The Official Blog of Forecast5 Analytics

Tony Jerisha
Tony Jerisha

Data Discovery, Data Visualization, Transparency, Data Dashboard

Four Tips for Building Compelling Visual Stories with Data

Posted on Mar 13, 2018 8:36:00 AM

As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. But what happens if the picture is sending the wrong message, or the intended message is being missed? Storytelling with data should be a strategic objective for all school administrators because as the pace of information gathering and sharing increases, it is even more important to be data-savvy and understand how to communicate your position to stakeholders.

When developing your storyboard, make sure your story includes these six “must-haves”:

  • Story includes a beginning, middle, and end. Focus on a 360⁰ view of content.
  • Lead Character - What is the backstory, decision making process and actions?
  • Purpose - Understanding the goals and reasoning for the initiative.
  • Conflict – Remind your audience of the status quo and introduce your solution path.
  • Results - What is the outcome? This can be supported with visual analytics.
  • Make people care. Understand your audience and add emotional elements to create streamlined relatability.

Once you have finalized your storyboard to include all six “must-haves”, you can begin creating your visual analytics. Administrators are leveraging 5Sight Stories to access pre-built Q&A visuals for simple and guided storytelling.

Here are four tips to follow when developing your supporting visuals:

Visual Attributes

Ask yourself what the focus is of the visual you are trying to create. Consider which format is best suited to generate the intended insights. Data attributes may include: length, width, orientation, size, shape, curvature, spatial grouping and color. For instance, leverage a bar graph to display ranges of data.

Related: 3 Rules for Constructing & Communicating Your Financial Story to Stakeholders


The use of color allows for greater understanding and digestion of the information being presented. Incorporate a maximum of 8 colors in your visual to enhance comprehension. Remember to only use colors that are significant to the data points being used.

Types of Data

The data points you are working with can be classified as qualitative, quantitative, or ordinal. Qualitative may include your Free and Reduced Low Income data. Quantitative may include your FTE totals, expenses, or passing percentages. Ordinal may include increasing, decreasing, or flat data trends or analyzing items that are below, on, or over budget.

Data Dashboard

When you are putting your visuals together or developing your transparency dashboard, remember to follow these best practices:

  • The most important visual should be displayed on the top or top-left of the page
  • Legends should be positioned near the visual views
  • Avoid using multiple color schemes on a single dashboard
  • Use six or less views in a dashboard
  • If possible, provide interactivity

As you prepare for upcoming committee meetings, board presentations, or long-term planning discussions, apply these tips to ensure your message is being conveyed effectively and efficiently. For further guidance, here are five ways to create engaging data-driven stories

Read my full blog collection here!

Tony Jerisha is the Client Services Director for Forecast5 Analytics, Inc. where he is responsible for providing clients the support, training, and product experiences they need to be successful. Prior to joining Forecast5 in 2013, Tony spent 10 years with CCH (a Wolters Kluwer business) in various leadership positions including National Retention Manager where he oversaw client relationships across the U.S. and helped the organization bring multiple technology innovations to the tax and legal markets. Tony has received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the University of St. Francis and his Illinois CPA certification.

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