Data that sits in Spark or Hadoop or even a spreadsheet is not as powerful as data that is interpreted, packaged and communicated to those who need to hear what it has to say. Anyone who works with data needs to know how to effectively present that analysis to the people who will be making decisions based on the data. And it's not as simple as throwing charts at people. You need to create narratives and visuals that really connect with audiences.
In this course, we will cover data storytelling, data visualization and communications best practices - all with an eye to turning a raw set of data and converting it into a compelling narrative presentation that will resonate with your audience.
This course is intended for data AND communications professionals:
The course begins with a very high level overview of basic communications challenges and a framework for solving those challenges. Then we focus in on "thinking like a communicator" - learning key skills like tricks to help turn any content into a narrative and tapping into an audience's emotions. After that, we focus more on the data - a VERY high level discussion of data analysis (this would be a course on its own) and how to turn data into stories. And then a brief review of visualization of data - how to pick the right chart for your data and some basic chart design tips.
This course is for beginners. It will get you thinking differently about communicating with data, whether you're a data person or a communications person. It is not intended as a deep dive into any of the subjects within, though it does provide many practical tips and skills that you can put to use immediately. It is also not a business writing course - we focus on strategies for communicating with data, not specific writing instruction.
You will not need any specific software skills for this course. Whether you are a seasoned data analyst or a newbie, as long as you have an open mind and understand English, this course will be applicable to you.
The course consists of five sections of content with video instructions that are easy to follow and contain big ideas as well as practical guidelines. The lectures make up less than two hours of time, and four exercises in the course should take you anywhere from four hours and up, depending on how much you would like to devote to them.
Your primary job in life (yes, life!) is “communicator”. I believe very firmly in this and will talk about how and why it is so important and how learning to harness your best communicator will help you succeed in everything you do.
There are a few primary challenges we face as communicators. I will discuss those challenges as well as the primary solutions to those challenges.
We’re just starting this course, but I’ve already shared a really important idea, the 4X4 Model for Knowledge Content. You will apply this framework to a basic communications challenge.
Stories have a special place in the communicator’s arsenal. I will explain why stories are so powerful as well as some of the key attributes of great stories.
Now that you believe how powerful stories can be, I’ll show you some secrets to tap into the storyteller that you have inside of you, teasing out a narrative for any situation.
They key to great communications is to understand your audience. If you think like they think, can imagine what they desire, you can deliver information that connects, empowers and moves them.
Unless you’re exceptionally empathetic, it can be hard to imagine you’re somebody else. But I can share some tips and tricks to help you understand your audience enough to communicate effectively with them.
Data won’t convince most people of anything. Emotion is what connects. If you can learn to tell data stories that connect emotionally with your audience, you will always have greater impact. I will teach you how to reach through the facts and touch on the emotions inherent in your data.
Everyone (everyone!) is creative. Yes. It’s true. You are creative. You may not think so, but that’s self-doubt, not reality. You just need to learn how to access your inner muse. I will share some tried and true methods for sparking your creativity.
OK, we’ve talked about tapping into your inner storyteller and understanding your audience, how to embrace emotion and the power of visuals. It’s time to put these skills to the test with a quick exercise.
If you don’t analyze data every day, you need to understand how it works so you can tell great data stories, understanding what goes into getting the data for your stories. Not to mention that every data story almost always requires some manipulation of data – even the best, cleanest source data requires some cleaning up and re-orienting. In this lesson we will briefly discuss some of the high level concepts around data analysis. If you work with data every day, you can skip this video.
Journalism is, largely, data storytelling. Think about it – a newspaper story almost always includes numbers and facts and data to varying degrees. So if you learn how to think and act like a journalist, you can hone your data storytelling skills. This will serve as a brief introduction to journalistic thinking and process.
Once you’ve analyzed your data and done your “reporting” (gathering facts and supporting evidence and motivations and quotes, etc.), you need to define your story. In fact, this is a circuitous process, defining your story WHILE analyzing your data and doing your reporting. You are honing in on your message here, which will manifest in a logical data story soon. I will teach you how to hone down a lot of raw information into a storyline that flows.
This is a mission-critical moment in any data storytelling project. Here you are not only refining your story idea into a logical flow of information, but you’re also testing and iterating on your ideas for how the story will be communicated visually and interactively. I will walk through a storyboard process, showing key moments where the process can hit roadblocks and introduce some trouble-shooting skills to cope with those roadblocks.
It’s time to take everything we’ve learned and put it all together. You’re going to explore some data and turn it into a story.
Visual communications are essential in today’s world. Visuals are especially critical when communicating data. I will talk about some of the reasons behind this reality.
There are multiple ways to skin any cat. While some data can’t fit into certain chart types, there is always more than one chart that can show your data. I will teach some ways to think about how to select charts that will work best for the data you have.
There are some golden rules in chart design. I will review simple things like the use of color and labeling and chart legends. Things that you may take for granted but if you invest a little bit of time into, will pay off in spades in terms of chart legibility and impact.
There has been a lot of research over the years into what makes visualizations effective and memorable. I will share a couple of the most interesting to me that translate directly into visualizations that work.
It’s time to take a critical eye to our first Data Story exercise. Based on what you’ve learned in this section of the course, what can you change to make it even better?
I’ll show some of my favorite data stories and talk about what makes them so great.
Review of the key lessons of the course with a recommendation about what to do next, with your new way of looking at the world.
Bill Shander is founder of Beehive Media, an information design and data visualization agency whose clients include knowledge-driven organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the EPA. Bill helps his clients convert abstract concepts into tangible and understandable experiences via smart information design and data visualization
Shander speaks at conferences and gives workshops for clients on data visualization, covering topics such as why data visualization is essential in today's marketing world (especially for firms that use thought leadership as a platform) and how to think visually and interactively.