You can have the best data in the world, but if you don’t present it in a way that captures your audience, it will be of little use.
Creating data visualization is only the starting point. Without a compelling story to capture attention, tell the story in context, and motivate action, your efforts will be in vain. Some data experts will tell you that a well-designed visual presentation doesn’t need explanation, but communication elements are missing in data displays only a compelling story can resolve. A well-written story will add these essential elements.
- Context that brings all the elements into a cohesive message.
- Personalization and relevance to the audience. A well-told story places each member of the audience into the story by creating a picture of themselves in the situation.
- An emotional connection. People make decisions with their primitive brain, or amygdala, without even realizing it. It happens before their conscious minds have even noticed there is a decision to make. Like it or not, emotions rule decision-making.
We do not mean to say powerful visualization are unnecessary. They are essential to building credibility and reinforce the message. Visual displays back up your story and give your audience a picture of the data relationships you discuss.
Marketing Expertise on Your Analytics Team
In our recent article about building a people analytics team, we named marketing is an essential skill. Marketing hires journalists, copywriters, and producers who are experts in storytelling. Whether you borrow expertise from your own marketing group or hire your own, your head of Marketing will be a valuable ally.
Your marketing expert will help you construct a storyboard. It is a series of drawings or graphics with dialogue for a movie or other production that shows each scene and dialog. We use the same technique in our e-learning design and in presentations of all kinds. It makes developing the story much easier by providing a framework for your team to build the narrative. There are many powerful tools available for storyboarding, but if you are creating a PowerPoint presentation, you can create it there. Or you can do just as well with a pen and sheets of paper tacked to a wall.
Creating Your People Analytics Story
To get the overall picture of your message, begin by creating the “story arc.” A story has a beginning, a buildup to a climax, and falling action to an ending. As you analyze your data, there are sure to be revelations, each of which can be a climactic moment in a buildup to a solution. Every good movie and TV show you see and every novel you read has a variation of the story arc.
Start by developing how the story ends. Ask yourself what you want your audience to do with the information. Then construct the storyboard, including every relevant detail.
Constructing an Analytics Presentation
Once you have your storyboard, you can build the presentation.
- Start in the middle of the story. Describe the business need you needed to address and the crux of the problem.
- Make it personal to draw people into the story. You could start by saying, “Fred was standing at the window, gently banging his head against the frame. He was thinking he didn’t have enough information to solve his problem” (only if it is true).
- Remove any unnecessary detail—anything that will distract from the central message.
- Hint at the “big idea” that will come at the end. It can be as simple as stating you discovered new insights into how to solve the problem. Use the idea to build suspense.
- Keep the momentum going.
- Use details to maintain interest, but don’t let them distract.
- Be specific about what you want to happen next, but let people make their own decisions. You could give them several choices, or open discussion on what the solution should be.
- Provide ongoing communications and a forum for discussing ideas.
We recommend bringing your marketer into your team from the beginning. The more they know about what you want to accomplish, the better they can create a persuasive story.
Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.