Did you know the human brain is more likely to take in information from a story over pure facts?

We are wired to absorb information that is interesting rather than memorizing raw data from an Excel sheet.

Unlike artificial intelligence, humans are creatures with emotions and desires. With the diverse and rapidly changing digital world in front of us, an innovative practice to communicate information without losing its narrative was essential.

This technique is called ‘Data Storytelling’.

Let’s understand what makes data storytelling the ideal way for knowledge transmission.

DATA STORYTELLING AND THE FUTURE IT HOLDS

Have you ever wondered what made fairy tales such a fascinating experience for kids?

From an evolutionary point of view, stories had a catchy introduction and an emotional end along with a strong plot in between. This combination allowed us to experience an adventure that we weren’t physically a part of.

Data storytelling utilizes this intriguing method to convert complex ideas into a simplistic form using narrative and visuals to transfer the information to the audience.

Imagine you had to choose between two books to read while on vacation – a dictionary and a novel. The novel would undoubtedly be the more exciting one to read but the dictionary would ultimately provide you with interesting new words to learn and increase your overall acumen.

It’s a tough choice to choose between entertainment or knowledge.

Suppose the dictionary could be converted into a novel form to allow you to gain meaningful information in an interesting and fun way?

Wouldn’t you agree that it’s a convenient way to absorb information than reading words and their meanings in a boring way?

Data storytelling is a combination of two worlds – information and entertainment.

Data storytelling is broken down into 3 key aspects.

1. Data

Like air, data is everywhere. In fact, if you don’t know what data is already, you’re definitely not from Earth.

Without data, it’s simply impossible to progress in a professional world.

Here’s a list of popularly used data.

  • Files stored on your computer
  • Machine data
  • Statistics
  • Financial data
  • Opensource data
  • Real-time data
  • Time-stamped data
  • Big data
  • Binary data
  • Ordered Data

You get the idea of what data is. But all this information isn’t exactly fun to read.

When was the last time you got excited because your boss called you to work on a Sunday for filing the company’s annual report?

It’s within our Homosapien DNA to hate information that is raw.

For example, had this article been written like a manual, would you even bother reading through the seemingly endless lines of multisyllabic words and paragraph walls?

We vastly doubt it.

2. Stories

We all love a good story. It makes for excellent entertainment.

But did you ever wonder what gives a story it’s truly addictive nature?

Let’s list them down.

  • The brilliantly written protagonist
  • The sinister antagonist
  • The breathtaking world
  • The eccentric townsfolk
  • The mind-blogging twisted plotline
  • The terrifying cliffhanger
  • The unexpected climax

The list is never-ending.

A good story is about the elements that a writer adds to his brewing pot. The mixture of all these elements begins to interest our brain and we get ready to focus.

Data storytelling takes this stimulating concept to put data and stories together for our brains to consume them conveniently.

Imagine if your boring salad tasted like a cheesy crust pepperoni pizza, wouldn’t you crave for another serving? That’s exactly how our brains feel when taking in intricate information through data storytelling.

3. Emotional Response

Oh no! We aren’t done yet.

Without the 3rd important ingredient, data storytelling is only half complete.

The narrative alone isn’t enough to capture the mind of the reader. Descriptive characters, colorful scenery, various induced emotions, etc. all make for an excellent visual aid for the reader to adapt to the story.

Emotion is what differs us from artificial intelligence. Humans choose emotions over practicality when decision-making.

Don’t believe us?

When was the last time you gave up a cheat meal to follow your diet for a full week?

If health was incredibly important to you, there would be no concept of cheat days to make up for a week of healthy eating. But our emotions cave in, and we indulge in the occasional fast food to reward ourselves for being healthy.

Emotions always come into play whether you realize it or not.

And it’s this aspect of data storytelling that plays the most important role in getting the point across.

Various levels of chemicals are released during a story session such as –

  • Dopamine – ‘The feel-good chemical’ released when we hear a happy ending or a positive side to a story.
  • Serotonin – The brain chemical responsible for making us feel important or when an important plot of the story is uncovered.
  • Oxytocin – The bond chemical. When we relate closely to our characters. Maybe we share the same emotions with those in the story and root for them.
  • Endorphins – Chemicals released to end a stressful period. A humorous point in the story that made you laugh out loud.

Now you understand, why dramatic shows like Game of Thrones have captured audiences around the world with an epic scale of emotions varying from despair to joy.

DATA STORY TELLING IN A PROFESSIONAL WORLD

When we put the 3 – data, story, and emotions together, the end result is to gain the full attention of the audience in the room.

