How to succeed with your data storytelling?

Dernière mise à jour : 28/10/2021

For Paul Ricœur (a contemporary philosopher) “we tell stories because human lives need and deserve to be told.” Every day, in every corner of the planet, we generate an astronomical amount of data. These data are fragments of our lives!

Thanks to data scientists and the democratization of data visualisation, we have succeeded in making part of this mass of information tangible and readable. That said, one question remains: how to effectively transmit important information in order to make the best decisions? The answer is in two words: data storytelling!


What is data storytelling?

To understand the data storytelling, we have to split this term into two parts. Data is facts, figures, data. But then, what is this famous storytelling? Storytelling is a process to bring narrative patterns to all forms of communication. A story consists of three parts: the initial situation ( the exposition) , the development and the fall. Between each of these parts we find the disruptive element and the climax. Moreover, narrator, hero, protagonists and adventures are also essential elements. One narrative must evolve from one initial state to another.A change occurs!

Your presentations do not escape this structure! You have probably attended particularly boring meetings to the point of drowsing. These presentations lacked dynamism, they were long and monotonous just like the presenters!It is simple to avoid this situation. A good data storytelling is based on 5 pillars: you, your audience, your data, the visual aspect and the narration.

You :

You are the narrator, the one who breathes life into your data presentation. You bring essential information to decision-making.You must therefore be as charismatic as possible. We must remember your speech! Be an internal and omniscient narrator. Internal, because you are involved in the decision-making process and in the future of your department or business. Omniscient, because you must master your subject. To make a successful presentation it is important to have rehearsed beforehand. This rehearsal will gargle your confidence. Your diction is an important criterion, do not go too fast or too slowly and especially ar-ti-cu-late!

Body language is also important for your data storytelling. The shifty looks, the slumped body, too frozen or the mimics related to stress (use of an object as a de-stress, play with the fingers...) are all factors that will decrease your credibility. You are stressing out, losing your words… pause, catch your breath and resume your presentation.

Audience :

Your audience forms both the target and the protagonists of your data storytelling! By this we mean that they are the people to whom your presentations are intended and that they are the protagonists because they are the ones who are involved in your data storytelling. They will never fail to influence your narration by asking you all kinds of questions. This is why an interactive data presentation solution is crucial. If you submit a quarterly sales report using graphs, your audience will want to know the exact sales over a month. However, your Powerpoint is static, unable to display the requested information! Your protagonists have made you lose your status as an omniscient narrator. You lose your hand on your own presentation (and therefore on your data storytelling )!

A dynamic data presentation solution such as Powerslide is perfectly suited to such a situation! That is why you must not neglect the role that your audience plays in relation to you (team, n+1, n-1, management, customer, service provider, etc.)! Bring them the information they need while getting to the point. The example below evokes this search for simplification and highlighting of information.


In addition, the geographic area from which your audience originated influences how it perceives your data. Do not focus on the traditions and customs of your country. For example, red is a symbol of good fortune in China while in Western countries it is linked to negativity. The storytelling of a story must take into consideration the habits of the targets.It is a matter of conveying emotions to them. May they be transported in your story!

Your data and visual aspect :

Your data are of course the central keys to your data storytelling. They are in a way the adventures and heroes of your presentations. Their graphic representations provide information that will determine the behavior of your audience and the fall of your story. span style="background-color: white;">Before we talk about the drop, let’s focus on our data.The appearance of a graph has a huge influence on your audience perception. Looking at the graph below are you able to say that they are the largest slices? (The answer to this question can be found at the end of the article)


Each chart has its interest and is tailored to a specific need.

The narration :

First of all, we would like to share this one-minute short film with you before going any further in our reflection.

What makes this short film captivating is its ability to involve us in history thanks to a factor common to all humanity: breathing and its place in our societies. It also involves us to the extent that it confronts us with situations that we have all experienced. And of course, it goes to the essentials. A good data storytelling must do the same. It must bind us to each other and go to the essentials.

Since our earliest childhood we have been subject to narration. Story thus has an important social function. During early childhood, a story allows the child to build himself, his vocabulary and his relationship with others. This continues throughout life, even though our life as children is different from our life as adults. Story is a factor of social cohesion! The great leaders of history, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs or (unfortunately) Adolf Hitler had understood it well.They proposed, all 3, projections in a common future, echoed values shared by their audience and believed firmly in their convictions.A good storytelling is also based on these elements.We are a sociable species, our ability to project ourselves into a fiction and in the future are the elements that allowed us to break with the wild state.Humanity and progress have been forged through our imagination.But then how to include this narration in your data graphics and in your presentations?

To succeed in a data storytelling, you must prioritize your information. There is no need to spread out a wide range of information. Go to the essentials and organize your scenario. You are the narrator, you are responsible for choosing the order in which your information will appear. First, place the most comprehensive and least surprising information.Second, gradually direct your story to the fall of your story. At that time it is important to surprise your audience (disruptive elements); talk about your competitors, compare with the previous year, present your best market share, question the members of the meeting, answer the questions…What you need is intrigue!Keep your audience in suspense!Your data builds emotion!Third, wrap up, take your audience to the fall of your story.It’s time for decision.

Storytelling is important, and that is why it must be treated with care. There is no point in wanting to go too fast. If transmitting information requires several steps or slides, do so. Precipitation and informational overload reduce the understanding to its lowest level.

To put it in a nutshell,

Data storytelling is your most valuable ally when presenting data. Prioritizing your information, how you present it, and interacting with your audience all contribute to the success of your presentations.You, your data and the aspect of your presentation affect the perception of the latter.By adding intrigue you will capture the attention of your audience and this one will more easily retain your intervention.

Answer to previous question: The bar graph represents exactly the same values as the pie chart.