Drowning in Data? A Story is your Lifeboat

Drowing-in-DataDid you ever feel that you were swimming through waves of data? Have you left a presentation underwater in the ocean of metrics? As decisions are made, data is consulted – as it should be. Analytics persuade others which choice to make and there’s no shortage of it these days. It’s true that if we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it but today we have stronger analytic power than ever. We’ve got Big Data and Meta Data. There is so much that it can overwhelm us: Bar charts; Pie charts; Columns; X & Y axes; Scatter plots and Spreadsheets. Data can lead us to believe that it’s just “all about the numbers,” but really — it isn’t. People make business decisions and people need to visualize the reality of their choice. It’s just the way our brains work.

Stories are the way to get back to land – and to reality. When we are drowning in metrics and analytics, stories are the lifeboat. Literally! They tell us about real life.   Telling a story communicates the real-world example and gives the listener the clarity they need. A story is the “un-data.” It cuts through the waves of data to the human side and gets us to terra firma.

A convincing message is well balanced. It has both clear data and compelling stories. We need to see the metrics but we also need to understand the human element. We need to “get the picture.” We think in images not in text or in charts. When you realized that you knew where you left your keys, did you see text telling you they were on the kitchen counter? Of course not! You saw the picture. Stories give us a picture of the real world. We can visualize the meaning of the data.

To communicate any message effectively, balance the data with the human side in a story.   Tell stories by giving brief examples that bring an idea to life. A story does not need to be long to be effective. The ability to tell a succinct story can help you “land” your message