In this window of time, we’re capable of transferring data from our boring datasheets into the minds of our clients, bosses, and colleagues.

An effective data storyteller is very much in demand by companies and organizations. More companies are starting to realize the importance of effective data storytelling over traditional presentations.

The value extracted from converting copious amounts of data into creative streams of information is an invaluable skillset.

In fact, data storytelling is among the 2 critical skills to get yourself hired, according to LinkedIn’s list. Even Google’s chief economist, Hal Varien swears by data storytelling to be the next big thing in terms of professional communication.

If you own a business or work in an organization that doesn’t utilize data storytelling, you’re missing out on critical data science.

Data storytelling provides meaningful data communication with your stakeholders and clients to get the idea across in a smart insightful manner.

In the next section, we’ll demonstrate how data storytelling helps your business in decision-making.

3 EXAMPLES TO DEMONSTRATE THE POWER OF DATA STORYTELLING

Crafting a narrative to communicate with individuals is a genius ability to transfer complicated ideas into layman terms.

Afterall not everyone is well-versed with data simplification.

For instance, let’s assume an astrophysicist wished to explain a difficult cosmic theory to his students. He’d have to explain a boring 2-hour breakdown of statistics to compile terms such as – binary, nebulas, light-years, astronomical unit, Baily’s beads, Barlow lens, collimation, ecliptic, etc.

Yawning yet?

Through data storytelling, the astrophysicist converts complex information into a story and displays a visual exhibition to demonstrate his theory. This way the entire class is entertained and understands the data in a simplistic manner.

Let’s provide you with real-life examples of 3 data storytelling concepts that grabbed the interest of the audience.

1. The Noisiest Neighborhoods of New York

Ben Wellington, a famed professor and author of ‘The New Yorker’, wrote an interesting element that rose from the busy streets of New York.

He compiled the information of the noisiest areas in New York into a quirky news piece and published it. The article brought the humor of New York residents while also pointing out a serious offense of noise pollution.

Wellington also posted an image of the neighborhood to highlight the problem areas. Thus, he accomplished his objective of informing people on the subject of noise pollution with a news piece and an image.

That’s the power of data storytelling.

2. The 40-year Evolution of the American Diet

Writer Danielle Kurtzleben wrote an interesting article on Vox to demonstrate how the diet of regular Americans has changed over 4 decades.

She did this by compiling an extensive food chart of every food consumed by an average American over 40 years.

This widespread data storytelling technique showed how positive or negative the food consumed over a 40-year period was impactful to the current generation.

It exposed the shifting changes of foods over every decade and how the food we consume today isn’t the same as our forefathers did.

3. Machines Impact on Jobs

Right from the time the first Terminator movie was released in 1984, we instantly knew that machines would eventually find their way into our lives.

Are machines good or evil? Do they provide a world of convenience or do they steal our jobs?

The data storytelling method used by npr.org demonstrates that machines have in fact been a boon to mankind.

With 4 pie charts, the study demonstrated how machines have made lives easier and opened jobs for humans in other sectors that didn’t exist before the machines took over.

Now that’s a genius method to make people grasp that machines aren’t completely destined to enslave us.

IMPACTFUL WAYS TO AFFECT THE DECISION-MAKING AND EMOTIONAL ASPECT OF YOUR AUDIENCE THROUGH DATA STORYTELLING

As you read this, digital marketers are currently pitching campaigns in an informative way to drive sales.

An effective strategy used is data storytelling.

With reader blindness and limited timespan, getting your data over to the next person is a massive problem.

The run-of-the-mill corporation loses $47 million yearly in inept knowledge allocation within the United States.

With effective data storytelling methods, allow us at Cleverism to display the 4 secrets on how to capture the emotions and rational decision-making aspects of your customers.

1. Showcase Trends through an Exciting Narrative

Are you among the people that give up after failing to explain a situation to someone?

“There’s no point to this. He just doesn’t get it.”

That’s where adopting a data storytelling perspective changes the outcome.

Study the audience, understand their interests, and compare.

A data storyteller gets into the mind of the individual and understands every minor detail about the likes and dislikes of their target audience.

That’s when a narrative is developed to entice interest.

Remember, a successful narrative is similar to a motion picture – it has a strong introduction, an interesting plot, an unexpected climax, and finally, the audience’s favored reaction at the end.

Treat your audience like how a movie director would.

Your audience could be your – customers, clients, senior managers, coworkers, CEO, etc.

Every audience is different and every story must be crafted with your audience in mind.

