In the era of Big Data, storytelling with data has become critical to make sense of the tons of information collected by businesses and create compelling business calls to actions.
Whether you have to create a presentation for a conference, a corporate meeting or even for sales purposes, using data to support your facts is a key success factor in getting your point across.
We have created a comprehensive guide to storytelling with data and communicating effectively to your audience. You will learn how to make figures speak to clients and colleagues, and draw attention to the numbers that matter.
Read on to tell your business story and create the best presentation you even came up with!
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Prepare your storytelling with data accurately
To maximise the impact on your public and define your presentation’s structure, focus on your public and the objectives of your demonstration. This is the first step to a winning speech.
Define your target audience
Like all good corporate content, a successful data presentation starts with defining your target audience. We know that sounds like a marketer’s job, but all engaging speakers connect with their public and make them feel understood. They go the extra mile to have a deep understanding of who they are addressing, and you should do the same.
It’s quite obvious that a CEO, a CTO, and a prospect are not interested in the same type of information. To make sure your point gets across and captures your public’s attention, you need to speak their language. This means selecting the figures that they are curious about and using the appropriate idioms that resonate with their goals.
So before jumping into slides and graphics, take some time to learn about your participants. Who are they? What are they interested to know? Where is their attention? The answer to these questions will be the guideline for creating your storytelling.
When the people in your public can relate to the content you present, they are more likely to take the expected action. If the public is heterogeneous, consider creating different graphs and always clarify who it is intended for.
State your objectives loud and clear
Defining the objective of your talk is usually the easy part. If there is no goal in your storytelling, maybe there shouldn’t be a story at all!
Your objective might be to provide a recommendation, inspire change or simply start a conversation. Think about what you want your listeners to do or understand after your presentation. Once you know your public, you can find relevant leverage to focus their attention and make them act upon the information you shared.
The point here is to make the outcome of your story utterly clear. Do not make any assumption that the data presented is self-sufficient.
Make your hypothesis evident at the very beginning of your speech. Prove your findings with figures throughout the presentation. And finally, present your conclusions with a clear call to action. This is the essence of storytelling with data.
Think like a designer and use data visualisation techniques
Presenting numbers and focusing your listener’s attention is an art, but it’s also a science. Designers use data visualisation techniques to represent statistics comprehensively and facilitate reading and analysis. The next stage of a killer storytelling with data is to direct your public’s attention where you want it to be.
Choose the graph that better tells your story
The aspect of a graph highly impacts the way we perceive data. Choosing the right type of chart to get the audience to see what you want them to see is essential to a successful data storytelling. The appropriate chart serves the final purpose of your story and helps with the visual processing of the information.
Most of the time, there is not one single type of chart possible. However, we find that some graphs better serve specific purposes. So whether you want to show an evolution, comparison or classification, here is a non-exhaustive list of charts we recommend using for major statistical functions.
Check-out this data visualisation catalogue for more insights on other types of charts.
Focus on essential information
When you study the numbers, it might be tempting to show much more information than needed. To save your audience mental processing power, you need to identify and eliminate all unnecessary details that distract attention.
When showing visuals that feel complicated, you risk losing your listeners’ focus. Go straight to the point to present your conclusions. Don’t be afraid of white space, and make it easy for your crowd to follow your point by only showing data that has a specific purpose.
In the example below, we remove all details that are not useful to understanding the chart’s purpose. The result is a clear and esthetically pleasant graph that quickly draws attention to the important elements of our storytelling. Also, note the use of colours to further differentiate the various elements.
Leverage the power of storytelling with data
The final touch to a winning presentation is telling a compelling story with your organisation’s data. High impact visual stories make your message resonate with your public and help with information retention.
Make your data meaningful with storytelling
To bring your data to life, craft a narrative using the traditional storytelling concepts. If your facts articulate around a story, they will be more compelling and memorable. This is where all your prior work comes together to become an exceptional presentation.
- Start with a plot: What is the context? What is the essential information to understand the story and findings?
- Develop the twist: What is interesting about the figures? What did we discover in the data analysis?
- Close with a call to action: What should be done next? What action do you want the audience to take?
The data is simply a point of your story, used to support your final objective and call to action.
Present like a boss
Your medium highly impacts how you communicate to your audience: are you talking to a live audience or sending a written document?
During a live talk, you have more control over how your audience consumes the information. For instance, you can quickly adapt to your public’s response towards your presentation and speed up or slow down when you deem necessary.
Obviously, don’t read your slides during a live talk. You most probably have experienced this before as a listener. It’s a painful experience for both the listeners and the presenter. Your speech should always reinforce and clarify the slides presented.
In a written document, the reader is in control of the information. Typically, a written document presenting data is denser in slides and textual information. Potential questions need to be anticipated and addressed to ensure your audience comprehends your thought process.
Tell your business story with data
Need help with creating compelling content based on facts and data? Reach out to the Mowgli team for top-notch guidance on visual communication.