On 14 October, Nika Aleksejeva from Infogram hosted a webinar that not only introduced Infogram as a tool for creating data visualisations, but also looked at how to tell stories with data.

It's best to watch the recording of the webinar below, which lasts just over 30 minutes, to catch all the details and nuance. But this blog also rounds up some of Nika's key points.

Relevance is key!

Nika started by highlighting the importance of relevance. At one level, she noted that the messages one might want to convey aren't necessarily those that a particular audience wants to hear. Therefore she suggested that it's important to meet somewhere in the middle.

She went on to explain three different types of relevance and how they can be used to meet an audience where they are. The first is rational relevance -- highlighting something with data that can be simply understood, But that doesn't make it important to the viewer. It's important to strike emotional relevance as well, to help engage the audience with information. This can be done through highlighting social relevance; even if someone doesn't necessarily think something is directly relevant to them, showing how the issue affects others around them might be another way of establishing a connection.

Be on the lookout for interesting data

A good story needs a good narrative thread to keep the reader's attention. When it comes to telling stories with data, this might mean zooming in on one particular story, rather than trying to give the whole picture in one go.

Nika pointed out that one way to focus a narrative is to describe an overarching trend in the data. Trends can help tell stories over a long period and can even point to possible future scenarios. Finding sharp points of contrast can also help to tell a story. If one state or province, for example, does exceptionally well in something, but a neighbouring state or province does exceptionally poorly, there might well be a story there. Finding outliers is another good way to focus a story. What makes that particular case so different from everyone else?

Don't forget the keys to SUCCES

We've mentioned it before, but Nika also invoked the brothers Heath and their great guide to effective communications, Made to Stick. They argue that the keys to successful communication include: keeping things simple, but unexpected, concrete and tangible, credible and faithful, emotional (see point on relevance above!), and stories. Nika, very helpfully, gave examples of visualisations that did and didn't follow these rules to demonstrate their points.

So, go watch the webinar -- and be on the lookout for further 'how tos' and webinars as the competition progresses.