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How to present data with stories

Will Sutton needs to present data at a tech conference in Las Vegas. He wants people who are “intermediate” users of chart building software (Tableau) to raise their game and skill up.

Will is way out of his comfort zone, so he uses Storyteller Tactics to ask himself questions as he plans his talk:

  • Audience Profile: “What would I say to myself 2 years ago? What would really help me as an intermediate user to get my work noticed?”
  • Three is the Magic Number: “I shouldn’t overload my audience. What are my best 3 techniques on Tableau and how can I build stories around those?”
  • Good & Evil: “We’ve been taught the “best practice” way of making charts, i.e. keep making the same charts again and again. But we’re boring our users, letting them down. How do we wake them up again? Am I ready to go against what everyone else says, and defy the authority of my teachers?”

When it came to building the deck itself, Will decided to use:

  • No Easy Way: “Upskilling is a challenge but it’s worth it.”
  • Show & Tell: stick to very limited text, focus on the visual side.
  • Story Hooks: I’ll grab their attention by starting with something they don’t expect. (I’ll tell them about my dating mishaps on Tinder!)

Will Sutton on the main stage in Las Vegas.

“It’s a wrap! I’m happy to say my presentation in Vegas was very well received! It was a packed audience. They laughed, they were engaged, I even had someone approach me later in the conference and say it was the best talk they heard that day!”

And here’s a “home movie” version of the talk Will presented.

And here’s Will talking over his method with Storyteller Tactics author Steve Rawling.

1 thought on “How to present data with stories”

  1. Great presentation Will and this is a great video to demonstrate how to use these cards from beginning to end. Thanks Steve and Will for going through the cards and talking through the thought process.


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