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Plato famously quipped that “those who tell stories rule society.” This statement is as true today as it was in ancient Greece – perhaps even more so in modern times.
In the contemporary business world, the age-old art of storytelling is far from forgotten: rather than speeches on the Senate floor, businesses rely on striking data visualizations to convey information, drive engagement, and persuade audiences.
By combining the art of storytelling with the technological capabilities of dashboard software, it’s possible to develop powerful, meaningful, data-backed presentations that not only move people but also inspire them to take action or make informed, data-driven decisions that will benefit your business.
As far back as anyone can remember, narratives have helped us make sense of the sometimes complicated world around us. Rather than listing facts, figures, and statistics alone, people used gripping, imaginative timelines, bestowing raw data with real context and interpretation. In turn, this gripped listeners, immersing them in the narrative, thereby offering a platform to absorb a series of events in their mind’s eye precisely how they unfolded.
Here, we explore data-driven, live dashboard storytelling in-depth, looking at storytelling with KPIs and the dynamics of a data storytelling presentation while offering real-world storytelling presentation examples.
First, we’ll delve into the power of data visualization storytelling as well as the general dynamics of a dashboard and what you can do with your data to deliver a great story to your audience. Moreover, we will offer dashboard story tips and tricks to help you make your data-driven narrative-building efforts as potent as possible, driving your business into exciting new dimensions. But let's start with a simple definition.
"You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.” – Margaret Atwood
What Is Dashboard Storytelling?
Dashboard storytelling is the process of presenting data in effective visualizations that depict the whole narrative of key performance indicators, business strategies, and processes in the form of an interactive dashboard on a single screen and in real time. Stories are indeed a powerful force, and in the age of information, it’s possible to use the wealth of insights available at your fingertips to communicate your message in a way that is more powerful than you could ever have imagined. So, stay tuned to see the top tips and tricks we will now explain to be able to successfully create your own story with a few clicks.
Benefits Of Dashboard Storytelling Presentations
Dashboard storytelling has a unique ability to convey complex data in a visually compelling and easy-to-understand manner. By leveraging visual elements such as charts, graphs, and infographics, dashboards can present information in a way that helps the audience grasp key insights quickly. This is especially valuable when dealing with large datasets or intricate data relationships, as traditional reports or spreadsheets may not be as effective in communicating the underlying story.
In doing so, stakeholders can make better-informed decisions by using real-time data updates and interactive features. Unlike traditional reporting methods that often involve static documents or presentations, dashboards allow users to explore different angles of the data, analyze trends over time, and interact with specific elements they find interesting or relevant. This interactive nature fosters a sense of curiosity and empowers users to actively engage with the information presented, ultimately leading to more insightful decision-making.
Arguably, the most important benefit is that dashboard stories promote collaboration within teams and organizations. By sharing a common platform where everyone can access and interpret data easily, users from disciplines across the organization can collaborate effectively towards shared goals.
4 Tricks To Get Started With Dashboard Storytelling
Big data commands big stories.
Forward-thinking business people turn to online data analysis and data visualizations to display colossal volumes of content in a few well-designed charts. But these condensed business insights may remain hidden if they aren’t communicated with words in a way that is effective and rewarding to follow. Without language, business people often fail to push their message through to their audience and, as such, fail to make any real impact.
Marketers, salespeople, and entrepreneurs are today’s storytellers – they are wholly responsible for their data story. People in these roles are often the bridge between their data and the forum of decision-makers they’re looking to encourage to take the desired action.
Effective dashboard storytelling with data in a business context must be focused on tailoring the timeline to the user and choosing the right graph types to complement or even enhance the narrative.
To demonstrate this notion, let’s look at some practical tips on preparing the best story to accompany your data.
1. Start with data visualization
This may sound repetitive, but when it comes to a dashboard presentation or dashboard storytelling presentation, it will form the foundation of your success: you must choose your visualization carefully.
Different views answer different questions, so it’s vital to take care when choosing how to visualize your story. To help you in this initiative, you will need robust online data visualization tools. These intuitive aids in dashboard storytelling are now ubiquitous and provide a wide array of options to choose from, including line charts, bar charts, maps, scatter plots, spider webs, and many more. Such interactive tools are rightly recognized as a more comprehensive option than PowerPoint presentations or endless Excel files.
These tools help both in exploring the data and visualizing it, enabling you to communicate key insights in a persuasive fashion that results in buy-in from your team.
