Welcome to Data Storytelling 101. Does your job involve looking at “what’s” presented in reports and exploring the “why” and “how” of it? What good are insights unless shared, explored, pondered upon and invariably lead to positive action? Data Storytelling is all about presenting your findings in a palatable way to your audience. If this is your first, it’d do you well to remember these basic guidelines on how to nail Data Storytelling!
Conventional report limitations
To begin with, why can’t you just show people dashboards and spreadsheets? Simply because it only carries the “what”. Sharing insights is primarily to enlighten the audience about the “why” and “how” of a business problem or challenge.
“They lack narrative – that’s where you come in.”
And before we delve into the DOs, here’s what data storytelling is NOT.
- Data Storytelling doesn’t require you to become J.K Rowling – think of it as piecing together a puzzle in a visually appetizing manner.
- And it certainly isn’t a PowerPoint presentation full of stats and visualizations.
“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.” – Stephen Few
5 ways to great storytelling
Two questions you should be asking yourself before getting started are:
- Who is my audience?
- What piques their interest?
A clear insight on these two questions will give you a clear direction to start with. This is as simple as talking about math to a bunch of historians – would you? So, the first step is to find out what your audience likes. Start by exploring their demographics, designations, business challenges and prominent business questions. It’d be useful to get one-on-one interviews with stakeholders.
Bad data could cost businesses 30% of revenue, according to a research by Ovum. Remember this 4-step process to cleansing bad data: Analysis, De-duplication, Standardisation, Enhancement (we’ll talk more about these in an upcoming blog). These stages are all about but identifying inconsistencies, getting rid of duplicates, bringing in standardization and enhancing the model.
Much like the illustration, there are multiple angles of perceiving the data at hand. If you’re familiar with an age-old BI problem of snapshots explosion, you’d see through this point right away. There are two ways analysts delve into storytelling –
• Dissecting data to prove a known theory or hunch
• Open ended exploration to identify patterns
Both are useful techniques and have their own set of evils associated. The damage control on the first one is easy but the second one can go out of hand since the human brain is a pattern powerhouse. While the first kind seems innocuously straightforward, inexperienced analysts will tend to torture data just to prove a point – bypassing the truth in favor of what appeals as a strong conclusion. Steer clear of both pitfalls and concern yourself with the quest for truth.
Presenting a compelling story in a confusing way will get your audience nowhere. Identify the right visualizations (watch this space for a link to a quick guide on choosing the right visualizations). The internet has a wealth of information on how to choose the right visualization. Additionally, never clutter your slides and incite information numbness into your audience.
Weave your story with 2-3 statistics per slide and ensure they all complement the information presented by each other.
Say what you intended to say. Don’t keep pulling slide after slide, throwing statistics at your audience who end up playing victims. Remember “The Big Idea” needs to be presented! Consider the fact that you have 3 minutes to draw attention to the issue or pattern at hand. From there you have another 3 minutes to concoct the impact and a final 3 minutes to wrap your story, either with a conclusion or a course of action.
Hope this helps! Watch out for supporting articles coming soon! And in case you need help with data storytelling, well you’re here and there’s nobody better than Amtex BI to help you out!