What are the Essential Skills of a Data Storyteller?


If you’ve been an Internet user for some time now, you may have perhaps heard of the term ‘data storytelling.’ If you haven’t, well it refers to the practice of creating a narrative around a data set with its complementing visualisations so that the meaning of that set of data could be communicated in a most powerful and convincing approach. A profession by itself, data storytelling is at the same time a skill, small wonder that storytelling by data is a highly demanded talent nowadays.

LinkedIn reports that data analysis is one of the topmost skill categories for recruiters over the recent years since data has gone increasingly global. It says further that this is the only category positioned in the Top 4 ranking in all of the countries that were analysed. Companies are now looking to hire the best data storytellers, those with skills that can successfully convert insights into action. So, if you are considered as an employer, what skills of a data storyteller are you going to look for in an applicant?

Essential Skills of a Data Storyteller

Firstly, what does an expert in storytelling by data do? Well, he takes your data plain and simple, and then transforms them into plain English stories. Now, this is the hard part because according to LinkedIn even those who were hired with advanced degrees in mathematics, statistics or economics still found it difficult to communicate their insights to others, just conveying the story of their numbers. Therefore, if you are to provide insights, you must be able to do it effectively in a manner that anybody can understand. No matter what the level or skill set, you must also have the ability to understand and make data relevant to your job and your life as a whole.

So, what then makes a great storyteller? Apart from possessing good receptivity or deep awareness for showing data in graphics, the individual should know how to integrate the findings down to a set of core values to make it clear and logical in the most straightforward and concise fashion.

It is worthy to note what Google’s Chief Economist, Dr. Hal R. Varian said when he was interviewed in 2009, “The ability to take data – to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualise it, to communicate it – that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.” And to think this was some twelve years ago yet, many businesses today still find his clever statement relevant.

In general, it is therefore expected that a data storyteller would know how to combine the three key elements – data, visuals and narrative so that the person will have an engaging story to tell that anyone can easily understand and remember.

Aside from the three major elements, data storytelling also relates to infographics, dashboards, data presentations and a whole lot more. That said, data storytelling is obviously more than just creating visually attractive data charts.