Beyond the Buzzer: The Art of Sculpting Your Data Story

Let’s imagine you’re part of the school’s basketball team. You and your friends love to keep track of all the scores, how many three-pointers each player has made, the number of assists, and even the fouls. You’ve got many numbers and think, “These numbers tell a story!” And you’re right. The tricky part is telling this story right so everyone understands and enjoys it.

Why do we need to review and rearrange our story? Well, think about baking a cake. You can’t just throw in flour, eggs, sugar, and butter in no particular order, right? It would be best if you had a recipe. The same goes for telling a data story. It’s not just about gathering facts but also checking if they’re correct and arranging them to make sense to the person listening.

In our basketball story, we might first want to share the total scores, then who scored the most points, and maybe who fouled out too early. We review our story to ensure we have all the correct numbers and arrange it to keep our friends excited to hear more. This makes our story clearer, more interesting, and more powerful!


Why Reviewing and Rearranging Your Data Story is Important
  • Reviewing the narrative ensures that all the information presented is accurate, complete, and supports the key points. It allows the storyteller to verify all facts, figures, and data elements, which is crucial in maintaining credibility.
  • Sometimes, the initial flow of a story might not make the most sense. Rearranging can help maintain a logical sequence, ensuring the narrative flows smoothly from one point to another.
  • A review process helps to identify and rectify areas of confusion or ambiguity. It allows you to make the story more understandable to your audience by simplifying complex data or by adding explanations where necessary.
  • By reviewing the narrative, you may identify sections that are less engaging or compelling. Rearranging or revising these areas can help to retain the audience’s interest and keep them engaged throughout the narrative.
  • Through review and rearrangement, you can position the most impactful points or data at critical parts of the narrative to emphasize them. This can strengthen the overall impact of your data story.
  • The review process can also help you spot gaps in your narrative that you might have missed during the initial crafting. Filling these gaps can make your story more comprehensive.


How to Review and Reorganize Your Data Story
  1. Self-review
    Start by reading your story from beginning to end. It’s like a basketball game replay, watching the whole game without stopping. This helps to identify the story’s overall flow, recognize any glaring issues, and assess the coherence and clarity of the narrative. 

    • Technique: Create a timeline of your narrative to visualize the flow of your story. Mark down the main points or insights on this timeline as you go through your review.
  2. Fact check
    Next, make sure all your numbers and facts are correct. You wouldn’t want to say someone scored 50 points when they only scored 15, would you?

    • Technique: Use annotations in your storyboard to cross-reference each piece of data with its source.
  3. Structure evaluation
    Here, check if your story flows well. Does it have a clear start, middle, and end? It’s much like how a basketball game has four quarters.

    • Technique: Arrange your main points or insights in a sequence on your storyboard, representing your narrative’s chronological order or logical flow.
  4. Engagement and impact assessment
    This step is about checking if your story is exciting and makes people say, “Wow!” You want your friends to be excited about your story, just like everyone is excited about a game-winning shot. Identify sections that might need revision to improve engagement.

    • Technique: Highlight key moments and use visual markers, like-colored stickers or symbols on your storyboard, to denote key moments or impactful insights in the narrative.
  5. Clarity check
    Make sure everyone can understand your story. It’s like explaining basketball rules to someone who’s never seen a game before. It would be best if you kept it simple.

    • Technique: Use speech bubbles to draft alternative, more straightforward explanations or metaphors for complex points.
  6. Rearrangement
    After doing all this, you might decide to change the order of some parts of your story to make it even better, like choosing the right play to score a basket.

    • Techniques: If you’re using a physical storyboard, write each point or section on individual post-it notes or cards. This allows you to easily move them around to experiment with different narrative structures.


Best Practices for Reorganizing a Data Story

While rearranging your story, remember to:

  • Use visual aids
    Just like a game plan drawn on a whiteboard, visuals can help make your story clearer. They allow you to see the overall structure and flow of the narrative.
  • Balance data and story
    Keep a good balance between your numbers and your story. You wouldn’t want to talk about statistics in a basketball game without mentioning the incredible slam dunk, right?
  • Emphasize key points
    Highlight the most exciting or essential parts of your story, like how a player scored a record number of points.
  • Check for gaps
    Make sure your story flows well and doesn’t miss anything important. Every quarter in the game is essential, and so is every part of your story.
  • Keep your audience in mind
    Remember who you’re telling your story to and what they would find interesting. It’s like explaining a game differently to a basketball fan and someone who’s watching their first game.
  • Aim for simplicity and clarity
    Try to keep your story simple and easy to understand, like explaining the game rules to a new player.
  • Maintain a consistent style and messaging
    Ensure that all parts of the story contribute to a unified whole. Inconsistency in style or messaging can confuse the audience and disrupt the flow of the story.
  • Seek feedback
    Just like a basketball team discusses their game, it’s good to talk about your story with others. They might have great ideas to make your story even better!
  • Review and reorganize more than once
    Finally, remember that telling a great story takes time and practice. The first version might not be perfect, but don’t worry! Just like in basketball, practice makes perfect!

And that’s how you review and reorganize a data story, ensuring it’s accurate, understandable, and exciting! So the next time you gather scores and stats from your basketball games, remember these steps, and you’ll tell a great story every time!



Slam Dunk Stats: Sasha’s Scoreboard Story

Sasha, an avid basketball fan, had taken it upon herself to track her high school team’s performance throughout the season. A flurry of facts and figures lived in her notebook, representing countless hours of watching games, cheering on her friends, and scribbling notes.

Eager to share this data-driven narrative with her fellow students, Sasha began reviewing her data, just like studying her game notes before the big match. She knew this was an important first step to ensure that her storytelling would be accurate, engaging, and impactful.

First, she replayed the “game” in her mind, reading her narrative from start to finish, much like watching a full game replay. She thought about the team’s scoring trends, and the rise and fall of their performance over the season. She visualized the story as a timeline of events.

Then came the fact-checking. Sasha cross-referenced each point in her narrative with her detailed game notes and official scoreboards. She made sure that she had correctly cited each game date, each player’s score, fouls, and assists.

Next, she scrutinized the structure of her story, much like analyzing a game strategy. Sasha noticed that her narrative began with individual scores, then overall scores, and then team statistics. Something felt amiss.

She realized that the story would be more compelling if it mirrored the rhythm of a game: starting with the team’s overall scores to set the stage, then diving into individual highlights, and finally ending with the statistics of fouls and assists that contributed to the overall performance.

After rearranging the sections, Sasha read through her narrative again. She realized some parts were more engaging than others. The individual highlights and peak moments of the games were exciting, while the sections with raw statistics seemed dry and less engaging.

To tackle this, Sasha decided to add more context to the numbers and paint a clearer picture. Instead of simply stating that “Player X scored 20 points in Game Y,” she added anecdotes, like how Player X made a stunning comeback after missing the first few shots, or how the crowd erupted when the final game-winning shot was made.

As she revised her narrative, she also looked for areas that might be confusing to her classmates. Complex statistics were broken down and explained in simpler terms. The narrative now felt more fluid, and she could see her classmates appreciating the statistics as much as they enjoyed the actual games.

When Sasha finally shared her narrative at the school assembly, her classmates were gripped by the story of their basketball team’s season. The highs, the lows, the thrilling victories, and even the bitter defeats, all captured in Sasha’s engaging data-driven narrative. It wasn’t just numbers and stats; it was their story, a testament to their school spirit, and it was a slam dunk!