How to Combine Data Analysis With Storytelling

Posted by Nick Christou on Jul 15, 2019 10:47:17 AM

There is an oft-quoted saying that “those who tell the stories rule the world.” Effective storytelling has the power to adjust viewpoints, change minds, and motivate actions like no other method of communication.

Can storytelling fit in with something as seemingly mundane and technical as data analytics? Absolutely! Whether you are trying to glean insights on your own or are looking for ways to present actionable insights to stakeholders, portraying a clear, compelling, and evidence-driven story can help you to solidify your findings in your own mind and persuade others of the proper course to take moving forward.

So how can you tell a story using data? Here are 3 basic steps to take:

1. Gather the Data to Tell the Story

In today’s world, it’s all too easy to let “big data” inundate us with a constant flood of numbers, facts, figures, and statistics to the point that we feel overwhelmed and confused. Thus, the first vital step in telling a story with data is to gather all the information that is relevant to your audience and/or objective.

For example, if you are going to present your analysis to a company’s CMO, then you would likely be concerned with the statistics that revolve around engagement, lead generation, and customer conversion rates. On the other hand, a COO may be more interested in intra-company data, such as logistical efficiency, regulatory compliance, and employee satisfaction metrics.

The two most important questions you need to ask in the data gathering phase are:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What problem am I trying to solve?

Once you have the answers to those two questions in hand, it will be much easier to filter out the truly important data from the big stream of information. 


2. Find the Narrative in Your Data Analytics

Once you’ve gathered all the relevant data, it’s time to look for the narrative contained therein. You’ll need to find the “hook,” or an interest-arousing introduction, in order to capture your listeners’ attention from the start of your presentation. Then, you’ll be able to progressively unfold the story in front of the stakeholders, with the support of hard and fast evidence in the form of relevant facts and figures.

It’s important to note that your narrative should be free of bias. Even if your goal is to influence the stakeholders towards a certain course of action, it is imperative that you present your data with complete objectivity, and use reasoning instead of deception to make your point. Be careful that even your graphics and charts are not unintentionally misleading, but accurately convey the reality of the situation.

3. Edit for Clarity and Effect

Finally, it is vital that you present your data in visual form in order to achieve maximum effect. Instead of boring lines of statistics, use bar graphs, pie charts, or other forms of data visualization that will make the same point with greater visceral impact. Using bold (yet tasteful) color schemes and even 3D rendering can help you to accomplish this goal.

Your main concern at this stage is to clearly present your data to the stakeholders in a way that will motivate them to action. You may need to get some help in understanding what your data strategy is, but help is always available.

Great storytellers have the ability to engage their audience in a virtual conversation and lead their listeners down a path of thought that will help them to not only get the point of the narrative, but also reach their own (similar) conclusions in the process. If you implement the 3 steps mentioned above, then you can bring your data analysis into the discussion, not as a lecturer, but as a partner in the conversation.

In the final analysis, an alliance of hard data with persuasive storytelling can hardly be matched.

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If you need help with your data analytics, strategy, or building dashboards and visualizations that allow you to gain crucial insights into the most important parts of your business, contact us today for your free consultation.

Topics: business strategy, data, data management, analytics

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