Data Analytics

Telling a Great Data Story

Teresa Wingfield

November 23, 2022

A couple of men chatting in an office about data analytics and how to tell a great data story

What is a Data Story?

A story is a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the listener or reader. A data story can be like any story, but its narrative is focused on data insights designed to teach and motivate an audience to act.

Why Do You Need a Data Story?

In the world of data analytics, soft skills such as leadership and effective communication are just as important as hard technical skills. This is particularly true now that there’s increasing pressure to connect business value with cost in today’s economically challenged markets. Calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) for your data platform is very hard, and few can do this successfully. Thus, a data story gives you an easier way to communicate business value.

How Do You Tell a Great Data Story?

There are many things to keep in mind when creating a compelling data story. Here are my four recommendations to help you begin your data story development:

Tell the Right Data Story

A good data story includes something that is relevant or significant to your audience. The context of how data helps them do their jobs better is important. Data engineers might want more robust data pipelines and faster performance. Data scientists are most often concerned about having the right data, algorithms and data quality. Frontline workers have needs that vary across their business specialties. For example, a marketing user might want to be able to adjust a campaign more quickly with real-time insights into demand while a financial analyst might want to develop a better revenue forecast based on this same information.

Make Your Data Story Interesting

No one wants to hear the same old story. Creating a good data story means revealing something that will capture the interest of your audience. Sometimes it would inspire them to take action based on the message they are hearing. What are the ways that your data story can help uncover a new opportunity or provide a fresh insight into how to solve a challenge? Think about the stories that have stood out to you. Were there any that inspired you to think about things differently? To research and learn more about something? To do something? When possible, include how data insights from real-time analytics can help improve specific metrics or meet goals that your audience is responsible for.

Show and Tell

Just sharing the story isn’t enough. How can you present your data story in a way that engages your audience in a way that they can take something away with them? There’s a saying: a picture is worth a thousand words. This rings true when you are trying to convey an idea quickly and effectively. So be sure to use the visualizations that are available in your data analytics tool in conjunction with your own representations.

Plan for a Sequel

Like an enduring story that we remember for a long time – we sometimes anticipate what’s going to happen next. The data story shouldn’t just end after your presentation. You need the data story to continue by highlighting what actions you want your audience to take after hearing it. You can suggest ways to turn insights into action, or better yet, ask your audience about their ideas and follow up after your meeting to gauge the impact your data story has had on the business.

How Can I Strengthen My Data Story?

The best data stories are built around real-time data analytics. Improve your data story with the Actian Data Platform with real-time insights in a single solution for data integration, data management and data analytics.

About Teresa Wingfield

Teresa Wingfield is Director of Product Marketing at Actian where she is responsible for communicating the unique value that the Actian Data Platform delivers, including proven data integration, data management and data analytics. She brings a 20-year track record of increasing revenue and awareness for analytics, security, and cloud solutions. Prior to Actian, Teresa managed product marketing at industry-leading companies such as Cisco, McAfee, and VMware.