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Data Storytelling: General Storytelling

This is part 5 of a 5 part series on Data Storytelling.

This week we’ve seen good stories and bad stories, all about the same data. Since you will be telling stories about your own data, let’s summarize the best practices around communicating your own data insights.


  • Start with the big picture. Frame all of your data communication within a bigger picture. This makes everything easier for your audience to understand and gives you a strong start to your story.
  • Show context. The more context you provide, both visual and verbal, the less likely your audience will be to jump to mistaken conclusions.
  • Highlight hidden insights. Many of the most important insights in your data will be hidden below the surface. Highlight these and contrast them with the overall metrics to make a powerful story.


  • Manipulate Scale. Be clear about the scale of data and the units, and be weary of charts with multiple axes. It is better to over communicate context about your charts than have the audience misunderstand.
  • Cherry pick data. Include the full breadth of data in your communications, not just the data points that help make your case.
  • Be inconsistent. Use the same colors, labels and conventions across all the statements and visualizations in your story. Doing so creates a natural language for your data, one that your audience can learn.
  • Lie. Seriously, just don’t.

Overall, let the data tell the story. Avoid trying to use data to justify an existing decision or tell an existing story, as those paths are bound to lead to mistakes and errors. If you let the data lead you, the story should tell itself.

Quote of the Day: “No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” ― Lewis Carroll