business intelligence data presentation

Dashboard storytelling: The perfect presentation (part 2)

In the first part of this article, we have introduced the phenomenon of dashboard storytelling and some tips and tricks to get started with it. If you haven´t read part 1 of this article, make sure you do that! You can find part 1 here.

How to present a dashboard – 6 Tips for the perfect dashboard storytelling presentation

Now that we’ve covered the data-driven storytelling essentials, it’s time to dig deeper into ways that you can make maximum impact with your storytelling dashboard presentations.

Business dashboards are now driving forces for visualization in the field of business intelligence. Unlike their predecessors, a state-of-the-art dashboard builder gives presenters the ability to engage audiences with real-time data and offer a more dynamic approach to presenting data compared to the rigid, linear nature of, say, Powerpoint for example.

With the extra creative freedom data dashboards offer, the art of storytelling is making a reemergence in the boardroom. The question now is: What determines great dashboarding?

Without further ado, here are six tips that will help you to transform your presentation into a story and rule your own company through dashboard storytelling.

1. Set up your plan

Start at square one on how to present a dashboard: outline your presentation. Like all good stories, the plot should be clear, problems should be presented, and an outcome foreshadowed. You have to ask yourself the right data analysis questions when it comes to exploring the data to get insights, but you also need to ask yourself the right questions when it comes to presenting such data to a certain audience. Which information do they need to know or want to see? Make sure you have a concise storyboard when you present so you can take the audience along with you as you show off your data. Try to be purpose-driven to get the best dashboarding outcomes, but don’t entangle yourself in a rigid format that is unchangeable.

2. Don’t be afraid to show some emotion

Stephen Few, a leading design consultant, explains on his blog that “when we appeal to people’s emotions strictly to help them personally connect with information and care about it, and do so in a way that draws them into reasoned consideration of the information, not just feeling, we create a path to a brighter, saner future”. Emotions stick around much longer in a person’s psyche than facts and charts. Even the most analytical thinkers out there will be more likely to remember your presentation if you can weave elements of human life and emotion. How to present a dashboard with emotion? By adding some anecdotes, personal life experiences that everyone can relate to, or culturally shared moments and jokes.

However, do not rely just on emotions to make your point. Your conclusions and ideas need to be backed by data, science, and facts. Otherwise, and especially in business contexts, you might not be taken seriously. You’d also miss an opportunity to help people learn to make better decisions by using reason and would only tap into a “lesser-evolved” part of humanity. Instead, emotionally appeal to your audience to drive home your point.

3. Make your story accessible to people outside your sector

Combining complicated jargon, millions of data points, advanced math concepts, and making a story that people can understand is not an easy task. Opt for simplicity and clear visualizations to increase the level of audience engagement.

Your entire audience should be able to understand the points that you are driving home. Jeff Bladt, the director of Data Products Analytics at, offered a pioneering case study on accessibility through data. When commenting on how he goes from 350 million data points to organizational change, he shared: “By presenting the data visually, the entire staff was able to quickly grasp and contribute to the conversation. Everyone was able to see areas of high and low engagement. That led to a big insight: Someon outside the analytics team noticed that members in Texas border towns were much more engaged than members in Northwest coastal cities.”

Making your presentation accessible to laypeople opens up more opportunities for your findings to be put to good use.

4. Create an interactive dialogue

No one likes being told what to do. Instead of preaching to your audience, enable them to be a part of the presentation througinteractive dashboard features. By using real-time data, manipulating data points in front of the audience, and encouraging questions during the presentation, you will ensure your audiences are more engaged as you empower them to explore the data on their own. At the same time, you will also provide a deeper context. The interactivity is especially interesting in dashboarding when you have a broad target audience: it onboards newcomers easily while letting the ‘experts’ dig deeper into the data for more insights.

5. Experiment

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches to storytelling with data. Create a dashboard storytelling plan that allows you to experiment, test different options, and learn what will build the engagement among your listeners and make sure you fortify your data storytelling with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). As you try and fail by making them fall asleep or check their email, you will only learn from it and get the information on how to improve your dashboarding and storytelling with data techniques, presentation after presentation.

