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Blog He Wrote the Book on Data Storytelling

Recap of Data Stories Deep Dive Episode 1 with Brent Dykes

This week kicked off our Data Stories Deep Dive series! This series will be bi-weekly hosted by our very own VP of Marketing, Cassidy Shield, and feature different data storytelling experts to show you how to actually use your data. The mission is simple- we want to teach everyone how to be better storytellers.

Our first episode featured Brent Dykes, author of Effective Data Storytelling: How to Drive Change with Data, Narrative, and Visuals. His book is about the psychology behind data storytelling and what you can learn from it so he was the perfect person to kick off this series.

Brent has a marketing background and has worked at places like Domo and Adobe. He moved into the analytics space which led him to really feel the struggle that comes from able to communicate data insights effectively.

Some insights from Brent:

  • When sharing insights from data, you need narrative and visual components- it can’t be the visual alone. There is so much more to storytelling than the visual component; this has been lost in the world of dashboards and visualizations today. Without the narrative and story arc, you are missing part of the story.
  • Many analysts feel that if they provide the data, that they can convince anyone of anything but that is just not the case. There’s this emotional side of the brain that is left out of this scenario but this side of the brain plays a large part in decision making. The key is to combine insights with a good narrative, the combination of the two  is very powerful and persuasive for the audience. 
  • There are a few things you need for communicating a data story successfully:
    • A single central insight. What is the most important takeaway from this story? What is the north star? At times you might need multiple stories for this 
    • A structure to your information. It is pivotal to think about your audience and what they would care about. Your story should always have these;
      • The set up (Bare minimum level of context needed to understand the story)
      • The hook (Why would people care about this story?)
      • Rising insights (what are the pieces of the puzzle that lead you to your main takeaway? Let’s build up to the Aha moment!)
      • Action drivers (Include potential solutions to support your key takeaway)
    • Visualize key data points
      • The best kind of stories use both narrative and visual to describe their points. Pick the top data points and show them visually to drive your point.


“At the end of the day, we are using data more than ever before so if we can communicate data in a way that way resonates, it will be very impactful personally and professionally” -Brent Dykes

Click Here to Watch Brent Dykes' Episode

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