Data Storytelling: People hear statistics, but they feel stories
Do you have loads of data but aren’t sure how to extract value from it? Are you unsure of how to make sense of all the information in front of you?
Ever considered telling a story with numbers? Stories play a vibrant role in our daily lives – from the entertainment we consume to the experiences we share with others to what we conjure up in our dreams.
Numbers have an important story to tell too but they rely on us to give them a clear and convincing voice. Like stories, your data holds tremendous amounts of potential value but you won’t be able to see it or understand it unless you uncover and translate it into action and business outcomes.
Throughout time, storytelling has proven to be a powerful delivery mechanism for sharing insights and ideas in a way that is memorable, persuasive, and engaging. However, many people struggle with communicating their insights to others because they find it difficult to tell the story of their numbers.
But, we’re here to tell you that being able to take your data, to understand it, process it, extract value from it, visualize it, and communicate it, is invaluable. Unless you can improve the communication of your data insights, no one will act on it and no change will occur.
Data storytelling is associated with data visualizations, infographics, dashboards, data presentations, and more. Too often data storytelling is interpreted as just visualizing data effectively, however, it is much more than just creating visually-appealing data charts. Data storytelling is a structured approach for communicating data insights, and it involves a combination of three key elements: data, visuals, and narrative.
- Narrative: When a narrative is coupled with data, it helps to explain to your audience what’s happening in the data and why a particular insight is important. Context and commentary are often needed to fully appreciate an insight.
- Visuals: When visuals are applied to data, they can enlighten the audience to insights that they wouldn’t see without charts or graphs. Many interesting patterns and outliers in the data would remain hidden in the rows and columns of data tables without the help of data visualizations.
- Data: When you combine the right visuals and narrative with the right data, you have a data story that can influence and drive change.
Why is data storytelling so important? For some people, it isn’t. Some people deem crafting a story around data as unnecessary and time-consuming as they may feel the insights or facts should be sufficient to stand on their own as long as they’re reported in a clear manner. However, this is based on the flawed assumption that business decisions are based solely on logic and reason. Decisions are actually often based on emotion, not logic.
Emotion actually plays an essential role in helping our brains to navigate the alternatives. And so, when you package up your insights as a data story, you build a bridge for your data to the influential, emotional side of the brain.
Remember, people hear statistics, but they feel stories.