One of the most compelling ways to drive home your point is with data. Whether you’re talking about the housing market, legal fees, or internet usage, solid facts – survey results, statistics, etc. – lend legitimacy.
Unfortunately, data can also be boring. Data-driven content can lose readers’ attention quickly if it isn’t presented in an engaging way. But how to make data compelling?
Use infographics to make data accessible and memorable
One of the best ways to turn dry facts into something your readers can easily take in is to create an infographic. Well-done infographics are eye-catching and they are shareable. They are also impactful. This has to do with the way they are able to turn a set of numbers into a relationship, and then make that relationship immediately apparent.
If you’ve never made an infographic before, not to worry. There are a number of free tools available that will help you make an attractive and functional infographic with a few clicks. You just need to supply the data and make some design choices.
Free and low-cost tools for creating infographics
- Canva Infographic Maker – easy drag-and-drop interface with lots of free design elements, as well as the ability to purchase premium images for $1 each. This is the probably the best choice if you create infographics occasionally because you can pay individually for the premium elements you want.
- Easel.ly – thousands of templates to choose from. A free account gets you access to 60 free images and 10 fonts. For $3 a month, you’ll get access to 680,000 images, over 50 fonts, professional templates, design help, and more.
- Venngage – an easy-to-use tool that lets you choose from templates and customize with charts, visuals, and design elements. A free account lets you produce branded infographics with limited templates. A premium account offers much greater access and allows you to create brand-free infographics. A premium account will run you $19/month, and there’s also a business account available for $49/month. The paid options are worth considering only if you produce infographics in high volume.
- Google Charts – doesn’t have all the flashy features that some other infographic tools have. But it is totally free and lets you easily distill your data into one of many types of charts and graphs.
Tips for effective infographics
- Include no more than 10 data points to avoid overwhelming the reader. Try to present too much at once, and none of it will seem important.
- Make the most important piece of data the centerpiece of your design. This should be not only the most visually compelling part of the image, but it should also appear at or near the center.
- It’s a good idea to include your references (you can fit them in unobtrusively at the bottom). Readers will appreciate that you’ve done your research, and they’ll find your infographic more credible as a result.
Turn your data into compelling stories
A second way to make your data engaging is to weave it into a story that your audience cares about. Good writing goes a long way here, and you also want to consider how you organize your ideas.
One effective approach is to start with an overview of the topic. Explain why it’s important and relevant to your audience. The overview should be relatively concise to avoid losing readers on the way to the “storytelling” part.
The story can be done in a couple of different ways, but the important thing to remember is to show, not tell. You could use a series of different examples to demonstrate how your data set is relevant in the real world.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a piece about real estate prices, and your audience is real estate agents. You have a well-researched set of data demonstrating the importance of spending more time with clients as prices increase. You could drive the point home with a series of short vignettes about agents who found that clients needed more attention as prices rose.
Alternatively, you could tell a single, long story that illustrates your point. You could interview a real estate agent about his experiences with prospective home buyers in a seller’s market. Then you use his perspective, along with your gathered data, to create a relatable narrative.
And your stories don’t have to be stories, per se. If you present your data as part of a broader idea for how to solve the reader’s problem, you can offer examples of solutions. Or you might offer a step-by-step guide, incorporating the data where relevant.
Finish with a call to action
Ideally, follow up your story with a clear call to action. Remind your reader that you have the tools to solve the problem. For example: “With real estate prices on the rise and showing no signs of slowing down, it is more important than ever to develop an intensive, client-centered approach. We provide the following services to help you . . .”
Through a combination of storytelling and visual representation, you can make your data not only painless but interesting to read and digest. Don’t forget to keep your content relevant to your audience and your data relevant to your content.