how to use data to tell a story

Whether you are trying to convince your boss of a project idea, communicate the value of your data-driven decisions to executives or explain why a product needs a change to your customers, storytelling is one of your best tools. Stories are easier to understand than a spreadsheet of numbers and can be more memorable, too. Humans are wired to respond to narrative, so it’s important for you to learn how to use data to tell a story.

The structure of a data story is the narrative you create to convey key insights to your audience. Narratives can be complex but they should always be clear and easy to follow. To develop a narrative, start with the question you want to answer: “What happened?” Then determine what data points you need to collect and analyze to answer that question. Typically, these include business-oriented questions such as sales or other KPIs but they can also be qualitative or demographic data like customer satisfaction surveys or website traffic.

From Numbers to Narratives: Transforming Data into Stories

When presenting data, it is important to provide context and commentary as well as visualizations. This helps your audience understand how the numbers relate to each other and why they are important. It can also help you highlight interesting outliers and patterns that would be obscured in a table of numbers without visual aids.

It is important to remember that your audience will have expectations about the information you share. For example, a technical audience may expect more detailed information about your data sets while a general audience will likely appreciate more simplified data that is easier to digest. It is also important to avoid cherry-picking data or presenting misleading relationships that can mislead your audience.