But for optimum effectiveness, we still need more than a computer algorithm – here, we need a human to present the data in a way that will make it meaningful and valuable. Moreover, this person doesn’t need to be a common presenter or a teacher-like figure. According to research carried out by Stanford University, there are two types of storytelling: author- and reader-driven storytelling.
An author-driven narrative is static and authoritative because it dictates the analysis process to the reader or listener. It’s like analyzing a chart printed in a newspaper. On the other hand, reader-driven storytelling allows the audience to structure the analysis independently. Here, the audience can choose the data visualizations that they deem meaningful and interact with them on their own by drilling down to more details or choosing from various KPI examples they want to see visualized. Thus, they can reach out for insights that are crucial to them and make sense of data independently.
2. Put your audience first
Storytelling for a dashboard presentation should always begin with stating your purpose. What is the main takeaway from your data story? It’s clear that your purpose will be to motivate the audience to take a certain action.
Instead of thinking about your business goals, try to envisage what your listeners are seeking. Each audience member – be that a potential customer, future business partner, or stakeholder – has come to listen to your data storytelling presentation to gain a profit for him or herself. To better meet your users’ expectations and gain their trust (and money), put their goals first and let them determine the line of your story.
Needless to say, before your dashboard presentation, try to learn as much as you can about your listeners. Put yourself in their shoes: Who are they? What do they do daily? What are their needs? What value can they draw from your data for themselves?
The better you understand your users, the more they will trust you and follow your ideas.
3. Don’t fill up your data storytelling with empty words
Storytelling with data, rather than presenting data visualizations alone, brings the best results. That said, certain enemies of your story make it more complicated than enlightening and turn your efforts into a waste of time.
The first of these bugbears are the various technology buzzwords that are devoid of any defined meaning. These words don’t create a clear picture in your listeners’ heads and are useless as a storytelling aid. In addition to under-informing your audience, buzzwords are a sign of your lazy thinking and a herald that you don’t have anything unique or meaningful to say. Try to clarify your story by using more precise and descriptive narratives that truly communicate your purpose.
Another trap is using your industry jargon to sound more professional. The problem here is that it may not be the jargon of your listeners’ industry – thus, they may not comprehend your narrative. Moreover, some jargon phrases have different meanings depending on the context they are used in – they mean one thing in the business field and something else in everyday life. They reduce clarity and can also convey the opposite meaning of what you intend to communicate in your data visualization storytelling.
Don’t make your story too long. Focus on explaining the meaning of data rather than the ornateness of your language and the humor of your anecdotes. Avoid overusing buzzwords or industry jargon, and try to figure out what insights your listeners want to draw from the data you show them.
4. Utilize the power of storytelling
Before we continue our journey into data-powered storytelling, we'd like to illustrate further the unrivaled power of offering your staff or partners inspiring narratives by sharing these must-know insights:
- Recent studies suggest that 55% of consumers are more likely to remember a story than a list of facts.
- Americans consume 11.8 hours of information each day. By taking your data and transforming it into a focused, value-driven narrative, you stand a far better chance of your message resonating with your user base and yielding the results you desire.
- Human beings absorb information 60 times faster with visuals than with linear text-based content alone. By harnessing the power of data visualization to form a narrative, you’re likely to earn an exponentially greater level of success from your internal or external presentations.
How To Present A Dashboard - 11 Tips For The Perfect Dashboard Storytelling Presentation
Now that we’ve covered the data-driven storytelling essentials, it’s time to dig deeper into ways that you can maximize impact with your storytelling dashboard presentations.
Business dashboards are now driving forces for visualization in the field of business intelligence. Unlike their predecessors, a state-of-the-art dashboard builder allows presenters to engage audiences with real-time data and offers a more dynamic approach to presenting data compared to the rigid, linear nature of, say PowerPoint.
With the extra creative freedom data dashboards offer, the art of storytelling is making a reemergence in the boardroom. The question now is: What is great dashboarding?
Without further ado, here are our top 11 tips on transforming your presentation into a story and ruling your own company through dashboard storytelling.
1. Set up your plan
Start at square one on how to present a dashboard: outline your presentation. Like all good stories, the plot should be clear, problems should be presented, and an outcome foreshadowed. You have to ask yourself the right data analysis questions when it comes to exploring the data to get insights, but you also need to ask yourself the right questions when it comes to presenting such data to a certain user. Which information do they need to know or want to see? Have a concise storyboard when you present so you can take the viewer along with you as you show off your data. Try to be purpose-driven to get the best dashboarding outcomes, but don’t entangle yourself in a rigid format that is unchangeable.
