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26 December 2023 - 5 minutes

Data Storytelling: Transforming Numbers into Compelling Narratives

Discover how to help your data tell a story

Juliette Carreiro - Tech Writer

You’ve heard us talk a lot about data and the importance of data visualization so that your audience understands your findings and you can take what you’ve learned and make better decisions. We hope the basics of data visualization are clear; today, we’re going to dive deeper into another part of data analytics that is just as important as properly displaying your findings: data storytelling

In data visualization, ensuring that your data is presented in a way that makes it easy to understand is crucial. And while presenting the data in fun and interesting ways like through charts or infographics is definitely an option, data storytelling is a crucial part of data visualization that’s sometimes overlooked. 

In this article we’ll define what exactly data visualization is, explain the importance of it, and see how you can incorporate it into your next presentation. 

What is Data Storytelling?

Anyone can take their insights from a data analysis and draw conclusions that are based in fact, aimed to help the business advance. But just as data visualization presents the data in a more digestible format, allowing those who aren’t number-minded to understand the outcome and what should be done, data storytelling takes this presentation one step further, adding a narrative to help back up findings even more. 

Let’s look at an example: based on the data you’ve analyzed, you can confidently say that expanding into a new market is the right choice for the company. You put your findings into charts and infographics for stakeholders and explain how the data led you to this conclusion, but there’s something missing: the why. After your presentation, the stakeholders understand that it would be a good business decision to expand into a new market, but they’re not entirely sure why it’s a good idea. 

This is where data storytelling comes into play; it’s a way to not only provide an explanation of what your data has shown, but what can come from it. Following our example from above, if you included data storytelling in your presentation, you could have included the business benefits of expanding into a different market and what your predictions are for the future, instead of just saying it could be an option. 

In addition, data storytelling is important because:

  • People react positively to human-like stories: you want your audience to relate to what you’re talking about, able to picture the desired outcome and how it will benefit the company. By using data storytelling techniques, it’s more likely that your audience will remember what you’ve talked about.

  • It helps provide a real life example of what you found: some people can be turned off by numbers and may just assume they won’t understand any sort of data; when you present your findings in a real life example, it will be both better received and better understood. 

  • It provides context for your recommendations: your suggestions, especially if they’re major, may be met with hesitance if you’re unable to provide background information on how you arrived at your conclusions or how these findings will turn into actionable insights for the company. Storytelling gives you more of a background to create a fuller picture for your audience. 

Essential Elements of Data Storytelling

Now that you know what data storytelling is and why it’s so important, let’s dive right into the four major elements of data storytelling: characters, setting, conflict, and resolution. These four parts are absolutely crucial to your storyline and dedicating time to each will help you ensure you offer a compelling story to stakeholders. 

Part one: create characters 

People relate better to something they can picture in their head and any good story has characters to complement their tale; in order to properly imagine the effect that a business decision can have on a company, the audience needs to know who this character is, what their goals are, and why they’re invested in this change. 

The more details you can provide here the better your story will be and the more compelling of a narrative you will create; tell your audience about this main character, what drives them, what they’re currently lacking, and what their ultimate goal is. Refer back to this character throughout the entire presentation, creating a connection between this character and your audience. 

Part two: create the setting

To better help your audience connect with the narrative you’re creating, you need to provide more details than just your character. This can be done by explaining the time, place, and environment in which your character finds themselves; choose a setting that helps back up your final recommendation and one with which your audience can relate. 

The information you provide here doesn’t have to be uniquely connected to this exact moment in time; explaining the problem that your character currently faces, what they’ve done in the past, and what their future could look like if they implement your recommendations helps create a complete narrative for your audience. 

Part three: explain the problem 

Every good story has an arc where the problem or conflict is revealed and the character works to solve it: this is your time to shine! Your previously explained character and setting should fit in with this conflict, allowing you to explain how the problem has affected the character throughout some time, creating an emotional connection between your audience and your story. 

If possible, use real-life examples of problems your team has faced to help deepen the connection even further. 

Part four: present your solution 

This entire storyline has led you to this moment: proposing your solution, based on the findings from your data analysis. Although it can be tempting to dive right into the solution and end your presentation, take the time to connect the solution to your narrative, explaining how it will help your character solve the problem and lead your company to even more success. 

At the end of your presentation, provide a high-level overview of everything you’ve covered and highlight the end goal: resolving your character’s problem. 

We know that data storytelling can seem complicated but it’s an incredibly powerful tool when presenting your findings to stakeholders and could be the difference between implementing your suggestions or deciding not to. And at Ironhack, we know that analyzing data is just one part of the role of an analyst and knowing how to communicate your findings is equally important. 

Our Data Analytics Bootcamp is designed to help you learn about data visualization and storytelling, ensuring your valuable insights are well received by your team. Interested in starting your data journey? There’s no better place to start than with Ironhack.

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