Today’s business decisions are rooted in data. Yet, how does a business leader communicate that data in a way that holds their audience’s attention – and makes them act?
Fortunately, storytelling is a skill that can be learned, practiced and fine-tuned over time. In X episode of Data Dialogues, at Equifax, we spoke with Reena Kansal, Chief Operating Officer and Story Facilitator at Leadership Story Lab. She explained how leaders can communicate data in a way that audience members will remember.
For the full interview, listen to our podcast.
3 Considerations for Crafting Your Story
1. Know your Audience
When using data to craft your story, Reena explained there are three things to keep in mind. First, know your audience. What do they want to know? What do they need to know? And then more importantly, why should they care about what you are sharing?
Before you get started, think about where they are on their journey, Reena said. She calls it the curse of knowledge because when we know something, it’s hard to imagine that others don’t know it.
“Take a minute to think about the audience, put yourself in their shoes. They may not have come through that journey with you. So where are they? Peel back those layers before presenting to your audience and then take them on that journey that you've been on,” Reena said.
2. Create Meaning for your Audience
When communicating a lot of data, it’s critical to distill it down for your audience. You want to avoid making them work to understand it.
Reena recommends intriguing and delighting your audience first, then weaving in the data where it makes sense and won’t overwhelm your audience.
“For example, one of our clients used to start their presentations with, ‘Your contract has a value of $30 million, a 10% increase from last year and you have $15 million in discount’. Now, like I said, put intrigue and delight first, and then data dump. This kind of takes out any kind of intrigue or mystery in what you're going to say,” Reena said.
3. What is the Takeaway?
Lastly, Reena said business storytelling is all about getting your audience to take some kind of action, whether you’re pitching a new business idea, advocating for more resources, or asking for a promotion.
“What do you want them to do after they've listened to your message and heard about your research or data and analysis?” Reena said.
But it’s critical to keep in mind that research shows people forget a lot of what they’re told. So, ask yourself what two or three things you want your audience to remember a week or month later.
“I'd recommend emphasizing no more than three numbers at a time in your data storytelling. That doesn't mean you can't share more than that, but your story arc should really rally around those three main numbers,” Reena explained.
How to Improve Your Storytelling
Storytelling is a skill that anyone can develop. Reena reminded us that your stories don’t have to be heroic endeavors; even small day-to-day things can make a great story. You just need the right tools and practice.
So, when you’re putting together your next presentation, Reena said to focus on three things.
“Use I-R-S: That intriguing beginning, riveting middle and satisfying end to be your guide to practice communicating your findings,” she said.
Secondly, Reena said to collect stories. This is especially effective if you’re an introvert.
“To be a good storyteller, you have to be a good story collector first. I have found that asking good questions helps create that space for others to share their stories, and for you to listen and then collect good stories,” Reena said.
“And that practice, as well as collecting good stories, together helps you become that story connoisseur and spot what makes a good story. How do I deconstruct that? And then how do I now use that when I'm communicating in stories? So, I would say keep practicing and keep collecting,” she explained.
To learn more about the art of storytelling for business, visit leadershipstorylab.com.
Listen to our full interview or check out our other episodes.