Once upon a time in land far, far away called Dataland lived a happy group of people called data scientists. From sunrise to sunset they spend their time deep within the data mines. They are a curious bunch and are incredibly talented at solving complex problems fueled by the data they find. Solving data-driven problems is their passion and finding data gems is their greatest reward.
One day the King of Dataland came to the data mine and asked to hear what they’ve found, but they quickly realized that the King didn’t understand the intricacies of data the way data scientists do! They begin to panic thinking, “how can it be done!?” – until one brave scientist steps forward and suggests they turn their discoveries into a captivating fairytale story anyone would enjoy.
Data Storytelling is the art of translating and effectively communicating data findings into a digestible and relatable way. While not all data stories will be as compelling as a heroes’ journey through a fairytale world, following a story arc fueled by insights and visuals will help you paint a clear picture of what needs to be communicated to the right people. When narrative, visuals, and data intersect that’s when you get the opportunity to explain, enlighten, and engage your audience. The result? Everyone lives happily ever after.
Whether you are a data scientist from Dataland or you are considered your company’s resident data expert, we have identified 5 simple considerations to master the art of data storytelling that will translate well to those that matter most.
1. Know your audience. This is huge. You have to know who you are talking to and adjust your delivery method based on your audience. If you are talking to a group of no-nonsense decision makers, we recommend sticking to the facts and presenting them in a straightforward, yet understandable manner. But, if you’re presenting to creatives that like and appreciate a little flair, create a fun storyline around your data – it makes for an interesting and unforgettable presentation.
2. Follow a story arc. Like any good story there is always a beginning, middle, and end – laying the groundwork, presenting the problem, and identifying the solution. No matter how much you think you don’t need a structure to your data story – you do. It’s necessary to talk about how you found the data, what problem the data is solving, and how the data informs future actions and decisions. You always want your audience walking away with a happily ever after, right? A story arc will get you there.
3. Stick to the facts. While initial data insights can be confusing to people that don’t live and breathe data, they definitely want to see the high-level facts that matter (just don’t take them too far into the weeds). Notable statistics and meaningful insights will support your narrative and will keep your audience engaged. Don’t add unnecessary noise – it’s distracting and not helping anyone. We recommend sticking to what the data is telling you and translating it into statistics and understandable insights that your audience will appreciate and understand.
4. Visuals. It’s one thing to report your findings and it’s another thing entirely to show them. Always incorporate charts, numbers, and graphics when data storytelling – it’ll drive your key points home more effectively (and will add a little visual interest – that goes a long way!).
5. What’s your point? You’ve done a great job clearly communicating your story, presenting the facts, and showing compelling visuals – now it’s time to bring it home. While the story itself is important, the way you communicate what should happen next is key. Restate your main points and offering suggestions on what action should be taken based on your findings is necessary. Essentially, get to the point – your audience will appreciate the forethought.
If you’re a data geek you live and breathe data insights and analytics on a daily basis. You love it, you get it, you live for it. By mastering the art of data storytelling, your decisions makers will be well informed and able to make the best decisions moving forward.