It’s a valid question rattling around in the back of our minds. How do we really incorporate storytelling into our research reports? Is it just a buzzword? Does it really matter?
Yes, and Yes.
I hate buzzwords, and “storytelling” is one of the latest. However, it actually does matter. Stories are more effective in speeches, presentations, conversations, and really any form of human interaction and communication. They grab more attention and lead to better retention, which should be the goal of our research deliverables. So, how do we achieve better storytelling?
One of the strongest elements of storytelling is flow and many research reports suffer from a lack of flow. When we simply grab and dump charts from our questionnaire, reports can feel like just a series of separate facts or disconnected fragments. Effective storytelling can make them feel more connected, showing cause and effect or deeper rationale. Flow draws the reader in and the story becomes more important and meaningful.
One of the simplest ways to achieve this is through GIFs, simple animated pictures. The GIF below tells the simple story of recent US manufacturing trends from US Census Data.
The important element here is to think about how each point builds to a climax, making the simple point that manufacturing employment has remained low while manufacturers are actually selling more. A great next step for this story might be to ask, how or why? How has this happened? How drastically has automation grown? Are manufacturers actually making more profit? What industrial areas are most effected? Asking these types of questions allows the writer to think about how to organize the rest of the story in a way that engages the reader.
Achieving flow through meaningful organization of data is crucial to telling effective research stories. So, go get some flow!