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How To Tell A Compelling Story Using Big Data

How To Tell A Compelling Story Using Big Data

Whether it’s reading a book to children before bedtime, recounting a rollicking adventure in a role-playing gamer group, or relating a humorous anecdote to a group of friends at a party, most everyone loves to hear or tell a good story.

The principle of storytelling extends to the world of Big Data as well. A complete story follows the journalism framework of Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. If you think about it, those are precisely the same questions for which Big Data provides answers. Granted, since we’re talking here about Big Data, it’s a LOT of information, but it still works.

So anyways there you are, with all of this data that your business has collected, processed, analyzed, folded, spindled, and mutilated. What’s left now is to take all of that information, print it up, and send it along, right?

Wrong. Unless, of course, your intention is to either put people to sleep or make sure they never crack open a single report. Who knows, maybe you’re ambitious and are aiming for both!

No, you need to take that information and turn it into a real story. How do you do that?

Know Your Audience

Before you frame your story, figure out who is going to be reading it. Who are your target viewers, and what roles do they play in the company? By playing to your audience and speaking their particular language, you increase the likelihood of grabbing (and keeping) their interest.

For instance, are they more the visual type? If so, then use infographics. Are they more old school traditionalists? Looks like you will need a written report, full bore text all the way. Are they the artsy fartsy creative sort? Maybe you should attempt a video.

Grab Their Attention Early

The earlier mention of videos and infographics notwithstanding, we’re going to focus more on written stories since that will probably be the most common medium. When you tell that story, you need to snag people’s interest right from the start. You will need not only a good headline but a lead paragraph that serves as a summary of the entire story. This is another journalism trick.

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Let Them Know Why Something Is Important

The article “What’s Next After Data Integration? Storytime! How to Get Your Data to Tell You a Great Story” tells us that sometimes the data’s importance isn’t obvious. You have to show people why a certain group of facts or conclusions should matter to them, thereby heading off reactions like “Who cares?”, “Why you say so many words?”, or “Too long; didn’t read”. You need to not only tell the readers what the data says but also illustrate its relevance.

Keep It Entertaining

So you understand your audience and have set things up to appeal to your viewers. You grabbed their attention right from the start, and also illustrated why the data matters. What’s left? If the story is meant to convey data, then make sure it stays entertaining.

That doesn’t mean you have to be silly and frivolous. Big Data is a serious business. It exists to make your business better by helping you make informed decisions. But if you’re trying to inform your readers about Boxers Versus Briefs Purchases During Summer Months, Factoring In Age, Political Allegiance, And Religion, then you better somehow make things entertaining and easy to follow. Drowning your readers in dry figures is going to result in a lost audience, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Big Data provides a lot of information, and that’s both its blessing and its curse. You need to craft the data into reports that don’t just say “This is important!”, but rather show it organically by making it interesting and relevant.

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