5 Tips to Tell a Better Story With Data

As part of my preparation for the 2016 Digital Marketing Bootcamp in Syracuse, NY I decided to give my readers and followers a recap of some of the content I presented. This was one section of my 30 minute talk where I discussed "Using Data to Tell a Story." Although the presentation was geared towards web analytics and digital data in particular, my presentation was applicable to all users who report or present statistics, numbers, and data to their internal or external customers.

When reviewing the basics of data storytelling, it's important to consider these 5 items.

5 Tips to Tell a Better Story With Data

​(1) Know Your Audience

A precursor to any good story is first understanding who you are telling it to. Your message and choice of words will be much different if you are delivering a presentation to a 3rd grade class versus the board of trustees at Amazon. Knowing your audience helps you prioritize and place a focus on what story to tell. By segmenting your audiences you'll be able to tell more relatable mini-stories to finance, marketing, management, and sales rather than telling the same large and general story to all.

(2) Ask Yourself Questions

Perhaps one of the best tips that spans far beyond just storytelling. It has ripple effects into your meetings and one-on-ones as well. Put yourself in your viewers' or readers' shoes as they go through your report and data. Ask questions which they will be most likely to ask. Weave those answers into your general presentation flow and address those questions before they even have a chance to ask. Anticipating needs allows you get into the mindsets of your readers and connect with them through your content.

(3) Create Personas

Personas are characters or profiles of users and customers that provide a face to the data. Rather than reading through statistics from 7 charts and graphs on 7 separate slides, pull nuggets from each of those charts and build it into a one-page customer profile story. Discuss how that user interacts with your product or service. Believe me, it makes the data memorable and impactful to your listeners.

(4) Provide Closure

At the end of your story, report, or data presentation, make sure you are making a conclusion, creating next steps, or stating action items. Not knowing if there will be a sequel works in movies but it doesn't work in your next weekly 10:00 AM marketing meeting.

(5) Pick Your Times

We are all strapped for time and in a world of big data. The gap between the amount of data we receive and time available to analyze it widens every second in web analytics. Face it, you cannot craft stories for every single request or piece of data you work with. Save storytelling for the m​eaty presentations or the ones that will really make an impact on your business. Here's to you, boss.

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