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Crafting Compelling Narrative: A Data Storytelling Essential

Data is a treasure trove of insights, but its power is often overlooked without the magic of storytelling. Just like any gripping tale, a data story requires a structured narrative. This isn't about simply presenting numbers; it's about weaving those numbers into a story that engages, informs, and motivates action.

Data Storytelling Essentials infographic depicting Data Narrative story arc compared to traditional story arc

Before you embark on this narrative journey, begin with clarity. Understand your purpose and know your audience. Are you aiming to inspire? Are you seeking support or resources? Tailor your communication accordingly.

The real essence lies in distinguishing between data sharing and data storytelling. While the former presents the facts, the latter grips the audience through a journey, setting up conflicts and leading not to just resolution, but ACTION!

Six Data Storytelling Essentials

Data storytelling resides at the intersection of data, visualization, and narrative. It also encompasses the data communication planning and presentation as well as the culture in which the data story is created and shared.

Data Storytelling Essentials graphic representing all six data storytelling essentials

Data Narrative: A Data Storytelling Essential

Data narrative is the art in blended art and science of analytical storytelling. Narrative shapes the data story. Just like in a traditional story arc, a data story arc takes the listener/viewer of your story on a journey. Craft a compelling narrative by following the data story arc to shape your business story.

The Data Story Arc

The classic story arc has elements which can be mirrored in data storytelling:

  • Begin with Context (like the exposition)

  • Highlight the Business Challenge (depicting conflict)

  • Present Key Data (akin to the rising action)

  • Showcase Discoveries (the climax)

  • Provide Recommendations (leading to falling action)

  • End with a Call to Action (your resolution).

Compare the classic story arc with the data story arc. Each classic element has a corresponding point in a data story narrative.

Kinds of Stories to Tell with Data

The data story arc can help to shape your story. The shape it will take depends on the kind of story you are trying tell. Data storytelling isn't restricted to any domain; it can be applied across industries, from finance to healthcare. As an example, explore the "10 Kinds of Stories to Tell With Healthcare Data", an article inspired by Tom Davenport's work, for more specific applications in the healthcare space. But remember, no matter where you apply it, the narrative arc remains essential.


In the modern business world, your data story can shape decisions and drive innovation. By interweaving data with narrative elements, you not only share insights but truly connect with your audience, compelling them to act. Dive deeper into the art of crafting data narrative, one of six Data Storytelling Essentials.


Picture of blog author Roseanna Galindo

Roseanna Galindo, ECBA, CAVS

Roseanna Galindo is Principal at Periscope Business Process Analysis and a champion for data literacy, the human experience in healthcare, and leaders of volunteers everywhere. Learn more about Roseanna and her blog, The Periscope Insighter, by reading the opening post, Venn The Time Is Right


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