Data storytelling is an art, and its importance is ever-increasing, given the volume of data presented to us each day. While modern tools like data visualization software help make sense of the massive amount of data we collect about our customers, partners, products, and ourselves, it can be easy to feel lost without effective data storytelling.
Meet Data Storytelling
Data storytelling involves synthesizing the various data, reports, and exports generated by your data effort into an easy-to-understand story. This enables you to use it effectively to take action. This practice has become a task of critical importance for those in data science and business analytics, as important as data collection itself.
The stories parsed from an effective data collection and aggregation effort are most often presented in prose form alongside exports from data visualization software. These summaries provide important context to make hard data intuitive and useful, the kind of results that can be memorable and meaningful for key stakeholders.
Effective Data Prose is About Empathy for Your Audience
Quality storytelling follows the same rules as storytelling of any kind, most prominently that it pays to be audience-centric. Keeping your audience at the center of your storytelling will increase your chances of landing your key points.
Present the narrative in as many forms as possible. Your prose describing results and the underlying data provides context, but it should not overshadow or replace the numbers or exports from your data visualization software. These forms complement each other. They ensure your message is being heard no matter which presentation style your audience prefers.
Your story will benefit from a firm narrative structure, though it’s not enough to simply ensure there’s a clear beginning, middle, and end. You should ensure there’s clear scene-setting, clearly establish the key characters in your story and their roles, point out the key questions or conflict, and offer resolution. These familiar storytelling formats will ensure you’re making your point.
Use of Data Visualization Software Will Drive the Point Home
By beginning with a clear objective and establishing context with strong prose about your data, you’re giving your data visualizations a chance to shine.
The best pairings between data visualization and storytelling keep in mind that the story must be told in-sequence. Arranging visualizations in a logical sequence that builds a coherent story helps guide the audience.
Remember, in many cases, less is more. Avoid cluttering your visualizations with unnecessary elements, focusing on the essential data points that help drive your story forward. Consistent, clear, and clean visuals are most effective in conveying information, especially when it comes to highlighting key insights. Avoid over-reliance on interactive elements, as they can distract from the key point and overwhelm your audience.
It’s also critical to test and iterate with a sample audience and gather feedback. Your presentations may appear differently across different hardware and software platforms. This results in it being difficult to understand how someone with “fresh eyes” is seeing your effort.
Along those same lines, it’s important to ensure you keep accessibility considerations in mind when producing your reports, as data storytelling doesn’t really tell a story if it’s now accessible by all. You can do that by providing detailed plain text, use strong color contrasts, and include detailed alt-text tags for the images in your presentation.
Effective Storytelling in Your Daily Life
Exceptional storytelling surrounds us and extends beyond our places of business. You encounter strong examples in your favorite music app, read the news on your phone or computer, and experience it while watching your favorite sport with friends.
The music application Spotify created a fun tradition for its users where it provides a year-end recap of what the user listened to throughout the year. Spotify Wrapped delivers a summary of their music and podcast consumption, broken down by genre, artist, and other key elements. All of this comes together in a visually-appealing, animated form that does such a good job of engaging and sharing the story. As a result, users share it with their friends. When was the last time you were so moved by a data report that you couldn’t wait to post it to your Instagram Story?
News media outlets like The New York Times and Five Thirty Eight have emphasized data visualization. Over the last decade, by pairing brilliant visualizations with their leading reporting, they ensure their readers have the full picture. During elections, data-savvy news sites launch interactive mini-sites, showcasing this prominently. These mini-sites offer interactive maps and rich media. They present clear quantitative results alongside the qualitative prose and storytelling known for these news organizations.
Sports fans may not realize they are exposed to data in their daily lives. This exposure is evident when watching the media coverage of a game on television, especially with the in-game graphics. During game broadcasts, television networks and streaming platforms use on-screen graphics to show real-time statistics and information. These graphics enhance the viewers’ understanding of what they’re watching, and supplement commentator analysis. The data story continues in the post-game show. Sports announcers use data to recap the game and share its significance in the context of the season. Additionally, the data story extends beyond broadcasts. Fantasy sports leagues, sports apps, and websites have interactive, data-rich features. These enrich the sports fan experience, providing game insights, informing fans, and deepening the sport-fan connection.
The Bottom Line
Done well, a brilliant data story allows us to navigate the seas of information and steer toward informed conclusions and improved decision-making. But more than that, effective data storytelling has immense power. Often seen in other forms of art: it can transform raw data into compelling narratives, emotion, and action.
Intrigued by the captivating world of data storytelling? Take action now and connect with Live Earth! Unleash the true potential of your data, and transform it into persuasive narratives that inspire action and drive impactful decisions. Let us guide you through the art of data visualization for unparalleled insights.