Using Storytelling to Engage Your Data Consumers

We all love a good story. It hooks us from the very beginning. The scene and characters come alive in our minds. Before we know it, we’re hanging on every word. We get so wrapped up in the story, we lose track of time. We’re dying to find out how it ends. When we reach the end, we feel a sense of closure…and maybe a little wistfulness that ride is over. Storytelling is a powerful tool.

Now imagine yourself in a meeting where someone is giving you a presentation on data. Are you engaged? Are you dying to find out what happens next? Not usually, right?

Storytelling book open with eyeglasses

Storytelling Makes Your Data Come Alive

But you could be! And when you’re up there giving the presentation, you could have your audience on the edge of their seats. You just need to look for ways to turn your data into a good story.

For example, suppose you need to report on an initiative that has increased graduation rates for its target population. It’s good news, so of course you could just share the numbers. But wouldn’t it be better if you told a story about some of the participants: where they came from, how they struggled, how the initiative helped them, how it helped other students, what it could mean for the future of the institution? Even without the details, the story is more interesting and memorable than just a few data points. And just maybe, it will keep people talking about it as they go about their day.

Data consumers listing to a story about data

Draw on Your Experience to Build a Story

Turning your data into a story isn’t all that difficult. Sometimes there is a real-life example to build on. Other times, you can construct a storytelling scenario. Either way, remember to incorporate these principles:

  1. Make them care: Who is your audience? What is important to them? Make sure to align those things to capture their interest.
  2. Build anticipation: Include enough background detail to paint a picture in their minds.
  3. Follow a clear path: If your story is too complex or too hard to connect to the data, your audience may lose interest.
  4. Draw parallels: It may be clear to you how the data relates to your story, but make sure it is crystal clear for your audience.
  5. Clear conclusions: Your story is one example of the data, but make sure they see the bigger picture.

Have you had good luck turning your data into stories? What do your audiences respond to? Let us know!

Data People are Everywhere on Your Campus. Here’s How to Bring Them Together.

Long gone are the days where one department is the “data office”. Nearly every office and department uses data. Many even generate and store their own data. Data people are everywhere, bringing them together can make your job easier.

Man holding compass in snowy forest

Why Aren’t Data Creators Talking More?

If there are many data creators, where are the data discussion groups? Aside from being too busy, data creators and users can often have different approaches and access to data. While some people look at some data, others may not have access to it. So, we have a need to bring data people together to cross share their analyses more.

Bringing the Data People Together

Ask the questions that you wish people would ask you:  If you are a data wonk, you know that it’s not often that someone asks you about your recent analyses and what you find interesting. So be that data person who asks others the questions you would want to be asked! This shows your interest in the person and their work, and you will learn the types of projects that they are working on. This is important for building relationships and cross-sharing info.

Coordinate a regular forum: Create a brown bag lunch, info session, seminar that allows for data folks to share some information about a recent report with other data wonks. Why? People learn about other data that is available, ask questions, and make suggestions that will make future analyses better.

Send an article/resource to other data people: If you are reading this, chances are you read a variety of news services. When you see an article that you think may be relevant to someone’s work, send it to them. Instead of sending an “FYI” email with a link, include a note that indicates why you thought about them and what stood out in the article. This takes an extra 3-5 minutes of your time, but it now is a discussion topic the next time you see them. Or, better yet, include a proposal to grab coffee or lunch to talk more about it or pick their brain. Your conversation may lead to more ideas for how you can bring the data people on campus together.

Data People having coffee

Have you uncovered data allies hiding on your campus? What tips do you have for finding and bringing them together? We’d love to hear them!

Planning for a Smooth IPEDS Data Collection Cycle

With the IPEDS Winter data collection cycle nearly complete (don’t forget to hit lock by February 13!), we will soon shift our focus to preparing Spring data. While it may seem like there’s little time to take a deep breath in between the cycles, finding a little time for planning for a smooth IPEDS data collection cycle will pay dividends as we approach April’s deadlines.

To Do list with 
1. Wake Up
2. Coffee (underlined)
3. The Rest...

The rest would include planning for a smooth IPEDS data collection cycle.

Review Survey Changes

One of the easiest and most valuable ways you can get ahead of the next data collection cycle is to begin by checking out the Changes to the IPEDS Data Collection document for the current year. The document will classify the changes for you so you can quickly see additions/deletions/rewordings for each survey component, as well as a justification for the modification. This way, you don’t have to compare the data elements on your own and you won’t overlook a change until the last minute!

Pass the Information Along

Since the Changes to the IPEDS Data Collection document separates the changes by survey, you can easily share the appropriate information with the correct campus partners. Rather than just directing them to the page, you can quickly and easily copy and paste the relevant information into an email to the responsible parties for their respective surveys.

IPEDS is a Team Sport

By planning ahead for a smooth cycle and sharing changes, you show your colleagues that you are trying to make the IPEDS data collection process easier and less frustrating. In addition, you reinforce that IPEDS is a team effort and that you are available to support them, even if you’re not a Subject Matter Expert. Finally, your email can also serve as a friendly reminder of the upcoming deadline ?

Professionals in a huddle with hands in the center. Working together for a smooth IPEDS data collection cycle.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have additional tips or techniques you use when planning for a smooth IPEDS data collection cycle!