Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Story structure, part of Learning Data Science: Tell Stories With Data.
- You've seen how to take different threads and weave them together into a story. There are also different story helpers that you can use to engage your audience and begin your tale. So now let's look at the different ways that you can bring it all together into a larger story. Your data science story should have three phases. There's the beginning, middle, and ending. You can use these phases to help your audience find some meaning. In the first phase, you'll work to set up the context.
The second phase should introduce the conflict. Then you should end the story by creating some action. Maybe the conflict was resolved, or the characters learned something from the struggle. The context at the beginning is where you set up the scene and characters. It introduces the people and places them in time and space. You want to set up the context as quickly as possible. Don't take too long to set up the context.
Spend just enough time to introduce the characters and place them in some setting. Let's say that you're presenting a story. You open up by setting up the context. You start by saying, "We've been closely monitoring the customers "who buy shoes on our website. "We can see where they live "and connect it to how often they buy shoes." This quick opening set up the context. It's the customers who are buying running shoes and it's connected to where they live. In the middle, you want to start talking about the conflict.
This is the most memorable part of the story. You might say, "The customers who live in an urban area "are more likely to buy running shoes. "In fact, the more densely populated the area, "the more often they buy running shoes. "Do you think that's strange? "Do you like running in densely populated areas? "Personally, I find there's too much traffic. "So we decided to run a few experiments." The conflict is where you draw in your audience.
They already might start thinking to themselves that this is unexpected. You might even use a personal anecdote to try and stimulate their curiosity. The audience might even be coming up with their own stories. Maybe they think it's because the runners might be younger. Maybe it's because they live closer to parks. Now you want to get into the action. It's here where you address the conflict. What's the solution? What did you find? Here you want to talk a little bit about the action, but at the same time, not too much to explain the details.
Maybe say, "We ran an experiment to look at their age. "These customers tend to be younger, "but once we adjusted for that, "there was still a pretty close connection. "We also looked at some maps "where we had a lot of active customers. "We wanted to see if there were more runners' paths. "It actually turned out, that generally, "there were more runners' paths outside of the city." It's here where you'll want to draw the audience into the struggle. You don't want to spend too much time talking about all the experiments.
At the same time, you want to stimulate their curiosity. Maybe even build up some expectation. To close out the story, you might say something like, "It turns out that the strongest connection we could find "was that if a customer lives within three miles of the gym, "then they were more likely to buy running shoes." You might even want to close with a small vignette. You might close by saying, "So imagine our customer who lives close to the gym. "She could be running indoors. "Maybe she's always looking for new ways to stay in shape.
"Just being next to the gym "is enough to make her buy more running shoes." Then you could close out the story by introducing the new insight. You might even want to ask the audience if they have any questions. Maybe you could turn this insight into a series of new questions to ask for your next storytelling session. Giving your story more structure will help your audience get some meaning from your story. Remember that you want to put the most effort in to the middle of your story. The audience is more likely to remember the conflict.
Then you can close out with an action item and even get more questions for deeper insights.
- 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