For Paul Ricœur (a contemporary philosopher) ” we tell stories because human lives need and deserve to be told “. Every day, around the world, we generate an astronomical amount of data. These data are fragments of our lives!
We have managed, with data scientists or with the democratization of data visualization, to make a tangible and readable part of this mass of information. That said, one question remains unanswered: how to effectively convey important information in order to make the best decisions? The answer can be summed up in two words: data storytelling!
What is data storytelling?
To understand data storytelling, we need to split this term into two parts. Data is data. But then, what is this famous storytelling?
Storytelling is a process for providing narrative schemes to all forms of communication. A story consists of three parts: the initial situation, the development and the outcome. Between each of these parts we find the disturbing element. In addition, narrator, hero, protagonists and adventures are also essential elements. A story must evolve from an initial state to another. There is a change!
Your presentations do not escape this structure! You’ve probably attended particularly boring meetings to the point of dozing, and you also know the causes. These presentations lacked dynamism, they were long and monotonous just like the presenters! It is however simple to avoid this situation. A good data storytelling is based on 5 pillars : you, your audience, your data, the visual aspect and the narration .
You are the narrator, the one who breathes life into your data presentation. You provide essential information for decision making. You must therefore be as charismatic as possible. We must remember your visit! Be an internal and all-knowing narrator.
Internal, because you are involved in the decision-making process and in the future of your service or your business. Omniscient, because you have to master your subject at your fingertips. To succeed in a presentation, it is important to have repeated beforehand. This repetition will gargle your confidence. Your diction is an important criterion, do not go too fast or too slowly!
Body language is also important. Leaky looks, slumped bodies, too fixed or facial expressions related to stress (use of an object as a stress reliever, play with the fingers…) are all factors that will discredit you. You stress, you lose your words…mark a short silence, catch your breath and resume your presentation.
Your audience is both the target and the protagonists of your data storytelling! This means that they are the people for whom your presentations are intended and that they are the protagonists because they are the ones who are involved in your data storytelling. They will never fail to influence your narration by asking you all kinds of questions. This is why an interactive data presentation solution is crucial.
For example, if you present a quarterly sales report using graphs, your audience will want to know precisely the sales for a month. However, your PowerPoint is static, impossible to display the requested information! Your protagonists have made you lose your status as an omniscient narrator. You lose control of your own presentation!
A dynamic data presentation solution such as Powerslide is perfectly suited to such a situation! This is why you should not neglect the role that your audience holds in relation to you! Bring them the information they need while getting to the point.
In addition, the geographic area from which your audience comes influences the perception they have of your data. Do not focus on the customs and customs of your country. As an example, red is a symbol of good fortune in China while in Western countries it is linked to negativity. The narration of a story imperatively takes into account the habits of the targets. It’s about transmitting emotions to them. Let them be transported in your story!
Your data and the visual aspect
Your data are of course the central keys of your data storytelling. They are, in a way, the adventures and heroes of your presentations. Their graphic representations provide information that will determine the behavior of your audience and the fall of your story.
Before we talk about the results, let’s focus on our data. The appearance of a graph greatly influences the perception that your audience will have. Each graphic has its interest and is adapted to a specific need.
What makes your story captivating is its ability to involve us in history with a factor common to your audience and as the story confronts them with situations that they have all experienced. Good data storytelling should link us to each other and get to the point.
From our earliest childhood we have been subject to storytelling. History thus assumes an important social function. During early childhood, a story allows the child to build himself/herself, to build vocabulary and the relationship with others. This continues throughout life, even if our childhood life is different from our adult life.
History is a factor of social cohesion! The great leaders of history have understood this well, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs or (unfortunately) Adolf Hitler had understood it. They all proposed projections in a common future, they echoed values shared by their audience and they firmly believed in their convictions. Good storytelling is also based on these elements. We are a sociable species, our ability to project ourselves into a fiction and into the future are the elements that allowed us to break away from the wild. Humanity and progress have been forged thanks to our imagination. But then how do you include this narrative in your graphical data representations and in your presentations?
To succeed in a data storytelling you have to prioritize your information. No need to spread an endless array of information. Go to basics and organize your scenario. You are the narrator, it is up to you to choose the order in which your information will appear.
- First, place the most global and least surprising information.
- Second, gradually orient your story towards your conclusions. At this point it is important to surprise your audience (disruptive elements); talk about your competitors, compare with the previous year, present your best market shares, question the members of the meeting, answer the questions…what you need is intrigue! Keep your audience going! Your data builds emotion!
- Third, conclude, definitely bring your audience to the end of your story. Now is the time for decision-making.
Narration is important and that is why it must be treated with care. There is no point in wanting to go too fast. If the transmission of information requires several steps or slides, do so. Precipitation and information overload reduce our understanding to its lowest level. Another example if you present information using two values as below as much to express it in a sentence.
Data storytelling is your most precious ally when presenting data. The prioritization of your information, the way you offer it and the interaction with your audience contribute to the success of your presentations. You, your data and the aspect of your presentation play on the perception of the latter. By adding intrigue you will grab the attention of your audience and that one will more easily retain your intervention.