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Powerful storytelling with Power BI. Tips & Tricks to become a better data storyteller

Many organisations have the desire to become data driven. Tools such as Power BI help them in generating data insights to achieve this goal. But when used without restraint, these tools might have the exact opposite effect as screens stacked with charts and tables and figures leave the end-user utterly confused instead of enlightened. To help, we have compiled some tips so that you can become a better data storyteller.

Dashboards full of numbers, overly complex graphs and an overkill of filters or even 3D charts; we’ve all seen them. And while the creators of such dashboards have good intentions, they make a common mistake: they are putting too much information in the report simply because they can.

It is very easy for analysts to overlook this pitfall. You have done all the hard work of connecting different data sources, cleaning the data, preparing and exploring it, and now you are excited to finally start putting all these interesting bits of information together in a report. However, the job of a data analyst is not just technical. It entails more than just transforming data into information. It is also about clearly communicating the key messages derived from this data, something known as Data Storytelling.

It is good practice for anyone working with data to separate these two important jobs: creating data insights and communicating them. The most important part of working with data is making sure that end-users are able to make better – and better-informed - decisions by clearly communicating the insights gained from data. If you are making a report or a dashboard, keep in mind there is always a purpose or a focus. If there is not, don’t make it. All elements in your report should build up to the conclusion of your data story.

Aware of the pitfall of wanting too much, it is now time to start building powerful data stories. Here are some tips and tricks to help you facilitate engaging storytelling in Power BI.

Sketch your storyline
If you are making a report, first think about its purpose. Do you want to display the differences in behaviour between groups of customers? Or do you want to create a 360-degree customer profile?

Define the goal of your report in one sentence. Then draw a sketch of how your dashboard should look like based on the information that needs to be in there to support this one-sentence goal. Doing this before you start investing your time in actually building the report will help you get a clear overview of which information is essential and which is not, saving you a lot of time and effort while making the end result more clear.

Use templates
Luckily, you do not need to start with a blank canvas each time you are building a report. It can be very helpful to use templates that you made yourself or that were made by others. Power BI tips is a great website where you can download Power BI templates for free. Carefully created templates do not only look attractive to users, but they also make sure that filters are clearly indicated and restrict the number of panes that you can use in a screen. Using templates will make it easier for you to build a clear data story.

Account for data literacy
If you are working with data every day, it is easy to forget that others don’t. Keep in mind that your story should also be easy to read for those who are less comfortable with data. Don’t go crazy with click through paths or graphs that look very fancy but are in fact overly complicated. Stick to basic and well-known graph types such as bar or line. This will make sure that your data is understood by everyone.

Text is an important tool to guide your audience through your line of reasoning. You can add titles to pages and pains or even create introduction pages that help clarify the goal of the dashboard. Text can also be added to specific visuals in order to help the audience understand them. The custom visual Enlighten Data Story makes it easy to integrate your data into text.

The tooltip is also a good feature which you should use to your benefit. You can add text to your tooltip that explains to the user how to read the graph or give some contextual understanding. Always make sure that click-through options are clearly indicated by text in your tooltip.

In conclusion, in order to become truly data-driven it is necessary to create powerful storytelling. Humans need compelling (data) stories to better understand and remember data insights. It is the task of data analysts to make data insights clear, compelling and convincing for their audience.

If you would like to know more about Power BI and Data Storytelling, contact our expert Jacklien Maessen on +31 (0) 30 221 90 50.

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