The Art of Data Storytelling and Communicating Trends

Here are some tips to help you create a story and communicate your data efficiently. 

Even though most organizations recognize the importance of having skilled developers to have a successful data-driven business, few of them know how to use data to tell a relevant story that engages their audience on both a rational and emotional level. That is what marketers are here for – they know the impact that data can have.

If a compelling story is being told, the data can quickly inspire positive action in your business. Companies need to understand that the audience will only remember data if it is adequately presented. It takes more than a chart or graph: they must use storytelling. Using an analytics platform can help companies to convey key messages.

But what does data storytelling consist of? Why adopt it? And how can you put your stories in the right context? Here are some tips to help you create a story and communicate your data efficiently

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Tip 1: Identify The Elements of a Data Story


Stories help make sense of the world around us. It is an effective way to draw attention to a key audience. Data stories consist of a narrative to explain how and why data changes. Although it is often through charts and graphs, data storytelling is not just about making a pretty chart. It would help if you communicated insights that deliver real value.

Three main elements make a good data story

  • Data
  • Narrative
  • Visualization

Together, these elements help to put your data into context. It makes it easier to communicate a complex idea, and therefore, to help connect to the audience. This approach allows them to understand the context and trends in your data.


Tip 2: Find A Relevant Story to Tell 


The first things to think about are the elements that make a good story. To tell a compelling story, it needs to be relevant. To do this, you can start by asking yourself some questions, such as:

  • What do I want to explain?
  • What is the purpose of my story?
  • Who do I want to tell my story to? 

There are three parts to a story: the initial situation, the development, and the ending. During each of these sections, we find a disruptive element and a climax. In addition, narrators, heroes, protagonists, and events are also essential elements. A story typically must evolve from an initial state to another, where a change takes place.

Your presentation must have the same structure. Do not be boring. Make sure your narrative has a captivating purpose. Think about the context, characters, problem, and solutions. It will help you find the structure.


Here are some steps to help you structure your narrative:

  • Start with a familiar problem and show the data behind it
  • Surprise your audience with a disruptive element
  • Bring your audience to the end of the story; it is decision-making time

Tip 3: Consider Your Audience


Like a story in a book, it can be told differently depending on who it is addressed to (children or adults, for example). In that case, several elements change, such as intonation. This logic is the same with data-based stories – you will not speak to an executive like you would speak to a business intelligence manager because they are not interested in the same thing. The executive might be more interested in statistics, while the business intelligence manager might be more interested in methods, technique, and the story. 

Think about what your audience knows about the topic. Identifying their level of understanding and their goals will help the storyteller create a narrative

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Tip 4: Identify Trends & Find a Message to Share


Once you have found the message and collected the data, you need to find a common thread. You can start by identifying trends, as they indicate behaviors and change over time. We collect data to find patterns, like numbers trending upwards or correlations between two sets of numbers, and it is usually a number that is increasing or decreasing. 

The major point here is to look at the relationships between data from different sources and tell a story by showing potential correlations between different variables. Remember that causation does not imply a correlation, though. Therefore, be sure to put your trends to test before making a particular dataset the culprit in your story! Executives use data to make decisions, so make sure your message is clear, concise, and accurate. 


Tip 5: Put Emotions Into Your Story


According to Antonio Damasio, decision-making is mainly emotional. Many experts recommend appealing to your audience’s emotions while sharing your information. Storytelling allows you to address the imagination through images, and therefore, emotions. 

That is what many major brands do – they do not communicate the product’s description or benefits to the audience. Instead, they focus on a story and an experience. Nike and Apple are excellent examples of this. This is often how a potential customer decides if they are going to purchase or not.

We currently have another perfect example with awareness campaigns on Covid-19. To encourage people to get vaccinated, governments focus on the impact that Covid-19 could have on our loved ones rather than the latest numbers. 

The same thing applies to companies. It would be best to focus your communications on generating emotion, as this is where the decision-making can take place. We are often much more sensitive to stories than to statistics and numbers.


Tip 6: Use Visuals to Complete Your Story


Everybody loves having a picture in their head to go along with a story. When reading books, it is common for the reader to imagine characters, the scene, and so on, in their heads. As the person telling the story behind the data, your final goal should be using visuals effectively. Data visualization and storytelling are complementary. To tell a good story, you need to accompany it with a visual. 

Data visualization allows complex information to be displayed through diagrams, curves, maps, charts, etc. This visual process allows the audience to understand the data and accelerate the decision-making process immediately. 


There are many ways to visualize your data, including: 

  • Flowcharts
  • Bar graphs
  • Infographics
  • Road maps
  • Pie charts
  • Scatterplots

But there are so many materials you can choose from to tell a story efficiently, other than graphs. Motion graphics are a way to bring graphics to life with minimal text. Photos and videos can also be compelling if they make sense and can have even more impact. 

Be sure not just to pamper your data into a great story, but explain it the best you can, rationally. Do not do something simply because it looks good, but instead, because it is the best way to explain the data

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