May 24, 2024

How to Inspire Action Through Data Storytelling

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What is Data Storytelling? 

Data storytelling is the practice of analyzing a set of data points, then crafting them into a compelling narrative that can be communicated to stakeholders and decision-makers to inspire action. 

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Why is Data Storytelling Important? 

Businesses have mountains of data available to them, but knowing what to do with that data is a challenge for many teams.

When you’re skilled at data storytelling, you have the ability to identify the most important points and link them together into a compelling narrative that inspires action and helps your team make better business decisions.

This skill is just as valuable as being able to analyze and interpret data, because it’s what gets you buy-in for your ideas and makes projects move forward.

Data storytelling inspires action because it bridges the gap between data and human connection.

Storytelling is one of the oldest methods of communication — people throughout history have used stories to teach lessons and communicate information about their cultures and histories. Stories engage people and help them make memorable connections, so forming your data into a story helps you express your points more effectively.

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What Are the Key Elements of Data Storytelling? 


Without data, there wouldn’t be a story. Data is the foundation for everything else — is there a relationship, trend, or other connection that makes you believe an action should be taken? Gathering data and understanding what it tells you is the first step in data storytelling.


Narrative is how you engage your audience in the story of your data. Data can show you that a trend is occurring, but what does that mean for your business? How does it affect what you’re trying to accomplish, and what needs to be done about it?

Contextualizing your data in the form of a narrative makes it easier for your audience to connect with the points you’re trying to make. 


Visuals help you make sure your audience processes and connects with the data you’re presenting to them. It’s difficult to fully understand the implications of complex data from just reading or hearing about it, so seeing it represented visually makes it sink in more effectively. 

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How to Tell a Story With Data

Establish Your Foundation

Before beginning to craft a story, you need to dive into the data, create a hypothesis, and examine your goals. What do you want to discover? What action do you want to inspire? Look for trends, relationships, and outliers — in other words, find the story that the data is telling you.

Confluence Tip: Databases

Databases allow you to track and manage information in one place within Confluence. They’re similar to pages, but act as dashboards that show you the most current information from multiple sources. If you’re working with large sets of information as you craft your story, databases can be a valuable resource for you to pull data from across your workspace into one centralized location. 

Consider Your Audience

An often-overlooked aspect of telling a good story is knowing your audience. Which angles and details are relevant to their personal needs and interests? How can you shape the story in a way that will capture their attention?

You should consider not only your audience’s motivations and priorities when putting together a story, but also their technical background. Will they want to know more technical details or will they be more interested in a high-level overview that focuses on business impact?

Understanding your audience and shaping your story to address their needs will increase your potential to inspire action. 

Create a Narrative

Once you know what you want to say and understand who you need to say it to, it’s time to put together a narrative that communicates your main points and appeals to the interests of your audience.

Try to contextualize your ideas as a story with an introduction, a problem or conflict, a climax that reveals an important insight or solution, and a conclusion. It’s the type of structure you’d see in any novel or film — and that’s because it works. It’s familiar to people, and it resonates with them.

Of course, you’ll need to make sure that your narrative is supported by data every step of the way to make your case as convincing as possible.

Supplement Your Story With Visuals 

Data and narrative are the backbone of your story, but to really make the information “click,” you’ll need to support your story with visuals that illustrate your data and connect to your narrative. 

Confluence Tip: Table Visualization & Technical Diagramming

Confluence’s table visualization feature allows you to create charts and graphs, but in order to communicate your full story, you may want to go a step further and include visuals that illustrate more than just trends in the data.

If you’re using Confluence to document your data and put together your story, a technical diagramming tool like Gliffy can help you visualize complex processes and structures, making it easier to communicate details to technical and non-technical stakeholders alike.

Gliffy isn’t directly a data visualization tool — however, it allows you to quickly and easily incorporate business data into any type of visual with data linking, the ability to upload CSV files and drag and drop information from cells directly onto the diagram canvas. This feature is available in both Confluence Cloud and Data Center!

For example, if you want to show the costs associated with each step of a process, you can create a flowchart that illustrates the process and use data linking to pull in the key information at each step.  

Especially when your story includes data in relation to other technical information, this is the perfect way to make your story come to life and reach your audience.

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Telling Your Story: What Comes Next?

The final step before sharing your story is to make sure it’s straightforward and concise, not weighed down with unnecessary details that will distract your audience. Then, you’re ready to communicate your insights to your team.

Once you get buy-in thanks to your effective data storytelling, you can move on to creating and implementing a data-driven plan. Here are a few resources that might help you along the way:

It’s time to communicate more effectively and drive change in your organization — and  it all starts with a story.

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