Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Believe what you say, part of Learning Data Science: Tell Stories With Data.
- John Steinbeck once said: a great, lasting story is about everyone, or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting. Only the deeply personal and familiar. When you're telling a story, you'll be more persuasive if you're interested in the topic. Your audience will always be checking to see if you believe what you're saying. Your audience will have an easier time connecting with your story if they sense that you're committed to telling it. They need to see passion, drive, and investment.
When I was in law school, I took a course on litigation. This course was on how to connect with people in a jury. The juries would always be curious about your client's story. How did they get there? Why are they being judged? Our professor had been speaking about juries for decades. He would rub his white beard with an almost Jedi-like assurance. He gave us some simple advice. He said that when you're telling a story, try not to make it sound extraordinary. Don't try to create some far-fetched story about what happened.
Instead, focus on what you know. Tell a good story about something ordinary. That's because what you know is the only thing that you can truthfully talk about. A jury has an easier time sensing when you don't believe what you're saying. You want to say what you believe with strength, clarity, and passion. The same thing holds true when you're trying to connect with your audience. It'll be very difficult for you to tell your story if you don't believe that it's interesting.
It's very difficult to fake passion. If someone's passionate about their topic, they can make almost anything sound interesting. You'll see this a lot with data visualizations. Some teams think that a good visualization can add pop to an uninteresting story. Even the most beautiful visualizations will not make your story more interesting if you don't find it interesting yourself. Your audience will get their interest from you. It's not going to be what you put up on the screen. There are a few things you can do to help you present a story in an interesting way.
The first is if you can't present something interesting, then don't present anything at all. If you're not interested in how many people purchase running shoes, then you're not going to tell an interesting story. That's why you should look for something interesting in all your stories. If you can't find it, then you shouldn't tell it. Also, always try to connect some part of yourself to the story. Tell your audience why you found it interesting. Maybe tell a story about how you were traveling to the American Southwest.
You noticed that people were wearing colors that you didn't see in other parts of the country, so when you came back, you wanted to see if there was a way to better cater to this group of customers. Then talk about the steps you took to get there. You should sound like a real person. A lot of organizations put pressure on their employees to be efficient and superhuman, almost like an army of Vulcans who only focus on the performance aspects of their job. They shun passion and emotion.
That doesn't work well for storytelling. People have an easier time connecting with someone when they're vulnerable and can laugh at themselves. Finally, share your sincerely felt emotions. You want your stories to feel sincere. That's why sharing a feeling will help your audience believe what you're saying. What you need to remember is that you are the most important thing that you bring to your stories. Beautiful charts, clever anecdotes, and piles of data will not make up for the passion that you bring to the topic.
Even the most extraordinary data will seem boring if you can't tell it in an interesting way. The key is to make sure that you believe that the story is interesting. If you can't convince yourself, then you'll never be able to convince the people in your audience.
- Structuring a data science story
- Defining plot, conflict, and details
- Going beyond reporting
- Knowing your audience
- Working with data
- Introducing visuals
- Eliminating distractions
- Incorporating metaphors
- Motivating the audience
- Avoiding pitfalls