Visual Storytelling as a Means for Conveying Data without Falling Asleep

3 in 10 of the 3.4568% of all top-20 ranked Final Five finishers have all…hello? Okay, just checking to see if you’re still awake. Data has a way of putting people to sleep, not literally, but more of a “mental check out.” Data can be mind-numbing, even if the story that the numbers are telling is mind-blowing. Unless you have a real love for numbers and hard data crunching, chances are you’d rather have the information presented to you in a more amiable manner.

Your customers are no different. Sure, they do care that your service or product can increase their profit by 15% over the next 3 months if the quarterly return on their initial investment is plus or minus 5% (adjusting for a 2.5% margin of error), but they don’t want to read this sentence to find that out, I didn’t even want to write it!


Using Visual Storytelling to Compel and Inform

One of the easiest ways to get around this problem is to practice what we call, Visual Storytelling. The art of Visual Storytelling isn’t really a mystery, instead of telling a story with words, use a visual reference to get the point across. Perhaps the simplest visual cue that lends itself to data and numbers is the standard pie charts and line graphs we all grew to love in elementary school math class.

Still, as boring or standard as they might seem, it’s much more visually compelling to look at a line graph that goes way, way up rather than looking at something like this:

* 1/04/12 – 25.5%
* 5/28/12 – 28.5%
* 8/23/12 – 32.6%
* 10/2/12 – 41.8%
* 12/25/12 – 53.5%
* 1/29/13 – 69.1%

That’s a lot of information to take in, even if it is pretty simple to look at the right column and notice that the numbers are going up. But it’s still much easier to see a line graph shooting up through the roof showing profits and gains going up. Further, a line graph will get some points across better than data can. For instance, unless you have a real head for numbers and a keen eye, you probably didn’t notice that the rate the percentage above was going up increased drastically as time went on. Whereas the first percentage jump was 3%, it was followed by approximate jumps of 4%, 9%, 12% and 15%. And did you factor in the different dates? Of course not! That’s too much data to grasp just looking at numbers!


Infographics are Visual Storytelling Aids that Work

Of course, as mentioned, line graphs and pie charts are rather basic, so it’s a good idea to combine them into infographics. Infographics can have a number of different mediums for visual storytelling, all combined into one big sharable chart. They can also have blurbs next to the chart to get your main point across, giving you a simple, short and sweet way to explain your content and data without hitting people over the head with numbers and analysis. Of course, sometimes you need to do that, so don’t let this stop you, but thinking of alternative (and more viral) ways to get your point across is always helpful.


A good thing to keep in mind when relating data and stats to customers is that it doesn’t have to be boring just because it is informative. For example, you can have some humorous content in the infographics or even tie the data into something more lighthearted. For example, maybe your product increased sales for a specific brand at the same time reruns of the Big Bang Theory started airing on Channel 5. The point is, make your numbers more fun while still getting the point across.