Dashboard storytelling: The perfect presentation (part 1)
Plato famously said that “those who tell stories rule society.” This statement is as true today as it was in ancient Greece, perhaps even more so in modern times.
In the contemporary world of business, the age-old art of storytelling is far from forgotten: rather than speeches on the Senate floor, businesses rely on striking data visualizations to convey information, drive engagement, and persuade audiences.
By combining the art of storytelling with the technological capabilities of dashboard software, it’s possible to develop powerful, meaningful, data-backed presentations that not only move people but also inspire them to take action or make informed, data-driven decisions that will benefit your business.
As far back as anyone can remember, narratives have helped us make sense of the sometimes complicated world around us. Rather than just listing facts, figures, and statistics, people used gripping, imaginative timelines, bestowing raw data with real context and interpretation. In turn, this got the attention of listeners, immersing them in the narrative, thereby offering a platform to absorb a series of events in their mind’s eye precisely the way they unfolded.
Here we explore data-driven, live dashboard storytelling in depth, looking at storytelling with KPIs and the dynamics of a data storytelling presentation while offering real-world storytelling presentation examples.
First, we’ll delve into the power of data storytelling as well as the general dynamics of a storytelling dashboard and what you can do with your data to deliver a great story to your audience. Moreover, we will offer dashboard storytelling tips and tricks that will help you make your data-driven narrative-building efforts as potent as possible, driving your business into exciting new dimensions. But let’s start with a simple definition.
“You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it.” – Margaret Atwood
What is dashboard storytelling?
Dashboard storytelling is the process of presenting data in effective visualizations that depict the whole narrative of key performance indicators, business strategies and processes in the form of an interactive dashboard on a single screen, and in real-time. Storytelling is indeed a powerful force, and in the age of information, it’s possible to use the wealth of insights available at your fingertips to communicate your message in a way that is more powerful than you could ever have imagined. So, let's take a look at the top tips and tricks to be able to successfully create your own story with a few clicks.
4 Tricks to get started with dashboard storytelling
Big data commands big stories.
Forward-thinking business people turn to online data analysis and data visualizations to display colossal volumes of content in a few well-designed charts. But these condensed business insights may remain hidden if they aren’t communicated with words in a way that is effective and rewarding to follow. Without language, business people often fail to push their message through to their audience, and as such, fail to make any real impact.
Marketers, salespeople, and entrepreneurs are today’s storytellers. They are wholly responsible for their data story. People in these roles are often the bridge between their data and the forum of decision-makers they’re looking to encourage to take the desired action.
Effective dashboard storytelling with data in a business context must be focused on tailoring the timeline to the audience and choosing one of the right data visualization types to complement or even enhance the narrative.
To demonstrate this notion, let’s look at some practical tips on how to prepare the best story to accompany your data.
1. Start with data visualization
This may sound repetitive, but when it comes to a dashboard presentation, or dashboard storytelling presentation, it will form the foundation of your success: you must choose your visualization carefully.
Different views answer different questions, so it’s vital to take care when choosing how to visualize your story. To help you in this regard, you will need a robust data visualization tool. These intuitive aids in dashboard storytelling are now ubiquitous and provide a wide array of options to choose from, including line charts, bar charts, maps, scatter plots, spider webs, and many more. Such interactive tools are rightly recognized as a more comprehensive option than PowerPoint presentations or endless Excel files.
These tools help both in exploring the data and visualizing it, enabling you to communicate key insights in a persuasive fashion that results in buy-in from your audience.
But for optimum effectiveness, we still need more than a computer algorithm.. Here we need a human to present the data in a way that will make it meaningful and valuable. Moreover, this person doesn’t need to be a common presenter or a teacher-like figure. According to research carried out by Stanford University, there are two types of storytelling: author- and reader-driven storytelling.
An author-driven narrative is static and authoritative because it dictates the analysis process to the reader or listener. It’s like analyzing a chart printed in a newspaper. On the other hand, reader-driven storytelling allows the audience to structure the analysis on their own. Here, the audience can choose the data visualizations that they deem meaningful and interact with them on their own by drilling down to more details or choosing from various KPI examples they want to see visualized. They can reach out for insights that are crucial to them and make sense out of data independently. A different story may need a different type of stoeytelling.
2. Put your audience first
Storytelling for a dashboard presentation should always begin with stating your purpose. What is the main takeaway from your data story? It should be clear that your purpose is to motivate the audience to take a certain action.
Instead of thinking about your business goals, try to envision what your listeners are seeking. Each member of your audience, be that a potential customer, future business partner, or stakeholder, has come to listen to your data storytelling presentation to gain a profit for him or herself. To better meet your audience’s expectations and gain their trust (and money), put their goals first in the determination of the line of your story.
Needless to say, before your dashboard presentation, try to learn as much as you can about your listeners. Put yourself in their shoes: Who are they? What do they do on a daily basis? What are their needs? What value can they draw from your data for themselves?
The better you understand your audience, the more they will trust you and follow your idea.
3. Don’t fill up your data storytelling with empty words
Storytelling with data, rather than just presenting data visualizations, brings the best results. That said, there are certain enemies of your story that make it more complicated than enlightening and turn your efforts into a waste of time.
The first things that could cause some trouble are the various technology buzzwords that are devoid of any defined meaning. These words don’t create a clear picture in your listeners’ heads and are useless as a storytelling aid. In addition, to under-informing your audience, buzzwords are a sign of your lazy thinking and a herald that you don’t have anything unique or meaningful to say. Try to add clarity to your story by using more precise and descriptive narratives that truly communicate your purpose.
Another trap can be the use of your industry jargon to sound more professional. The problem here is that it may not be the jargon of your listeners’ industry, they may not comprehend your narrative. Moreover, some jargon phrases have different meanings depending on the context they are used in. They mean one thing in the business field and something else in everyday life. Generally they reduce clarity and can also convey the opposite meaning of what you intend to communicate in your data storytelling.
Don’t make your story too long, focus on explaining the meaning of data rather than the ornateness of your language, and humor of your anecdotes. Avoid overusing buzzwords or industry jargon and try to figure out what insights your listeners want to draw from the data you show them.
4. Utilize the power of storytelling
Before we continue our journey into data-powered storytelling, we’d like to further illustrate the unrivaled the power of offering your audience, staff, or partners inspiring narratives by sharing these must-know insights:
- Recent studies suggest that 80% of today’s consumers want brands to tell stories about their business or products.
- The average person processes 100 to 500 digital words every day. By taking your data and transforming it into a focused, value-driven narrative, you stand a far better chance of your message resonating with your audience and yielding the results you desire.
- Human beings absorb information 60 times faster with visuals than with linear text-based content alone. By harnessing the power of data visualization to form a narrative, you’re likely to earn an exponentially greater level of success from your internal or external presentations.
Please also take a look at part 2 of this interesting read, including presentation tips and examples of dashboard storytelling.
Author: Sandra Durcevic