Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.
—Jean Luc Godard
What’s the connection between data visualization and storytelling?
The first part of this series talked about different charts and graphs that analysts can leverage for presenting their findings.
But using the right charts is not necessarily enough. To come to any conclusion, a visualization or dashboard should effectively communicate relevant information.
This is where storytelling comes in.
Often neglected, storytelling as a skill for analysts is highly understated. This is why it is hard to come by an analyst who can translate his findings into something that non-analysts can understand. There are many reasons why storytelling as a skill is neglected:
- Not treated as a priority – The core skills required by an analyst are technical and statistical, and that’s where maximum time is spent. This leads to skills like storytelling and presentation often being neglected and not being treated as a priority.
- Analytics as a support function – In a lot of organizations, analytics is treated as a support function. This means that analysts are not involved in everyday business and product interactions. Due to this, analytics as a function has a siloed view of the problems, which leads to a downfall in skills like storytelling.
This, coupled with other reasons like training and personality type, results in analysts not being able to translate what they uncover into simple and crisp points. Often, the failure to translate key findings can result in great analysis ending up as trash.
Here are some tips that are useful for formal presentations and informal discussions:
- Cut down on all that text, seriously! Decision makers want key points presented in crisp bullets rather than tedious lines and monotonous paragraphs.
- This goes for charts and graphs as well. Don’t keep multiple charts on the same slide.
- Remember, powerful statements move the audience. Present insights in a way that they resonate with your audience.
- Place insights or suggested actions as the headline or as the conclusion.
- Provide context before data. Don’t assume that your audience knows what you are doing. That’s why context is crucial.
These are just a few tips that can help you get started. Just like any other skill, storytelling takes considerable time and effort to be mastered. At the beginning of an analyst’s career, this might not take precedence over technical and analytical skills, but most senior analysts consider it an equally important part. One which is especially useful as client interactions and senior level presentations increase.
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