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Emma Donery
Emma Donery

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The Art of Data Storytelling 🧚

“facts and figures” into “story”

Data has become a buzz word in today’s world and has become one of the most valuable business assets. With data, businesses are able to get insights that make them make guided decisions that have seen their success against their competitors.

“The ability to take data-to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to communicate it — that’s going to be a hugely important skills in the next decades” — Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google

The good thing is you do not need to be an English major to be able to tell a compelling data story. As Hal has emphasized, the ability to find a valuable insight and then able to share it effectively is going to be a huge important skill, or in my opinion already is an essential and effective skill.

Are you a looking forward to tell compelling stories with data? This article is intended for anyone who works with data and has to communicate it to others. We are going to look at the key components of data storytelling, why storytelling is an impactful communication tool, and how to craft a compelling narrative of your own. Data Storytelling is the next big thing.

What is data storytelling? 🤔

“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.” — Stephen Few

What comes to mind when you hear the term “data analysis”? Your thoughts could immediately turn to combing through spreadsheets, putting algorithms into practice, and performing mathematical calculations — all “hard talents” of data analysis. However, without their soft skill partners, hard skills are useless. Data storytelling is a skill that is necessary in order to effectively express the story that the data tells. It is not sufficient to merely examine data.

Data storytelling is the concept of building a compelling narrative based on complex data and analytics which help support the message of your story to influence and inform a particular audience

“The goal is to provide inspiring information that moves people to action” — Guy Kawasaki

Data Story?

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today”— Robert McKee

Data stories are narratives that explain how and why data changes over time — often through visuals. However, making excellent charts and data presentations is only one aspect of data storytelling. It’s about communicating insights that deliver real value

Data stories vs. data visualizations

Data stories are good for conveying complex information in an easily understandable way. Visuals help the audience absorb, digest, and understand complex data points faster and easier than if the same data was provided in a table or text format.

Elements of a data story

These three elements compliment each other.

  • Data

Data is the building block of every data story. We must have the accurate data, to reach correct insights

  • Narratives

The linear structure of your data storytelling will be determined by your narrative and environment. Narrative focuses on the straightforward language used to convey the facts and can be thought of as giving the data a voice. Each piece of data is a protagonist and a character in a narrative with a unique tale to tell.

  • Visuals

Visualizations help uncover trends and convey them in a comprehensible way. They reveal trends and patterns in datasets, which are not easily seen in the rows and columns of spreadsheets.

Why data storytelling is important

  • Helps communicate complex ideas and simplify (and accelerate) the decision-making process for stakeholders.

  • Providing a human touch to your data.

  • Adds value to your data and insights.

  • It Boosts Client Communication & Engagement

How to Craft a Compelling Data Story

(i) Identify your story

First you have to uncover a story worth telling. You can start by formulating a question or a hypothesis, then gather and delve into pertinent data to uncover solutions.

Approaches that may help you to uncover your story

  • Look for any interesting correlations and connections between data points

  • Identify trends — they help you indicate the direction by which something is changing or developing

  • Draw comparisons to uncover interesting correlations and relationships

  • Look for outliers (data that does not fit with the rest of your dataset)

  • Pay attention to data that is counterintuitive — Any data that surprises you

(ii) Be Aware of your audience

Your data must be relevant and interesting to your intended audience. Your audience’s age, demographics, job, and subject matter expertise will affect how they understand and respond to your stories (and should inform how you tell your stories)

Ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience?

  • Is this narrative relevant to my audience?

  • Have they heard it before?

(iii) Build your narrative

As with any good story, a data tale needs a beginning, a middle, an end, and some actionable insights. Your data story has to follow a formula:

  • Context

What is the situation ❓

  • Characters

Who are the key players ❓

  • Problem

What is the conflict ❓

  • Solutions / Recommendations

What are the key actionable insights ❓

How can the problem be solved ❓

Make sure you tell your story in a linear fashion

(iv) Use visual to present and clarify your message

Make sure to chose visuals that are easy for your audience to understand and engage with the data.

You can visualize your data using:

  • Scatterplots

  • Bar graphs

  • Pie charts

  • Flow charts

  • Infographics

  • Road maps

Data storytelling tools

Podcasts about Data Storytelling

Final Thoughts

Instead of handing your team a data spreadsheet and a list of figures, think about how you may activate different brain regions. You may make your arguments more memorable and actionable by using data storytelling to elicit an emotional response on a brain level. It is possible to produce captivating data tales that inspire change by fusing the finest practices for visualization, data analysis, and storytelling.

Happy storytelling 😍

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Top comments (2)

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cicirello profile image
Vincent A. Cicirello

Nice overview of data stories. Shows to make good data stories need to be able to combine the technical skills necessary to do the data visualization well, with less technical skills like written communications, creativity, etc.

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emma_donery profile image
Emma Donery Author

Sure Vincent. Data + Visuals + Narrative = Compelling story. Any businesses that values the art of using data to understand its trend wins all time

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