Storytelling With Data: Focus on the High Points!

When you hear the word “data”, what do you think of? Most people think of facts, statistics, charts, variables or other pieces of information. Researchers are quite adept at producing data. When conducting a survey or collecting feedback, there is always lots of data! The challenge isn’t how to come up with more data, but rather, how to turn those individual facts, statistics, or items of information into meaningful, useful stories to leverage the power of storytelling for your audience!

When you hear the word “data”, what do you think of? Most people think of facts, statistics, charts, variables or other pieces of information. Researchers are quite adept at producing data. When conducting a survey or collecting feedback, there is always lots of data! The challenge isn’t how to come up with more data, but rather, how to turn those individual facts, statistics, or items of information into meaningful, useful stories to leverage the power of storytelling for your audience!

 

A few things to consider when storytelling with data to improve your storytelling skills:

Assess the data and narrow the findings down… to the high points!

Nothing is more uninspiring than listening to someone drone on about every small facet of a study in painstaking detail or focusing on just one type of graph or a 3D pie chart. Get to the point by carefully determining, and then succinctly articulating and drawing attention to the major themes, patterns, and high points!

 

Weave the high points together by connecting the dots!

Next, connect the high points together for the recipient. Think of each finding as a dot to connect with the others to show the full picture. Create a compelling story and use numerous real-world examples! Use creative visual representations of the data (think visualization!) rather than simple, ineffective graphs and charts! Create a high-impact visual story and go beyond just using the conventional tools! Test this out on a few people before the final presentation, session or workshop to make sure that your artistry is understandable.

 

After painting the picture, show them how TO TAKE ACTION!

Once you have painted a clear and interesting picture of what the data means, help the audience using the findings with an actionable understanding of what they should focus on next. What are the lessons to learn from the data? Although looking at a map, for instance, can be instructive, if you are planning a trip you need to determine how to get to the destination. Same thing applies here—whoever commissioned the research project wants to get to the destination, and it is your job to help them arrive. Provide concrete steps the audience can take based on the findings.

 

This is a pretty simple method with a straightforward lesson…tell compelling, action-inspiring stories! But in my many years as a student of working with data and storytelling, it is amazing how many times I have seen this process fall apart in practice. It isn’t enough to conduct a great research study. We must use our skills and tools as business professionals to paint a picture helping the audience clearly understand the story being told, and the resulting conclusions, in order to do something meaningful with the findings and help move people to action! Otherwise all of our complicated analysis, details, business intelligence, and valuable content will go to waste rather than help provide positive business outcomes.

 

If you need help with effective data storytelling or want to improve your storytelling abilities, we can help. To learn more about our approach at NUMINSIGHTS LLC, visit our website today.

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