Data Visualisation - How to Storyboard Data Visualisation?

Data visualisations can pull out the most important figures and conclusions from data analysis, but storyboarding maps out the full story.


Data analytics can uncover important insights gleaned from raw data in business or research. Effective data visualisations using charts and dashboards in spreadsheets can help an individual or group to share these data discoveries. For maximum impact on the target audience, however, you need to use context and a compelling story.
Storyboarding is all about telling a story with the data. While data can be used to answer questions such as the change in average sales figures over the years, there’s a better way to communicate this beyond figures and charts.

With a data storyboard, the presenter creates a full slide-by-slide layout of the visualisation and presentation. This narrative communicates the story behind the data—where it came from, why it matters, and the insights found in a captivating and easy-to-follow manner. Data storyboarding and data visualisation are effective together for a powerful presentation.

How to Tell a Story with Data

Creativity and good story-telling skills are essentials in any data story. Before you begin drafting one, you must have a solid understanding of the context, raw data, analysis, and the business or research question.

Here are some additional tips you can follow when crafting your data story:

  • Know your objective and communicate it early in the story. Every story needs a good introduction that points to the ultimate purpose of the presentation.
  • Think about your audience. The story you narrate must be relevant to the audience’s objectives. For example, if you are presenting to data scientists, you should probably get into the intricate details of the data analysis. On the other hand, if your presentation is for high-level decision-makers, you should focus more on the conclusions and recommendations.
  • Sketch your data story and visualisation before you create. Creating these typically goes hand in hand. Before you pull out your preferred visualisation tool, put pencil to paper, build out a draft presentation with a good plot and flow.
  • End the visualisation well. Every story needs a good conclusion for it to be truly memorable, or in this case, impactful. What are the key takeaways, the action points, or the call to action from the data story you just told? Don’t leave your audience hanging.

What Are the Best Practices?

With data visualisation and storyboarding, there is a lot of room for creativity, but there are also some best practices worth paying attention to.

Don’t Misrepresent the Data

As the storyteller, you get to choose which data and analyses to include. Stay objective and steer clear of bias.

Keep Your Visualisation Simple

There’s always a huge temptation to cram as many visual features as possible, but this can often do more harm than good. For a strong visual story, the power lies in simplifying it so that it brings the data to life without overwhelming the audience. Don’t stop editing and tweaking the presentation until you have eliminated any unnecessary features.

Your audience must be able to understand the basic idea of your visuals within a few seconds. It’s best to stay clear of things like pie charts and 3-D charts unless they add meaning or clarity.

Add Clear Context

Adding the appropriate context to your visualisation and data story brings clarity. This could be in the form of clear chart titles, legends, keys, and short lengths of texts. The more your audience can pull away from your chart without you walking them through every feature, the better its potential reach.


Be consistent in formatting and layout so that your audience doesn’t have to readjust with each view or dashboard in the visualisation.

What Different Data Stories Exist?

The same dataset can tell different stories, depending on the business question you decide to focus on. These data stories are useful in communicating a specific aspect of the data and stirring the discussion in a particular direction.

Here are some of the main ones:

  • Change over time
  • Drill down
  • Zoom out
  • Contrast
  • Intersection
  • Different factors
  • Outliers

Each name gives you an idea about where the focus of the attention might be in each data story.


Figures and charts are great, but even more useful to an audience is the fleshed-out story behind the data. Storyboarding enhances data visualisation by including the background, flow, and conclusion of the analysis. Data storytelling done right also helps to keep a presentation interesting, engaging, and succinct.



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