An interesting narrative is created by taking your audience on a visual journey utilizing colors, statistics, charts, and other elements while pitching your story.

Remember those nutritious veggies you loathed as a kid due to their bland taste? Those veggies represent complex information.

Now, visualize a delicious cup of ice cream as a salacious story.

Your job as a narrator is to convert the bland information into a delicious story.

2. Quality over Quantity

What makes a story great?

The characters, the narrative, the plot, the suspense, or the mastery of the author?

The answer is – a blend of all the above elements.

In data storytelling, if enough subject matter or research hasn’t gone into creating your presentation, the audience won’t comprehend your message.

Perhaps you utilized many bright colors on your pie charts or you presented with too many unnecessary slides. The outcome – poor data storytelling.

Did you know that researchers found that quality data storytelling induces a trance-like state to the audience?

An effective story has emotion written over it. And when people are moved by emotion, they spend their valuable attention span to be entertained by it.

Remember, data storytelling is engagement and if you’ve got the ability to cause your audience to suspend their belief for a few minutes, you’re already telling great stories.

3. Memorize your Moves

Let’s assume, you attended a local theater in your neighborhood. The play of the day is “Romeo and Juliet”. Halfway into the play, just when the audience is captivated about the tragic scene about to unfold, Romeo forgets his lines and begins to fumble on stage.

A true tragedy!

Excuse the obvious pun and walk in the shoes of the actor that played Romeo for a moment.

What if you were explaining an important presentation? You start strong, the clients are hooked and everyone is amazed at your storytelling prowess.

Alas! horror strikes. You rushed your presentation and missed a valuable portion of your idea.

It’s too late to turn back. You begin to sweat bullets and nervously end the presentation a bit short of an embarrassment.

The end.

According to Chip Heath, a Stanford professor, out of 63% of respondents who remembered stories, only a meager 5% remembered statistics. This demonstrates there’s a great demand for data storytellers to improve their memory to capture the attention of others.

Here are the 3 ways to improve your memory during a presentation.

  • Visualize – When you tell a story, live the story. According to a report by Georgia State University, visuals are an efficient way to improve your memory without losing track of the story. Visualization creates a structure and rehearsing your visualization process helps you maintain your focus in developing the story. You’ll recall information effortlessly and utilize various visual cues to support your story.
  • Practice – Practice makes perfect. No matter how simple the story is, without practice, you’ll fall short of attaining perfection. Complete plenty of run-throughs of your presentation to grasp and understand the various scenarios present in your story. When you practice, you’ll be calm and relieve your nervousness.
  • Record Yourself – Many people hate the sound of their voice. Much of this has to do with science and the way we sound in our head isn’t the same as how we sound to others. That’s why it’s important to record and playback your voice and cope with yourself better. By doing this trick, you’ll focus on the story rather than on how your voice sounds. The less nervous you’re, the better your ability to remember.

4. Stay Alert for Difficult Queries

Data storytelling isn’t simply about pitching a fairytale to your audience and making them like you.

During an interactive presentation, there might be questions or doubts in the minds of your audience. There are various ways your genius storytelling presentation could be interrupted and a good data storyteller must be prepared to handle any and all challenges.

One good way to avoid questions in between the storytelling process is to address the audience in the room beforehand and politely ask them to wait until the presentation is over to answer any questions.

Make sure to cover your weaknesses and provide effective answers to any questions asked.

If your solutions are satisfactory and you’ve convinced your doubters to become believers, you’re in for an incomparable future of opportunities.

Some effective methods to use in your data storytelling session are.

  • Stick to a single chart in your presentation. Multiple charts only cause confusion to you and the audience.
  • Use light and distinct colors to differentiate between graphs.
  • Keep the presentation to a minimal time without drawing it out.
  • The story you present must be extremely relevant to the information on hand.
  • Use large and clear fonts that are easy for everyone in the room to read.
  • Ensure too many variables aren’t used. As a rule of thumb, anything above 5 is considered confusing.
  • Don’t use fancy pie charts and graphs that are hard to read. Stick to simple ones.

CONCLUSION

With bigwigs like Microsoft and Google turning towards data storytelling to guide their analytical insights, the future of data storytelling is going to evolve in the coming years.

Every year businesses are either broken down or created thanks to these storytelling geniuses. With the power to control events and the metrics present in your hands, data storytellers are nothing short of a C-suite executive to the company.

After all, converting data dumps into interesting information is a superpower in itself.

Did you fall prey to enormous data classification in the past? How much has data storytelling improved your career? Share your thoughts below.

Data storytelling links emotions and rational decisions

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