2. Use basic storytelling elements
Every story, whether one of first-party data or a work of fiction, shares a few basic characteristics. For starters, a story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. There’s a substantial plot, one that pulls the reader or listener in and makes them believe what you’re telling them. Approaching your data story in this way allows you to develop a narrative that’s conducive to storytelling.
For example, you can use your data storytelling dashboard to convey your message and take your viewers along a logical journey. The data illustrates the story, starting with the current situation (i.e., the beginning of the story) and then traveling through various trends, patterns, anomalies, and other shifts (the story's conflict).
From there, you can use the data to inform the next best actions based on what you know and what you want to achieve, which will serve as your story’s resolution. Use this framework to decide what data you need to present to strengthen your story and what visuals you can access to illustrate your findings.
3. Don’t be afraid to show some emotion
Stephen Few, a leading design consultant, explains on his blog that “when we appeal to people’s emotions strictly to help them personally connect with information and care about it, and do so in a way that draws them into reasoned consideration of the information, not just feeling, we create a path to a brighter, saner future”. Emotions stick around much longer in a person’s psyche than facts and charts. Even the most analytical thinkers out there will be more likely to remember your presentation if you can weave elements of human life and emotion. How do you present a dashboard with emotion? Add some anecdotes, personal life experiences that everyone can relate to, or culturally shared moments and jokes.
However, do not rely just on emotions to state your point. Your conclusions and ideas need to be backed by data, science, and facts – otherwise, and especially in business, you might not be taken seriously. You’d also miss an opportunity to help people learn to make better decisions by using reason and would only tap into a “lesser-evolved” part of humanity. Instead, emotionally appeal to your viewer to drive home your point.
4. Make your story accessible to people outside your sector
Combining complicated jargon, millions of data points, and advanced math concepts and making a story that people can understand is not an easy task. Opt for simplicity and clear visualizations to increase the level of user engagement.
Your entire audience should be able to understand the points that you are driving home. Jeff Bladt, the director of Data Products and Analytics at DoSomething.org, offered a pioneering case study on accessibility through data. When commenting on how he goes from 350 million data points to organizational change, he shared: “By presenting the data visually, the entire staff was able to quickly grasp and contribute to the conversation. Everyone was able to see areas of high and low engagement. That led to a big insight: Someone outside the analytics team noticed that members in Texas border towns were much more engaged than members in Northwest coastal cities.”
Making your presentation accessible to laypeople opens up more opportunities for your findings to be put to good use.
5. Create an interactive dialogue
No one likes being told what to do. Instead of preaching, enable viewers to participate in the presentation through interactive dashboard features. By using real-time data, manipulating data points live, and encouraging questions during the presentation, you will ensure your audiences are more engaged as you empower them to explore the data on their own. At the same time, you will also provide a deeper context. The interactivity is especially interesting in dashboarding when you have a broad target audience: it onboards newcomers easily while letting the ‘experts’ dig deeper into the data for more insights.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches to storytelling with data. Create a dashboard storytelling plan that allows you to experiment, test different options, and learn what will build engagement among your listeners and fortify your data storytelling with KPIs. As you try and fail by making them fall asleep or check their email, you will only learn from it and get the information on improving your data storytelling dashboard, presentation after presentation.
7. Limit the amount of data and visuals you share
While data storytelling benefits from a greater level of detail, there can be too much of a good thing. Presenting too much information at one time can make it harder for viewers to recall the most salient points. This ultimately defeats the purpose of data visualization storytelling, which should ultimately capture the user’s attention and help them connect the dots. Use clear, concise visuals and be selective about the information you share—less truly is more.
8. Provide context in your data story
While visuals provide quicker data insights, don’t rely solely on charts, graphs, and dashboards to tell your story. Your team needs to know what they’re looking at and why it’s significant. Don’t assume that your data will be obvious to them. Instead, provide some background information and context into why you’ve chosen to share that data and how you extract information from your data storytelling dashboard process. When possible, include labels, annotations, and other details alongside the data to illustrate its significance.
9. Connect the insights to action steps
Data alone isn’t enough to instill change in the organization. As a data storyteller, you should also anticipate what should happen next based on what the data is telling you. Explain how the data can be used to shape informed decisions or take specific actions. Use real scenarios and examples to make the information relatable. Encourage feedback from the team to gain their buy-in, share ideas, and foster trust in the presented data.
10. Practice your presentation
If you’ve been tasked with telling your data story, take some time to practice it. This will allow you more time to better understand the data yourself and refine how you convey your ideas to others. Familiarizing yourself with the dashboard will help you anticipate questions and create a smoother delivery. You can also use your practice session to decide what’s most important for others to know and what information you can briefly share or skip altogether.
