How to Transform Your Communication Using Data Stories

Most church leaders, especially the senior pastor or teaching pastor, rightfully view their skills as a communicator to be one of the most important aspects of their position. From the weekly sermon to regular leadership meetings to training and development presentations to special, one off events, the spoken word is of paramount importance to church leaders.

With all the information in data form available to you, how do you communicate it?

To be the most effective communicators we can be, leaders must learn to use the data we need to communicate as a powerful narrative – a narrative that others will recall and retell.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Data Story, by Nancy Duarte

Scientists have proven that stories make the brain light up in ways no other form of communication does. Using story frameworks as a communication device for data will help make your recommendations stick and be acted on.

Organizations use data to identify problems or opportunities. The actions others may need to take today from your insights in data could reverse or improve the trajectory of your future data. So, communicating data well drives very important outcomes.

Even though most roles depend on data, communicating well is the top skill gap in roles using data. The essential skill for today’s leaders (and aspiring leaders) is shaping data into narratives that make a clear recommendation and inspire others to act. 

Almost every role today uses data for decision-making. As you grow in your career, you can become a strategic advisor and ultimately a leader using data to shape a future where humanity and organizations flourish.

Duarte and her team have culled through thousands of data slides of her clients in technology, finance, healthcare, and consumer products, to decode how the highest performing brands communicate with data.

Data Story teaches you the most effective ways to turn your data into narratives that blend the power of language, numbers, and graphics. This book is not about visualizing data; there are plenty of books covering that. Instead, you’ll learn how to transform numbers into narratives to drive action.

  • It will help you communicate data in a way that creates outcomes both inside and outside your own organization.
  • It will help you earn a reputation as a trusted advisor, which will advance your career.
  • It will help your organization make faster decisions and inspire others to act on them!

Nancy Duarte is one of the preeminent storytellers in American business and the acclaimed author of Slide:ologyResonate, and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations comes this book that will help you transform numbers into narratives.


Author Nancy Duarte poses this interesting question in her book, Data Story: “What if you sliced data and found a huge problem or opportunity?”

She goes on, saying, “Data did its job, but now it needs a storyteller. How insights are communicated could reverse or improve the trajectory of data. The actions you ask others to take today change your future data.”

The best communicators make data concise and clearly structured while telling a convincing and memorable story.

Data doesn’t speak for itself; it needs a storyteller.

With prolific digital devices and technological advancements, every person, place, thing, or idea can be measured and tracked in some way. But without identifying the story emerging from the data, it’s of little to no value. 

Why is storytelling so important? Because the human brain is wired to process stories. By transforming your data into vivid scenes and structuring your delivery in the shape of a story, you will make your audience care about what your data says.

Story is the primary method used to engage hearts and spur action. Storytelling makes the brain light up in a way no other form of communication does. Story has the ability to help the listener embrace how they may need to change, because the message transfers into their heart and mind.

Stories engage our senses

When we find ourselves hooked to a particular storyline, that resonance begins in our brains. This is the first trigger to enabling a physical and emotional response.

Stories bring us closer together

If you’ve ever felt a wave of emotion while listening to a story, that’s because our brains are naturally activated and eager to physically process the emotion associated with oral description.

Stories move us to feel

Giving your audience a vicarious thrill puts them at the center of your story, making them feel like they are the hero themselves.

Stories move us to act

Stories that capture our attention cause us toe emotionally connect with others and feel motivated to embark on a course of action.

Nancy Duarte, Data Story


Author Nancy Duarte suggests the following ideas to help transform numbers into narratives. Try these out the next time you have to communicate data to your audience.

Attach the data to something relatable. To help your audience understand the magnitude of the data, compare it to things that are familiar to them.

Develop a sense of scale. While data must always be precise, trying to help others understand it doesn’t have to be. Approximations help convey the scale of the number quickly.

Connect data to relatable size. Common measures of length, area, and volume can be compared to relatable objects in our lives.

Connect data to relatable time. Time and speed, because of their familiar use in our lives, are a good source of comparison.

Compare data to relatable things. Along with size, time, and speed to understand a number, compare various nouns to one another to comprehend quantity and scale.

Express how you feel about the data. Let your emotions about outcomes show.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 133-2, December 2019.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<


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