Deep Thoughts

How to tell stories with data

Data is a beautiful opportunity for you to show performance and progress, but is the way you’re presenting data leaving your audience confused and impacting your message?

We’ve never lived in a time when we all have access to so much data to help us make better decisions. Data is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to measure engagement, performance and progression, but it can also be very complex for many to understand. If you can’t explain your metrics in a simple way than data is worthless to you.

Access to so much data has granted us unique opportunities to showcase an abundance of trends and insights – but how can you do this in a way that even your technophobe grandmother would understand? Tell it like a story.

You can use data to paint a real life picture of what your trends and insights really mean, create a compelling, relevant and simple narrative to provide context to your content. Since we were kids, we’ve always been told stories through a variety of media that have informed us on a variety of subjects.

Personally, I’ve found turning my streams of metrics into a compact and simple story of ‘how this impacts our business’ allows me to connect with any audience and becoming a storyteller with data has been one of my most used communication tools to get my message across and inform leaders on what they really need to know.

sean bean

One does not simply show data

How can I do this?

It’s actually pretty simple and I’m going to give you a quick and instantly actionable example. You’ll need to understand that although you may be fully aware of what every metric from google analytics means, your audience might think they are looking at hieroglyphs.

The example I’ll run through will be for a made up website and lets imagine you need to show your team the performance across your site. They basically just want to know if people are accessing the site and what they are doing on it, now that sounds really simple but it’s also our duty to identify metrics outside of this brief that will help show a complete picture. (Selection of metric’s is another post in itself which I won’t cover here.)


A two minute example

As laid out in the above fake brief, you need to show your colleagues and leadership team the performance of your site and give them a little wow factor on top with some key insights. Instead of boring them to death and your key messages being lost in a bunch of uninspiring random numbers – you can turn stats from your dashboard (a random google images find) like the below:



Into this




Hopefully you can see a clear difference and understand the second image in a far simpler way and appreciate that it’s far easier on the eyes too . Big key and instantly understandable stats are your goal.

The key is to provide real world context for your audience and ensure you show the direct link to the population your tracking. You want to clearly convey key messages they need to know without the need to provide too much additional commentary.

So next time you’re asked to present data at a meeting, think about how you can make it more simple, engaging and importantly clear for your audience to understand your message – think about the stories you can tell with your data.


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3 replies on “How to tell stories with data”

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