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“Go Ahead. Make Me Care”: Turn Data Into Story

March 22, 2024

Spreadsheets and tables rarely move people. Sure, important decisions might flow from a quarterly report’s bottom line. But to move people? That’s a higher standard. In a survey of your peers, “improving finance metrics, insights and storytelling” ranks third among top CFO priorities for 2024.

Narrative Beyond Visualization

Data visualization is one part of storytelling. Yes, finance leaders must understand how to relay KPI data with graphics, refrain from too much detail, and sequence the data. But engaging with story – which increases brain activity fivefold – adds meaning and answers the question, “Why should I care?” Narrative will usher your audience through the data (think: beginning-middle-end) and invite beating-heart people to understand what matters and why. This is especially critical in calls-to-action or to facilitate high-level decisions.

Where to start? Determine what question you seek to answer, identify relevant data sources and collection, know your audience and what will draw folks in from your opening sentence, develop data visualization (simple charts, graphs, etc.) customized for your audience, construct a written or spoken story that connects the visuals, and practice telling that story before delivering it. Ready for your biz card to read, “CFO (aka Chief Data Storyteller)”?

“The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.”
– Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Ethical Leadership, New York University Stern School of Business

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