11. Balance your words and visuals wisely
Last but certainly not least is a tip that encompasses all of the above advice but also offers a means of keeping it consistent, accessible, and impactful from start to finish: balance your words and visuals wisely.
What we mean here is that in data-driven stories, consistency is key if you want to grip your audience and drive your message home. Our eyes and brains focus on what stands out. The best data storytellers leverage this principle by building charts and graphs with a single message that can be effortlessly understood, highlighting both visually and with words the strings of information that they want their users to remember the most.
With this in mind, you should keep your language clear, concise, and simple from start to finish, using the best visualizations to enhance each segment of your story, placing a real emphasis on any graph, chart, or sentence that you want your viewers to take away with them.
Every single element of your dashboard design is essential, but by emphasizing the areas that really count, your narrative becomes all the more memorable, giving you the best possible chance of enjoying the results you deserve.
The Best Dashboard Storytelling Examples
Now that we’ve explored how you can improve your data-centric stories and maximize your presentations, it’s time for some inspiring presentation examples. Let’s start with a storytelling dashboard that relates to the retail sector.
1. A retailer’s store dashboard with KPIs
The retail industry is an interesting one as it has particularly been disrupted with the advent of online retailing. Collecting data analytics is extremely important for this sector as it can take excellent advantage of analytics because of its data-driven nature. As such, data storytelling with KPIs is a particularly effective method to communicate trends, discoveries, and results.
The first of our storytelling presentation examples summarizes information related to customers’ behavior. It helps in identifying patterns in the dashboards and storytelling with data. The specific retail KPIs tracked here are focused on the sales by division, by items, by city, and the out-of-stock items. It lets us know what the current trends in customers’ purchasing habits are and allows us to break down this data according to city, gender, or age for enhanced analysis. We can also anticipate any stock-out to avoid losing money and visualize the stock-out tendencies over time to spot any problems in the supply chain.
This most excellent of storytelling with data examples presented in a retail dashboard will help you tell deeper, more intricate stories thanks to your marketing campaigns. These analytics enable us to adapt these campaigns per channel: we can see, by breaking down the Sales Volume by division, that women are the first point of revenue. Per city, New York adds up to almost 30% of the sales. All this information is important for customer retention as it is less expensive to retain the ones we already have than to acquire new clients.
2. A hospital’s management dashboard with KPIs
This second of our data storytelling examples delivers the tale of a busy working hospital. That might sound a little fancier than it is, but it’s of paramount importance – all the more when it comes to public healthcare, a sector very new to dashboards and storytelling with data (and data collection and analytics in general) but has a lot to win from it in many ways.
For a hospital, a centralized dashboard is a great ally in the everyday management of the facility. The one we have here gives us the big picture of a complex establishment, tracking several healthcare KPIs.
From the total admissions to the total patients treated, the average waiting time in the ER, or broken down per division, the story told by this healthcare dashboard is essential. The top management of this facility has a holistic view to run the operations more easily and efficiently and can try to implement diverse measures if they see abnormal figures. For instance, an average waiting time for a certain division that is way higher than the others can shed light on some problems this division might be facing: lack of staff training, lack of equipment, understaffed units, etc.
All this is vital for the patient’s satisfaction and the safety and wellness of the hospital staff that deals with life and death every day.
3. A human resources (HR) recruitment dashboard with KPIs
The third of our data storytelling examples relates to human resources. This particular template, generated with a professional dashboard generator, focuses on one of the most essential responsibilities of any modern HR department – the recruitment of new talent.
In today’s world, digital natives are looking to work with a company that not only shares their beliefs and values but offers opportunities to learn, progress, and grow as an individual. Finding the right fit for your organization is essential if you want to improve internal engagement and reduce employee turnover.
The HR KPIs (human resources key performance indicators) related to this storytelling dashboard are designed to enhance every aspect of the recruitment journey, helping to drive down economic efficiencies and improving the quality of hires significantly.
Here, the art of storytelling with KPIs is made easy. As you can see, this HR dashboard offers a clear snapshot of important aspects of HR recruitment, including the cost per hire, recruiting conversion or success rates, and the time to fill a vacancy from initial contact to official offer.
With this most intuitive of storytelling with data examples, building a valuable narrative that resonates with your audience is made easy, and as such, it’s possible to share your recruitment insights in a way that fosters real change and growth.
