What is Data Storytelling?

Today, we are confronted by more data than ever before. We have access to more data and information than ever before. However, all too often the insight from all this data and information is lost in a sea of noise. For example, social media and the rise of ubiquitous high-speed internet has made it easier than ever before for users to create and share content, ideas and data. However, often the key insight from this content is lost in a sea of noise.

The volumes of data that we have access today have only existed for a few hundred years. The first charts only started to appear in the late 1700’s and since then they have proliferated exponentially. It’s now easier than ever to create charts.

A common misconception is that in the age of big data everyone needs to be a data scientist or data engineer. Yet so often, the biggest positive impacts in the world are driven by making the insights from data simple and accessible. People don’t relate to numbers and data in isolatation. People relate to stories.

A 2011 report from McKinsey and Company identifies that “there will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.” One of the most valuable skills you can invest in is the ability to extract insights from data and share compelling stories with those insights.

Creating a story for the goal of informing others has been something that civilization has been reliant upon since the dawn of humankind. But with so many advances in technologies and expansion of our collective imaginations, the power of storytelling has grown exponentially more vital, particularly as marketplaces grow more crowded and the importance of finding and reaching an audience grows exponentially more difficult as our attention spans grow shorter.

A good story is something that everyone remembers. We may not recall every last narrative element and a few details might get forgotten in the re-telling of the story over time, but the major plot points, the themes, and the structure of the narrative are typically recognized and well-memorized by those who have engaged with a compelling story.


This should all be considered when it comes to the gathering and analysis of data in the day to day operations of your business. Data is an essential tool in the toolbox of any enterprise, regardless of size or industry. That’s what makes data storytelling such an effective and compelling solution for success.


Understanding Data Storytelling

Understanding Data Storytelling is growing increasingly essential in today’s fast-paced digital arena because of the sheer amount of data that is now available. Storytelling brings a greater human element to the arena of data analysis and makes the data easier to digest.

The Key Components of Data Storytelling Data storytelling incorporates three specific methodologies for communication. Combining all of these together into one clear and concise format for disseminating information can make the task of assessing and transmitting data for wide consumption a lot simpler and more compelling.



Data Sciences

The first of these key components lies in the field of data science. There are a number of pertinent technologies that work wonders in the background of data sciences, but on it’s own, the approach that data science takes towards leveraging data is mostly clinical, at best.

The data science component is tasked with the collection of data but is unable to tell a story about that data all on its own. This area is focused solely on the gathering of vital data but it typically does not delve much further value in truly dissecting it and gleaning new information from it for a more well-rounded and complete comprehension of it.




Consider all the ways in which you can analyze and try to make sense of data. We have countless types of charts and graphs and with the development of more complex online and digital resources, the dashboard has become something of an industry standard in just about every industry where data was paramount. With modern software packages, throwing together a fancy looking chart or dashboard is easier than ever. What differentiates an out of the box chart from a software package like Microsoft Excel, or PowerBI, from a chart that is ready for data storytelling is the configuration of that visualization to be simple, easy to consume, and enriched with techniques like highlighting and color to focus attention, so that your audience can easily and quickly determine the key takeaway that your data conveys.


Narrative Elements

So now we come to the third and arguably the most important component in the mix for creating a powerful story with data. Here is where the art of language comes into play and the words that are employed to create a narrative must be expertly selected.

The narrative component relies on identifying the most important insights from your data, supporting those insights with effective visualization, and then articulating what those insights are and how they fit together into a broader story with the use of clear language. The third component is centered around taking both of these factors into consideration in order to build a narrative that explains and offers some manner of insight or interpretation surrounding the key points of the data.

Now, how you convey that narrative and the purposes for building the story are entirely up to you and might be predicated upon the particular goals or objectives that your company might be trying to accomplish. As long as the data is accurate and correct, the visuals are properly organized so they can be shuffled into datasets, and the narrative is clear, simple, and conveyed in language that is easy to understand, you will find that data storytelling can bring your business a distinct advantage.

This has only been a brief introduction to the world of data storytelling, and for any business owner who is interested in unlocking its potential, there are courses that one can take to fully understand and take charge of this valuable tool for analysis. StoryIQ is an excellent resource for seeking out educational courses that teach data storytelling to novices and veterans in data analytics alike.

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