We were stoked to have Shawn Callahan, business storytelling pioneer and all-round guru, shake up our thinking (and shake it up he did… particularly if you subscribe to Hollywood-style storytelling methods…) on the topic of data storytelling for our September Tech Marketers webinar. Shawn led an action-packed session on how to spot stories and find insights in your data, how to tell a data story and inspire action… all in a way that’s authentic, simple and makes sense to business people.
In the hopes of creating a snappy highlights reel off the back of the popular event, we asked some of our TMG exec to share their highlights – the things that stood out the most to them from the conversation, and the things that they might just do differently from now on.
Emma, Beverley, Meng and Katy share their top takeaways…
Emma Ellwood, Marketing Executive, Swaytech
Decision makers have become increasingly involved with marketers in their demand to know and be involved with the data. Data-driven explanations are more important than ever, and it’s our job as marketers to tell that data story in the best way possible.
Involving decision makers in the process of data discovery means that the what next? question becomes a highly informed decision, ultimately improving the outcome for the business.
Beverley Caldwell, Director, Quarter Turn Marketing
There are a number of tactics you can use to influence and persuade with your data stories. Here are five different ways to get you started and that will help people remember your story:
- Tell a basic data story
This could be for something like a product launch, helping you to get the information and facts across.
- Tell an explanation story
Share a story that explains the data, what happened in the data and why you collected or needed it.
- Create a discovery story
Tell the backstory of how your discovery was made and then how it determined your story or solved a problem.
- Find a data story example
When you have a big story to tell (e.g. an engagement survey) you can zoom in and focus on one person’s story, which helps bring your data to life.
- Trigger a new story
This is not so much telling a story about the data but triggering a new story from some of the data you have gathered. Create something new and exciting that people can focus on.
Meng Purcell, Marketing Operations Director, Xero
The best stories are not what you find in the Hollywood blockbusters with big plot structure, complex narrative and centred around a hero. We need to avoid these Hollywood style stories if we want to authentically connect with our audience. The best stories may be from tiny anecdotes and personal experiences. They are unassuming, but genuine and authentic. They have data integrated into the storytelling to make them compelling and insightful.
Katy Sweetman, Director, Storycore
Shawn shared the following quote from Gary Klein, organisational psychologist and founder of naturalistic decision making:
“Insight is an unexpected shift to a better story.”
Storytelling is all about finding the insight, and storytelling doesn’t happen unless you 1. have an insight and 2. create a shift in the status quo that “challenges the story we all have in our heads about how the world works,” Shawn says.
As storytellers, we play an important role in shifting the story.
“If we can convey an insight, we can shift that story. And that’s our job: to shift the story. But the problem is, most people working with data are still at the reporting end, more or less saying, Here’s what happened… We have to do more work to get to the insight.”
Citing Klein, Shawn shared three key sources of insight:
Connections, coincidences, curiosities: When you find something curious in the data you didn’t expect, you investigate it and unearth an insight.
Connection comes when you can find correlations by bringing together different data sets. It’s all about learning something new, to tell a new story.
Contradictions: For example, look for exceptions to the rule; amplify something you know to tell a new story,
Correcting flawed assumptions: We all make assumptions about how the world works. We need to ask different questions, bring it up a layer and break the rules, to help us challenge these assumptions.
About Shawn Callahan
Shawn is the author of award-winning Putting Stories to Work and Founder at Anecdote International, the world’s largest business storytelling enterprise. If you’re interested in the topic of business storytelling and haven’t checked out Shawn’s book, you should!