In an age where social, mobile, big data, and the cloud are all converging in new and exciting ways, data storytelling has become more essential than ever. After all, we remember stories, not spreadsheets. A narrative has both meaning and value when it is memorable, personal and impactful. By telling an engaging story with the data to back it up, you’ll be able to reach your audience on an emotional and intellectual level.

4 reasons why data storytelling matters:

1. Stories make data meaningful:

Stories bridge the gap between data science, analytics, and your audience. Whether that audience includes consumers, potential partners or investors, a narrative takeaway is essential to convey how your product or service will solve a particular need. Take the points your spreadsheet wants to convey and embed them within a narrative for a greater lasting impact.

2. Stories tell to sell:

The goal of analytics is often to change how someone makes a decision or takes an action. A story can convey how to get from point A to B more clearly than raw data can—think of it like giving someone a map instead of just a set of coordinates. By showing the destination and how to get there, you are able provide a bridge between raw data and the users who stand to benefit from it. Along the way, you’re also using story to shape your company’s narrative.

3. Stories simplify:

While raw data can be complex and hard to process, putting it in the context of a story boils it down to simple, memorable truths. Data analytics can be too complex for the average audience to digest. Instead, frame those figures in an engaging narrative, and the message will be received loud and clear.

4. Stories crystalize takeaways:

Investors are not necessarily interested in complex data analysis, but rather in the takeaways that speak to a company’s future health. Similarly, consumers don’t care about the back end analytics behind your app; they are interested in how your service can improve their own life in a real and meaningful way. Use data storytelling to put into context the problem that your product solves.

Now that we know why data visualization and storytelling matters so much, let’s take a look at 4 easy ways to improve your narrative:

1. Consider your audience:

Is your story intended for generalists or experts? Consumers or investors? Frame your story by taking into account what the audience already knows versus what they might not yet know.

2. Curate your data:

With so much data available, focus in on the specific data that will help you craft the story you want to tell. In other words, curate your data so the audience can focus on a few, powerful points rather than be distracted by information overload.

3. Be objective:

Present your data objectively to garner audience trust. Use standardized units and don’t let design elements skew the data. Remember, you’re telling a true story.

4. Make it visual:

Go beyond charts and graphs by showing your data in a more visual way. For instance, translating your data onto a physical map gives the numbers real world relevancy while also becoming part of the story. Let your data help you tell the story, not hinder it.

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