Almost all businesses produce reams of data, both organically and proactively. It’s your job, as the expert in data analysis, to uncover trends and insights from this data, collate it into a meaningful format for your stakeholders, and present your findings.

These findings are essential; they may dictate high level business decisions, direct strategic movements or give advice related to core products, services, manpower or budgets. A data analyst can never underestimate the value of his or her insights to the wider business.

Wrangling and manipulating your data is the easy bit — it’s probably the reason you go to work in the morning. But what about presenting your findings? Putting them into an easily digestible format so that your audience gets it. For many analysts, this is the tricky part.

Storyboarding is a process you may hear across various business and IT functions. Here’s why it’s an important element to your data narrative.
 

What is data storyboarding?

 
Your data holds tremendous value, but this value is hidden until you translate it into business recommendations, suggested actions or strategic outcomes. To ensure that your overall communication makes sense, it should tell a clear and engaging story. ‘Writing’ this story first requires a storyboard.

Storyboarding is one of the most important processes you can go through early on in the planning part of presenting your data insights. It follows the principle of a flowchart; mapping out the direction and flow that your data insights will follow, from start to conclusion.

As well as in creative industries, storyboarding is a tried and tested IT technique; systems and application designers have been taking advantage of storyboards to demonstrate functionality in technical design and development projects for many years.

“The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.”
Dr. Hal R.Varian, Google’s Chief Economist, 2009

Know your objective

 
Before you can tell a story with your data insights, you have to decide what journey you’d like to take your audience on.

  • Firstly, consider the introduction you want to give to your insights; why were you tasked to look into it, where did the data come from, why is the information relevant?
  • Next, think about how you’d navigate your various insights. Think of them as chapters in a book, or parts to a story. How did you get from the initial problem to a, to b, and to c? Map these out in your storyboard and give each section a small summary to keep your audience engaged along the way.
  • Finally, decide your overall outcome and high-level recommendations to your stakeholders. This forms the basis of your final conclusions.

Approaching your data in this way forces you to think about it creatively. It helps identify how insights should best be presented to guide your audience to a meaningful and valuable conclusion.
 

Engage your stakeholders

 
The best way to ensure your audience is engaged throughout your data presentation is to consider their various points of view. Consider:

  • Who are they?
  • What role do they play within the business?
  • What would they like to achieve from your insights?

Getting recognition for your hard work is sometimes the greatest challenge. If you can tailor your data narrative to your audience’s specific objectives, considering their questions and concerns at every point of your storyboarding process, you stand a higher chance of fully engaging them. The more engaged your audience is, the higher the perception of your business value.

If this sounds daunting, or you’re unsure how to design your data presentation or build a valuable storyboard, you could consider a soft skills workshop. Courses like Storytelling with Data by Demarq Academy encourage data analysts to think carefully their data narrative. Skills like these help analysts build frameworks for developing impactful and engaging slide decks, and vastly improve their chances of maintaining audience attention.