How do you tell a compelling story using something as dry and dense as financial data? It isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. More importantly, being able to build financial intelligence through narrative form is exactly the kind of skill today’s F&A teams need to cultivate.
As finance rises to the forefront of the organization, executives, department heads, and countless others need to understand their own impact on the bottom line. The F&A team could use a spreadsheet to explain the situation, but the information is so much richer presented as a story. No matter who your audience is, use these tips to make that story as clear and compelling as possible.
1. Give the Story Context
Like any good story, you need to set the scene before you start. Offer any background necessary to make the rest of your story clear. Then, establish your aims, describing what you will be narrating and why. This introduction is important, but it should also be as short as possible.
2. Add Spice with Convincing Data Visualizations
Once you begin telling the story, back up your assertions with data that illustrates how you reached one conclusion over another. You want to make your decision-making process as explicit as possible, demonstrating how you moved from one point to another based on empirical insights. You can reverse engineer this process by picking out the data you want to highlight and then building a narrative to connect the points.
3. Create a Sense of Urgency
You want to describe a set of circumstances, but you also want to spur on action. Create a sense of urgency by highlighting what will happen if the company doesn’t act. Make the timeline clear and the implications specific. Think of this as the antagonist of the story: the obstacle or opponent the company is up against if it doesn’t make the right financial moves.
4. Highlight the Takeaways
Financial data storytelling should build to a “takeaways” section where you underline the most important insights backed up with hard facts and figures. These are the numbers decision-makers need to remember or else the actionable information that informs their next big decision. Be sure to set up what you will be building to in this section sometime in your introduction.
5. Propose a Plan
This is where the rubber hits the road. Based on the data, the F&A team has identified the right course of action, so give clear, specific recommendations as to the next steps for your audience to take. This will help speed the decision-making process and ensure that your story leads to actionable results for the company.
6. Summarize with a Forward-Looking Conclusion
Once you’ve set the stage, led your audience through the meat of your story, and recommended insightful next steps to take, it’s time to wow them with an impactful conclusion. End your story with data and analysis that predicts the potential outcomes for following the recommendations you have provided. This increases the chance that your listeners will take the proposed steps to help your business grow.
If telling a good story (financial or otherwise) was as easy as consulting a list of tips, everyone would be a captivating storyteller. The reality is that all good stories are carefully crafted, and good storytellers develop from years of practice. What’s different about data storytelling is that technology can help build the narrative.
With a purpose-built financial reporting tool, the F&A team has access to all relevant data, along with tools to analyze, visualize, and organize that data into compelling narrative formats. These tools can’t write the story, but they can make it vastly more convincing and compelling. If you’re ready to transform financial intelligence, insightsoftware has an out-of-the-box solution. To see it in action, request a free demo today!