Just the availability and access to mature data storytelling tools with advanced features do NOT guarantee their leverage.
What are the techniques that efficient and effective data storytellers must hone and embrace, to be able to justify the investments in the data visualization tools and platforms?
Here are the top 5 techniques to build effective data-stories that will resonate with senior business leaders and will add demonstrable value in their decisions and actions:
Exploratory vs. explanatory data storytelling techniques:
Techniques 1 & 2 are exploratory, QnA based data storytelling techniques. As the category-name suggests, they are applicable in scenarios where the data storytellers don't already have a clearcut picture of the business problems and users' targeted outcomes and expectations.
Techniques 3 to 5 are more explanatory and applicable to scenarios where the data storytellers already have a pretty good idea and confidence about what stories and answers the business stakeholders and customers/ user groups want to hear.
1- How to use a Data-story development questionnaire/ template
A good data-story ALWAYS start from the right questions, that the story will provide answers for. So, the first and foremost technique for effective data story-telling lies in the story developers' ability to ask the right questions. Here is an example data-story building questionnaire:
2- The 'So-What' / 'What Then' questions technique
Many of us are familiar with the '5 Why's framework. In similar lines, for data story-telling, the questions can span across multiple levels, a reasonable no. of steps being at least 5.
The key decision here is:
3- Build the Big Idea
Explained by Nancy Duarte in 'Resonate', the Big Idea being summarized into a key sentence, describing:
For the previous example on COVID - planning for the third wave, the Big Idea covering the 4 key dimensions as stated above, can be expressed as:
Based on the analysis of the first and second wave of COVID in India, it has been seen that the mass vaccination drives are the most effective ways to prevent community spread of the contagion across all age-groups, hence the vaccine production, distribution cold chains and execution infrastructure should be funded on an emergency basis, to prevent the third wave.
Storyboarding focuses on first building a structural Strawman of the story. It's like the flowchart that we design, before developing the program/ algorithm and writing the code. It shows how the data story will flow, cascading the narrative from scenarios to scenarios, in a visual form or in the targeted textual content structure.
5- The 3-minute story
This is a time-boxed technique so that the priority filters and key messages are articulated first, and also to reduce unnecessary noises and story 'clutters', e.g. without too many dashboards and data elements eventually proving similar insights and viewpoints.
Among these example data story-telling technique options (explained further in follow-through practice notes), choice of the most apt story-telling technique will obviously depend on: