“People hear statistics, but they feel stories” – Brent Dykes, Forbes.com.
Conveying information and data is easy. However, to ensure your audience processes and engages with what you’re presenting can be difficult. One surefire way that can effectively engage your audience is through data storytelling.
There are now a number of tools available to brand storytellers to collect valuable data, so it is now easy to access and examine your own company’s data.
People see numbers, charts and figures, but what they don’t see is the potential of this data that can be translated which could lead to a worthwhile follow-up result. You can use all the bar charts, info-graphics and dashboards your heart desires, but without communication of the underlying message, nothing can come of your data. The aim of data storytelling is for your audience to extract value from your facts and figures and put your ideas into action. However, you must first learn how to communicate that effectively.
Here at All Good Tales, we recognise the importance of storytelling for individuals and companies aiming to tell their story and make a difference in their company. That is why we have devised a list of five rules that storytellers should follow when communicating data to an audience and to make that data have the greatest possible impact over that audience.
1) Use a convincing voice
Data always has a story to tell. They just depend on you to deliver that message in a clear and concise voice to the audience. Explain what is happening in the data and why it is of importance to them and their business. It is like giving a step-by-step rundown of the figures, how they came about, comparisons with past figures, what they mean now and what they mean for the future.
2) Communicate your data visually
Visual storytelling is a boon. With easy-to-use tools to collect and visualise your data, it is now easier than ever to analyse and draw an expected outcome from your figures. Find out what data visualisation tool works best for the data you want to convey to your audience. Some examples can include treemaps, bar charts, pie charts etc. Making the figures eye-catching and large is always a great help and much appreciated by your audience. You shouldn’t have so much information in a visual as to overwhelm people to the point where they do not know what they should be looking at or be reading. Clear and minimal information is good – that is where your storytelling comes in!
3) Combine both narratives and visuals with your data
Stories can fill in the blanks for the audience. They tell the stories that data cannot. By using both a detailed explanation as well as eye-catching visual elements to your data, this is the most important and effective way that you can engage your audience. You create a story that can influence action and drive your desired change for yourself and your company.
Remember to use visuals as a back-up, rather than the actual main focus of your talk. These figures are serving to inspire your storytelling, not to be the only thing you talk about!
4) Make stories the backbone of your content
A Stanford professor, Chip Heath, conducted a study where he found 63% of an audience could remember stories told during talks, whereas just 5% could remember a single statistic. Context is often needed to fully understand a piece of data. Insights do not stand alone well without stories to reiterate their meaning. It is often a good idea to focus on emotion, rather than logic sometimes. We are all storytellers, so this is something that should come naturally to us!
5) Aim for action
This should be your ultimate goal in data storytelling. At the end of the day, every business wants to change a mindset, make a sale or promote a service. Data storytelling can help you to achieve this. Once you achieve the above steps, engagement will follow, which inevitably results in action. Be clear on what you want your business to achieve or what change you want to make from the very beginning.
Now that you have your five simple rules for data storytelling, it’s time for you to ‘figure’ it out!