6. Balance your words and visuals wisely

Last but certainly not least is a tip that encompasses all of the above advice but also offers a means of keeping it consistent, accessible, and impactful from start to finish balance your words and visuals wisely.

What we mean here is that in data-driven storytelling, consistency is key if you want to grip your audience and drive your message home. Our eyes and brains focus on what stands out. The best data storytellers leverage this principle by building charts and graphs with a single message that can be effortlessly understood, highlighting both visually and with words the strings of information that they want their audience to remember the most.

With this in mind, you should keep your language clear, concise, and simple from start to finish. While doing this, use the best possible visualizations to enhance each segment of your story, placing a real emphasis on any graph, chart, or sentence that you want your audience to take away with them.

Every single element of your dashboard design is essential, but by emphasizing the areas that really count, you’ll make your narrative all the more memorable, giving yourself the best possible chance of enjoying the results you deserve.

The best dashboard storytelling examples

Now that we’ve explored the ways in which you can improve your data-centric storytelling and make the most of your presentations, it’s time for some inspiring storytelling presentation examples. Let’s start with a storytelling dashboard that relates to the retail sector.

1. A retailer’s store dashboard with KPIs

The retail industry is an interesting one as it has particularly been disrupted with the advent of online retailing. Collecting data analytics is extremely important for this sector as it can take an excellent advantage out of analytics because of its data-driven nature. And as such, data storytelling with KPIs is a particularly effective method to communicate trends, discoveries and results.

The first of our storytelling presentation examples serves up the information related to customers’ behavior and helps in identifying patterns in the data collected. The specific retail KPIs tracked here are focused on the sales: by division, by items, by city, and the out-of-stock items. It lets us know what the current trends in customers’ purchasing habits are and allow us to break down this data according to a city or a gender/age for enhanced analysis. We can also anticipate any stock-out to avoid losing money and visualize the stock-out tendencies over time to spot any problems in the supply chain.

2. A hospital’s management dashboard with KPIs

This second of our data storytelling examples delivers the tale of a busy working hospital. That might sound a little fancier than it is, but it’s of paramount importance. All the more when it comes to public healthcare, a sector very new to data collection and analytics that has a lot to win from it in many ways.

For a hospital, a centralized dashboard is a great ally in the everyday management of the facility. The one we have here gives us the big picture of a complex establishment, tracking several healthcare KPIs.

From the total admissions to the total patients treated, the average waiting time in the ER, or broken down per division, the story told by the healthcare dashboard is essential. The top management of this facility have a holistic view to run the operations more easily and efficiently and can try to implement diverse measures if they see abnormal figures. For instance, an average waiting time for a certain division that is way higher than the others can shed light on some problems this division might be facing: lack of staff training, lack of equipment, understaffed unit, etc.

All this is vital for the patient’s satisfaction as well as the safety and wellness of the hospital staff that deals with life and death every day.

3. A human resources (HR) recruitment dashboard with KPIs

The third of our data storytelling examples relates to human resources. This particular storytelling dashboard focuses on one of the most essential responsibilities of any modern HR department: the recruitment of new talent.

In today’s world, digital natives are looking to work with a company that not only shares their beliefs and values but offers opportunities to learn, progress, and grow as an individual. Finding the right fit for your organization is essential if you want to improve internal engagement and reduce employee turnover.

The HR KPIs related to this storytelling dashboard are designed to enhance every aspect of the recruitment journey, helping to drive down economical efficiencies and improving the quality of hires significantly.

Here, the art of storytelling with KPIs is made easy. This HR dashboard offers a clear snapshot into important aspects of HR recruitment, including the cost per hire, recruiting conversion or success rates, and the time to fill a vacancy from initial contact to official offer.

With this most intuitive of data storytelling examples, building a valuable narrative that resonates with your audience is made easy, and as such, it’s possible to share your recruitment insights in a way that fosters real change and business growth.

Final words of advice

One of the major advantages of working with dashboards is the improvement they have made to data visualization. Don’t let this feature go to waste with your own presentations. Place emphasis on making visuals clear and appealing to get the most from your dashboarding efforts.

Transform your presentations from static, lifeless work products into compelling stories by weaving an interesting and interactive plot line into them.

If you haven't read part 1 of this article yet, you can find it here.

Author: Sandra Durcevic

Source: Datapine