Tell stories with data

    When you are afraid for a responsible report or research, you want to show everything that you can. You skip lunch, do not go into the social. network, doing more than usual. More text, more slides, more tables. Thank you for the diligence, but no one is impressed. More - does not mean better or more interesting. It's good when you try to transcend yourself, but you can spend strength in different ways. Make less, but more accurate and more interesting: to revive the numbers and tell the story in the text.

    How to distinguish history?

    The analyst received the task, prepared the data and began to write conclusions: “First I will put this thesis, then I will answer this question, I will decorate the table. Everything corresponds to the topic, purely and point by point, ”thinks the analyst. Usually the analyst gives the result of his work in plain text or a list.

    A simple text or document is a collection of thoughts, numbers, and graphs that you put together in one topic, in one letter or presentation. It's not a mistake. Your thoughts may be true and to the point. You thoughtfully erased something, added, changed something - tried hard. Plain text is what you think or what you did. This is your world and your iron logic.

    But the text is often sent to nowhere. You read it and think: “Yeah, I agree here. Here I am against it, but the schedule is good and cleverly written. In general, it is understandable, but what should I do about it? ”In the text you put it on your shoulder blades with intellect and facts, but not convincing.

    History  is the same set of pins and pictures. But they are assembled so that they tighten and read vividly. The story touches the problem of the customer reader. History advises the customer how to act in his situation. When you present data in the form of a story, then each element and the title of the presentation is beaten into one point.

    The story is always about the reader and for the reader. For example, one study may have 3 separate stories for the board of directors, marketers, or digital colleagues. Presentation masters are treated differently for students in Kazan and for entrepreneurs in St. Petersburg.

    If deeper, the story tells how our lives change. The story is: "It was. It became. What now?". There are poles in history, like in a magnet. The attention of the reader flows from minus to plus, from problem to solution. In the texts and lists of one continuous "become" and "is."

    The text is tracing from your thoughts, conclusions and ideas. The text is artillery. You bring down all the power of your iron thoughts. Maybe something will hit the target. History is a strategically planned attack that disarms and convinces the reader without further ado. History is the golden key that many people know about, but at the desk, among burning tasks, it’s just not up to it.

    History convinces

    Why don't lists with reinforced concrete facts and arguments work? Why do stories convince?

    The classic way of convincing that is widely used in business is lists, numbers, and graphics. This is a call to common sense, logic, and generally accepted norms. With such lists you begin to argue mentally. If you put on the shoulder, then you take the argument. Well inside remains sediment. You agree because there is nothing to argue.

    We do not solve the facts mechanically. We are not cars. The analyst may have figures in his allies, but the numbers must touch the special strings of the soul. I want to hear the legend, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The numbers only give our legend a foundation. Yes, and we all know that the numbers have a mistake and they do not convince by themselves. Figures convince when they ignite and motivate, when they make you understand when you see a discovery in them.

    History tested for centuries. What does it matter how many pies were in the basket at the red cap and how many steps did she take on the way to her grandmother? We clearly understand that they want to convey to us: “Good conquers evil. If you're going to be a hooligan like a wolf, don't expect good. ” You can continue indefinitely. Also in business, numbers can be shipped or interested.

    History is easy to repeat and from this it is remembered. You have watched the hourly presentation. Yes, it was interesting. But when they ask you what it is, you will need another hour to retell to your colleagues. But if the report has a plot and a story, then you will immediately bring the main idea to your colleagues. And it is so important in analytics that knowledge reaches people, absorbed and began to work.

    History not only changes others, but also forces us to change. We need to stop thinking in the “Let's get it!” Category and start asking questions: “Why? And for what? Is it necessary? ”It is clear that it is easier to just count, just visualize. But "easier" does not mean more interesting. It is impossible to cook a tasty product out of numbers, when you do not understand why and who needs it.

    You will need an extra 15-30 minutes to head to the following numbers and reports. It will be necessary to train. But then you will do it faster and you will not be able to do it as before. The main thing is that you stop reporting and start talking, convincing and influencing something. You will feel your value.

    Quick recipe history

    Erase everything you've done: a presentation, dashboard, or a Google Sheets sign. This is a joke, of course. But we still have to go back to the origin and ask ourselves 3 questions.

    Who is your customer? No need to use common words, be specific. This should be Vasily - a newcomer from the marketing department, who has a low ROI for the adidas sneaker advertising campaign, and not an “ordinary marketer”. How does he better perceive information? Maybe he is always on the road and only watches documents from his mobile? The more subtleties you notice, the more accurate the message will be.

    What do you want from him? What he should understand or how you advise him to act. Say that the creatives from the new freelance designer did not work. Better to try with the old and see what will change. If you have Excel with 10 sheets of reports, but you have nothing to say, then something is wrong.

    At this point it becomes uncomfortable. We must give advice to a specialist or even a director. Everyone is faced with this. You think: “The customer himself knows everything. How can I advise him? ”This is a delusion. Usually, just as you own the data. And you are an expert in this narrow topic. Especially since you are paid for knowing more than a manager. And do not be afraid to make mistakes. A competent mistake is also a result and you can act on its basis.

    How can you back up your findings? Yes, we turn to numbers, but do not rush. It is not enough just to choose a metric, a data source and a type of visualization. Think what you show to confirm your position. What are you giving the numbers? Maybe there are market averages or competitor numbers? Which segments to compare? How to organize all this on a sheet, so that the switch in the customer's head would immediately click.

    Keep a big idea in front of your eyes . This is like a slogan in the logo. One complete sentence that expresses your position. If at lunch or at a meeting you are asked about the study, you do not need to get 40 sheets of the presentation. Start with a great idea.

    Collect the story. You can make a list in a notebook or stick stickers on the board. The main thing is to build from thoughts, graphs and figures a slender line that runs through the beginning , middle and  end . In the beginning you draw the scenery, the problem and how to deal with it. In the middle you show the numbers and the "bright future." In the end, you repeat everything from the beginning, reinforce the big idea and call for action.

    And now what?

    • History is a good test. If the text or report does not tell about anything, can nothing change?
    • If you want figures to influence and convince, learn to tell stories. Strict formal arguments do not affect.
    • Telling stories is a matter of technique. This is a mental framework, on the basis of which you can submit daily analytics on the fly, dashboards, and even large studies.

    Want to delve into the storytelling data? Read the Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals .

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