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How to Make Data Visualization More Meaningful

Data visualization has proven itself to be effective in interpreting data in a manner that is more comprehensible to its audience through visuals such as graphs and charts. But that is only half of the equation in making the data more relevant and, most especially, would drive the decision-makers who make up the bulk of any data’s intended audience towards a desired action. This is where data storytelling comes in.

The importance of data storytelling

Data storytelling is the art of visualizing insights from data through a narrative form. It serves to provide context to the data, offering a more complete picture and understanding for its audience to more easily comprehend and, most especially, so decision-makers could make informed decisions.

Data storytelling is what connects each data visualization element with one another, thus creating a cohesive and comprehensive narrative that enables both the presenter and the audience to focus on the broader message being conveyed.

Establishing data storytelling through elements

For data storytelling to succeed, it is important to have the elements in place. It actually uses the same narrative elements as any story: characters, setting, conflict, and resolution. The twist is that they are presented in a different manners:

  • Characters: The players and stakeholders can be the company’s customers or its internal team. It is important to define these characters beforehand, even if they are not identified as such in the presentation itself.

  • Setting: It is important for the presenter to share the impetus behind the preparation of the data. What event within or outside the organization prompted the need to gather and analyze such information? Having an established setting that is the reason for the data will help provide a wider perspective.

  • Conflict: The conflict here refers to the root issue that the data tries to identify and if within the scope of the research, resolve. It is also the most crucial element in data storytelling that should be presented prominently.

  • Resolution: There should be a resolution that is proposed based on the data that was presented. Presenting visualizations will help underscore the importance of the resolution, what it takes to arrive at such, and the benefits of adopting such a resolution.

Whatever story the data tells, you can communicate it effectively by formatting your narrative with these elements and walking your audience through each piece with the help of visualizations.

Best practices

The first and most important reminder for the presenter is that they should understand the data to be presented and its business context. It should be presented in a manner that relates to the situation within the business at that moment, especially the challenges they face whether the people within the organization realize it or not.

Another important reminder is to understand the audience and, in particular, identify the gaps in their knowledge that need to be filled. This not just refers to the composition of the audience but also their specific relationship to the data and the processes behind it. From there, specific data can be compiled to fulfill their needs and relate not only the data itself but also its whys and hows to provide a clearer and more comprehensive picture as to how and why the data is as such.

Lastly, effective data storytelling makes use of equal participation from both the presenter and the audience. This ensures that both the goals of the presenter, who seeks to elicit a response from the audience of the data being presented, and of the audience, who seeks to understand the data to gain greater understanding, are met satisfactorily towards resolution.

A solid foundation in data storytelling that conveys the right message in the right context goes a long way toward being able to discern matters carefully and make the right decisions that will guide the company toward a more positive future.


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