Data storytelling is the practice of building a narrative around a set of data and its accompanying visualizations to help convey the meaning of that data in a powerful and compelling fashion. It is the blending of two worlds: hard data and human communication. It's a compelling narrative crafted around and anchored by compelling data. With the rise of data, it is more important than ever that we are able to interpret and visualise it. The Multiverse Community ran an event on data storytelling and here are the top takeaways for you to apply in your day to day role:

Level 4 Data Fellowship Coach, Antony Cowburn, led the session and  began by diving into different storytelling techniques, the first being Aristotle’s ‘Power of Persuasion’. Persuasion is a reason for telling stories, it can be used if you want to change someone's mind about something or reinforce an idea.

Aristotle’s ‘Power of Persuasion’

Ethos - I am credible (e.g I am the person you need to be talking too - the audience should connect with this and in turn, connect with what you are saying)
Pathos - This topic affects you (e.g Why are you here listening to what I am saying? Persuade them that there is no one better to be listening to this than them)
Logos - This is why it affects you (e.g The actual context you are trying to portray)
If you are able to say: 1. I am credible 2. You need to be here listening to me 3. This topic is important to you, this will help to persuade the audience to favour your argument.
(Additional/Optional) Kairos - This is the time (e.g Urgency of time for action - deemed as a half power)

In order to develop from persuasion, the session then moved into looking at motivations, we had learnt how to persuade an audience that the argument has weight, now we need to be able to motivate an audience into action. Antony introduced ‘Monroe’s Motivated Sequence’ which is a technique coined for organising motivational speeches in the mid 1930’s. This theory can be combined with Aristotle's ‘Power of Persuasion’ at any step that you believe needs to be more persuasive when looking to motivate your audience.

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence
1. Attention - Hook the audience
2. Need - Clearly define the problem
3. Satisfaction - Provide your solution
4. Visualisation - what happens when the problem is solved/how bad it will be if you are ignored
5. Action - Call to action

Another way in which we learnt to story-tell was by following the ‘Hero’s Journey’ technique, which you may be familiar with if you studied English Literature as it was coined to describe fairy tales, those of Harry Potters and Luke Skywalkers.

How is this applicable to data? If we split the ‘Hero’s Journey’ into the ordinary world and the data world, we can then allegorise each of these parts of the datas journey. We can humanise the data and make it either the hero or the villain and take the audience on this journey which is more likely to hold their attention. When using this technique, we do not need to use all the pointers as we may not have time, instead we would just use an arc of this and pull out different pieces of information to tell the story about our data. 

Antony then moved onto explaining how we apply these techniques in the world of data and how to think about the data we choose and the way we present it. The data you choose to tell stories is incredibly important and you have to ask yourself questions on what data you need for what you are trying to portray:

1. Who is in the room?

2. What do they need/want?

3. How much information do they need?

Next, you need to think about the timing of when you tell the data, as this can have different results, you need to think about what you want to be impactful, interesting and memorable. With impactful data, this should always go at the start, then you explain how you get there as this will keep your audience more engaged and spark their curiosity. Then in the middle you throw some more information to make it interesting and the final takeaway is the information you most want people to retain. 

Finally, we looked at data visualisation. Dashboards are eye catching and often people want to see data presented in a different way. After several studies, Tableau found that the way people generally read a data dashboard is in an F shape, so you should always put your most important data in the top left hand corner of your slide. Variations of data visualisation should be used so that you can avoid audience member experience experiencing dashboard fatigue. Additionally, people tend to be drawn to numbers in a bigger font size over graphs and charts, so this should be considered when choosing how to present important pieces of data.

Want to watch the whole event recording? You can find it here, in the Resource Centre.


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