“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.”
–Stephen Few, author and consultant
When making corporate presentations, telling a story with data is critical. Nothing sticks in your mind better than a story and communicating with numbers is no exception. In fact, shaping a narrative and communicating important themes through data is one of Shiv Misra’s favorite ways to connect with his audiences. As the head of analytics and member retention at CVS Health, Shiv is no stranger to data-heavy presentations.
In our eighth podcast episode—Storytelling with Data—he reveals that your audience shouldn’t have to work to understand your presentation’s key takeaways. Better yet, you should try not to make your listener think at all!
Here are Shiv’s top tips for stepping up your data storytelling skills.
Harmonize your data
Data harmonization is the process of making sure all your data sources are in sync with each other. This means that, throughout your mission to discover different studies and sources to convince your audience, you should prioritize collecting compatible data that can be visualized altogether. This gives your audience an easy-to-follow comparison chart combining everything in one place. It’s also a great opportunity to visualize the data in a holistic, 360° view. Use your data to enhance comprehension and inspire more powerful insights from your audience.
Explain what you've done
Rather than opening your business presentation with the main takeaways, start by explaining what you’ve done. This helps build trust with your listeners. It also helps them appreciate what, why, and how you’ve achieved your goal.
From here, big numbers like ROIs and KPIs become super important. Keep your story relevant and exciting. Never end it with a happy ending or a pretty bow on top. Instead, end with next steps and how your audience can get involved. Rest with the answer to questions like “So what?” or “Why should this matter to me?”
Make sure that whatever you’ve done is translated to everyone and that they have clear motivation to welcome what you’ve said.
Step into your audience's shoes
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and step into the shoes of your listeners. Recognize that you’re the expert on the subject you’re presenting and that not everyone will have your level of understanding. In fact, most people won’t! This will help give you important context and insight into how your audience’s brains work. What are they interested in? What do they care about? What impresses them?
You can only discover the answers to these critical questions by stepping out of your comfort zone and into the mindset of your listeners. The key to any great data-heavy presentation is making sure the numbers tell a story.