt either.  Our donors just want to know that their money is being put to good use, which is accomplished just as well, arguably better, in the infographic than in a text report.

Writing comes easily to me, but I know it doesn’t for many people. If you’re in the latter camp, you’ll definitely appreciate only having to craft bullet points for a graphic designer to create the infographic around, rather than a pages-long report.

With all of the staff time and expense that goes into producing an annual report, let’s make sure other people outside of the organization will appreciate (i.e. read) the final product, too. Given the human attention span, your donors will enjoy the ease of skimming that an infographic provides, which will allow them to remain up-to-date on what they are supporting without taking too much of their time.

And who knows, maybe seeing all of your organization’s accomplishments in a pretty infographic will inspire your donors to make a larger donation this year.



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