Narrative Science is now part of Salesforce!

Learn More

Blog How To Tell A Compelling Data Story

Most people use data in their jobs but not everyone knows how to communicate and present their insights clearly. Knowing how to tell a data story is critical to ensure people will take action on your findings. Why a story? Our brains are wired to be drawn in and connect to stories so people will remember and take action from them.

There are a couple challenges when it comes to creating these stories:

  • Identifying executive priorities is difficult- how do you know what to highlight?
  • Clear visualizations are an art- how do you design the right stories?
  • Telling an affection data story is essential- how do you deliver the insights?

During our recent Data Storytelling Virtual Summit, Zack Mazzoncini, Founder of Data Story Academy and a Co-Founder of data and analytics firm Decisive Data spoke about how to tell a compelling data story.

Zack gives us three tools to transform confusing data into stories that create clarity and inspire action.

The Blueprint: Find the right data stories

Ask yourself the following questions before even beginning the story.

  • What questions will be answered?
  • What actions will be taken? 
  • What results are expected?

The Canvas: Design the right data stories

  • Purposeful layout, you should follow the intuitive path and ask yourself where do the eyes lead naturally
  • Intuitive visuals, create quick cognitive insights with your visuals
  • Color with meaning, choice should be purposeful and draw the eye to important area
  • Allow for flexibility, prepare for additional questions
  • Simply and eliminate distractions, you should  allow audience to focus what matters and eliminate unnecessary distractions like borders or images
  • Smart Text, never underestimate the power of concise and clear text to propel a story, this is pivotal to getting the insights across
  • Optimize for Sharing, you should understand how the story will be used after the presentation. Do they need it on mobile? Do they want to email it?

The Story: Deliver the insights

  • The first 30 seconds matter, studies show we gain or lose the audience in the first 30 seconds, you must do something to grab their attention!
  • Bring emotion + passion, show the group why you are interested in this data story, your passion will spread into the room.
  • Practice! Presenting and public speaking is hard, practice will alleviate those nerves and result in a better delivery.

Zack's session at the summit

Zack Mazzoncini is the Founder of Data Story Academy and a Co-Founder of Seattle-based data and analytics firm Decisive Data. Over the years Zack has helped hundreds of organizations and individuals develop data-driven cultures centered around data storytelling. Zack graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in communications, rhetoric, and public speaking. He is considered one of the most entertaining and informative speakers in the analytics industry. His audiences are inspired to find the most important stories in their data and lean into their creativity.