Why Data Storytelling is so Important

Just like any good story, data storytelling helps data scientists and key stakeholders to visualize the information presented and form opinions, insights, and arguments based on the data.

Data storytelling takes raw data and makes it come alive. Just like any good story, data storytelling helps data scientists and key stakeholders to visualize the information presented and form opinions, insights, and arguments based on the data.  Top data analysts use data storytelling because it is compelling, interesting, and practical.

Stories have always been an effective means of conveying information while capturing the imagination. Stories with data are much more effective at conveying a message to stakeholders and inspiring action. If the analyst is able to convey their findings in a concise and captivating way through storytelling, the salient points are better understood and support anecdotes or personal experience. 

What is Data Storytelling?

The purpose of data analytics is often to change a viewpoint or decision based on the data. However, it is very difficult to create change if the stakeholders don’t understand the data. Data storytelling is building a story around a set of data to better understand and visualize the data. 

This allows anyone not specialized in data science to understand the findings and act on them in a meaningful way. While most people won’t understand the details of analytics, storytelling is a way to convey the analysis, provide a different viewpoint, and create action.

In addition to providing relevant findings in a comprehensible format through storytelling, data storytelling also condenses a large amount of (often boring) material into a concise package. Storytelling simplifies a complex world. Data storytelling simplifies complex data and provides context, insight, and interpretation. 

What are the Benefits of Data Storytelling?

The primary benefit of data storytelling is to create intelligent, actionable insight into data. A compelling narrative will make the data feel alive. It can create an “Aha” moment or deep insight. In a business context, the story the data tells can be tailored to the target audience, making it meaningful and relevant. 

If a data analyst is not skilled at telling a story with the data, the impact of the findings may be lost. Without a story that resonates with the audience, it is difficult to inspire action. 

The benefits of data storytelling are to:

  • Provide key insights
  • Present new perspectives
  • Interpret complex information
  • Inspire action

In addition, storytelling can actually serve to standardize the communication of data. Taken together, the best data analysts are also excellent storytellers with the power to use the data to affect change. 

Why Should You Start Telling Data Stories?

You should start telling data stories as a way to convey information beyond numbers and charts. Stories make the data comprehensible to anyone. Nearly all data has real-world applications from business to biology to government. 

With a compelling story behind the data, you engage people’s emotions and memories along with their intellects, creating a deeper understanding of the data and connection to its outcomes. 

What is the Point of Data Storytelling?

Storytelling connects an individual to culture, history, and personal identity. Data storytelling takes the same basic elements of storytelling but applies it to data to encourage action. It provides a framework of understanding to engage an audience or key decision makers. 

While it is common to assume that data is equal to facts, it is more useful to see data as a springboard for further insights. If the data cannot be converted to action or to inspire change it has no real-world application. Data storytelling takes facts and uses them as drivers of change and further growth. 

Data storytelling can employ graphs, charts, and other visual aids to assist in the storytelling, but a narrative is required to truly motivate change. 

How to Improve Data Storytelling

To tell a story using data, the first step is to consider the audience. The story should be relevant, personal, and memorable for the target audience. Even if the story is perfect for astrophysicists, the same story probably will not work for accountants.

Structure a story that precisely conveys the data. Explain further implications and insights, and then listen to comments. Use the data to expand the story in response to comments. A memorable story is more about the audience. It is the vehicle to convey what you want them to remember. 

The most powerful stories are simple, personal, relevant, and emotional. If you can tie in these elements with the data, the story the data tells will be understood by everyone in the room and will motivate action. 

Summary of Data Storytelling Benefits

Data storytelling connects the world of numbers to everyday human experience and provides deeper understanding and insight into the world we live in. Ultimately, data storytelling is a powerful tool to use the insights of data science to motivate change and inspire action. While a data scientist has facts, telling a story with the data can change the world. 


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