4. A profit and loss financial dashboard for a dynamic presentation
A company is nothing without healthy financials, and numbers tell the most compelling story about your company’s health. That’s why no visual data story is complete without a profit and loss financial dashboard.
This dashboard provides an easy understanding of your organization’s income, including revenue and net profit, so you always know where you stand financially.
Here, you’ll find four essential financial indicators: gross profit margin, OPEX ratio, operating profit margin, and net profit margin.
- The revenue metric considers the number of units sold and the selling price but does not consider taxes and other expenditures.
- OPEX refers to costs incurred as a part of doing business and are unavoidable in any setting.
- The resulting earnings before taxes and interests are key to describing the company’s financial standing.
- The end result, after subtracting taxes and interests, gives a bottom-line figure to evaluate the success or failure of an organization.
These reveal month-to-month trends that can help organizations inform decisions regarding purchases, hiring, investments, and operations. Users can drill deeper into each of these four categories for a better understanding of their financial situation.
5. A customer service quality dashboard presentation template
With customer service teams on your frontline, they have the power to retell the stories they hear directly from your customers. With every call, email, and chat session, they’re collecting data for your company that can demonstrate the effectiveness of your customer service processes.
Our customer service quality dashboard illustrates five different channels: email, phone, chat, social media, and voicemail. This dashboard runs on a rolling weekly basis and shares insights into how often your reps engage with customers and whether they provide effective solutions.
One notable feature here is the direct access to NPS via each channel. NPS showcases how many of your customers are willing to promote you to others, which ones are neutral about your company, and which ones will be tough to win over again. Drilling deeper into this data, you can use NPS data to determine the best channels for customers to reach you.
Another KPI worth tracking is the cost of resolving each customer inquiry. Ideally, companies should aim to balance the lowest cost and highest resolution. However, we know this isn’t always the case, so looking more closely at the cost per fulfillment can highlight how much it really takes to create happy customers.
6. A marketing performance dashboard template
Marketing is becoming more and more proliferated. As new channels emerge and brands find easier, simpler ways to be in more places at once, having a unified dashboard to show the impact of your efforts is more critical than ever.
One marketing dashboard provides visibility across all your marketing channels and campaigns. Specifically, users can answer key questions like “How much are we spending?” and “Is this campaign achieving our intended objectives?”
Generated with a powerful dashboard designer, the template above compares actual costs vs. planned costs to ensure you’re not overspending on your campaigns. It ensures your goals are in line with what’s feasible. To calculate these costs, the platform measures things like the number of impressions, clicks, and acquisitions. You can dive deeper into each of these areas to extract additional insights for a better view of your marketing performance.
Other KPIs include cost per click (CPC) and cost per acquisition (CPA), both of which can help you shape informed spending decisions. These are especially useful for marketing agencies that handle multiple clients and accounts. For each client and each campaign, you can see how much you’re spending to generate interest and conversions so you can decide how to best utilize your marketing budget.
7. A warehouse management dashboard with KPIs
The many moving parts of warehouse management can be combined into a single dashboard. Enter the warehouse management dashboard—an at-a-glance view of your facility to ensure reliable performance.
This KPI-rich dashboard reporting example captures essential insights that every warehouse manager needs to know, including:
- On-time shipments (the ratio between orders ready to ship within the set time limits vs. the total number of orders)
- Operating costs
- Total number of shipments
- Perfect order rate
- Total shipments by country
Each of these metrics can have a dramatic effect on staffing, budgets, and customer satisfaction rates. For example, a low on-time shipment ratio could signal a staffing or training issue that indicates you need more help. The same holds true for a low perfect order rate. Or, these metrics might reveal bottlenecks in your processes that can be remedied for better outcomes without taking on higher costs.
Operating costs are another area of concern for warehouse managers. This broad category encompasses several components, including equipment, energy usage, labor, shipment supplies, and materials. Users can dig deeper into what it costs to move a single shipment so you can right-size your pricing for a sustainable venture.
Start Your Dashboard Storytelling Now!
“I'll tell you a secret. Old storytellers never die. They disappear into their own story.” – Vera Nazarian
One of the major advantages of working with dashboards is the improvement they have made to data visualization. Don’t let this feature go to waste with your own presentations. Place emphasis on making visuals clear and appealing to get the most from your dashboarding efforts.
With the abundance of ways to visually present data, choose the one that works best for great storytelling with data. For more tips, you can check out how to create data reports people love to read and also find inspiration on how to create a dashboard with ease.
Transform your presentations from static, lifeless work products into compelling stories by weaving an interesting and interactive plot line into them.
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