Let Your Data Tell a Story: Visualizations Using Microsoft Power BI

Updated: Mar 19

As business processing, monitoring, and decision making is becoming increasingly digitized, data visualization has become the fuel for modern businesses. Companies are using powerful data visualization provided by Microsoft Power BI to let their data do the storytelling.

But what makes good data storytelling? How does data visualization with Power BI work? Sit tight as we explore how your business can be transformed instantly by simply understanding and visualizing your data with Microsoft Power BI. Let’s dive into it!

The Principles of Good Storytelling

Since the beginning of mankind, storytelling has been the basic most form of communication. Whether orally or visually, humans have been storytelling for years to achieve better communication. Now, it’s your data’s turn to tell a story.

Here are some key principles for good storytelling:

● Short and Easy to Understand: The complexity of your data should be reduced so that anyone can understand it quickly.

● Inspiring Change: Your data should create meaning for your business and inspire change.

● Impactful: When your data tells a story to potential customers and investors, it creates a better impact and brings the desired response!

Elements of a Good Story

To impart clarity to your story, there are four critical elements: set the stage, know your audience, plan your story, and keep room for explorations.

Setting the Stage

It is critical for the audience to get some context on the data they’re viewing.

If the audience doesn't instantly grasp what the data is about, they’re not going to understand what the data in the presentation means, and it loses all impact and meaning.

The key to setting the stage when storytelling with data is an excellent dashboard. Ensure that your dashboard abides by these thumb rules:

● Give clear titles and headings to your data and charts

● Ensure that you have short and effective page labels

● Highlight critical information and key metrics

● Use few colors to reduce distractions

● Organize the dashboard effectively and maintain good spacing

Targeting your Audience

You must know who your audience is and the information they are interested in. A potential customer won’t be interested in your monthly expenditure trends!

A great way to target different sets of audiences is to create separate pages for each type of audience. This allows your audience to view the data they’re interested in and can easily understand.

Planning your Story

It’s always great to plan out your story beforehand so you get enough time to work on key areas before they’re presented.

Using storyboards is the most effective way to create a scene-by-scene plan for your story. Your board can highlight the UI design, what audience it is for, any charts it should have, the color theme- basically any element you’d like to include in the story!

Make sure that you focus on the important stories and create multiple pages. This makes the data more organized and eliminates distractions.

Part II

Room for Explorations

It’s important that your audience is excited by the data and would want to dig deeper individually. Here are some quick ways to enable explorations on Power BI:

● Use filters, interactions, and drill-throughs: Power BI allows you to filter reports and data, and create drill-throughs that are connections between higher-level pages and specific pages to connect users to data they’re most interested in.

● Use dashboard pages as a starting point for critical stories: For stuff such as executive summaries, it’s ideal to place their content on the dashboard and then establish a drill-through to specific pages for interested users.

See also Microsoft Power BI: Custom Bar Colors Helps you Show Data Better

How Data Visualization Works

70% of your mental faculty is used in visualization. The visual memory is split into three parts: iconic, short-term, and long-term.

Iconic memory is memory that's very short term and doesn’t get stored in your brain, such as when you’re driving the car. Your brain is seeing the road and taking decisions, then forgetting about that frame entirely.

When an audience is viewing your data visualization, most of it will be a part of the iconic memory, and it’s necessary to make your audience convert their iconic memory to short- and long-term memory when your data tells a story.

Let’s begin with some things that will distract our iconic memory:

● A report full of bright colors

● Unreasonably thick borders

● No highlighting

● Gridlines

● Excessively precise numbers

Using bright colors only to highlight certain important areas of the report can instantly grab the audience’s attention, but overdoing it will lead to distraction.

Maintaining reasonable spacing and clutter-free visualizations with few highlighted parts is an ideal visualization.

To ensure your data storytelling fits into the audience's long-term memory, ensure you have:

● A clear call for action

● Spark interest using pre-cognitive techniques

● Use data patterns that are easy to view and process (see Gestalt’s principles)

● Use text/audio to connect the dots while storytelling

Often, choosing the wrong form of visual representation can also ruin an otherwise excellent story. Choosing the right kind of graphs makes a significant difference. Let’s see what type of graphs supported by Microsoft Power BI are ideal for various purposes:

Comparison: Bar Graphs (Stacked/Clustered), Column Charts, Tables, Matrices

Composition: Tree, Pie Chart, Stacked Area,100% Stacked Columns, Water Fall

Trends: Line Graph, Funnel Chart, Line & Stacked Columns, Stacked Columns

Distribution: Scatter Plot, Bubble Chart, Map (for geographic distribution)

Status: KPs, Gauge, Cards (single/multirow)

Relationships: Area Curves, Bubble Charts

Ensure that when making charts, you don’t make the numbers excessively precise and maintain reasonable consistency in colors unless you’re highlighting certain data points.

Best Dashboard Practices

Now that you’re equipped with the visual cues that make a great story, let’s top it off with some best practices that’ll make your visualizations dashboard perfect.

Know your audience well and personalize your dashboard design so that everything’s easy to understand for them.

Let your data tell the full story on one screen. The difference between dashboard and report is the dashboard is an overview while the report is specifics. That means you can show a little bit of everything that matters on the dashboard, then use drill-throughs to lead users into reports!

Ensure that you accent the important information and place the most crucial parts on the top-left (where the eye goes first).

Be sure you’re using the right visualizations and graphs, and encode the numbers nicely. But do not clutter numbers and charts on the screen. Leave space and maintain color consistency.

Bottom Line

Microsoft Power BI is easy to use and understand, making it the best data visualization software on all platforms, friendly to beginners and pros alike.

Couple that with the tips in this post, and you’re all set to create a stunning, informative, and engaging data visualization that speaks for itself! From the basics of storytelling to pro techniques on Power BI, we’ve covered it all in this post.

We hope you’ve found this post enlightening and fun! If you’ve got something on your mind, feel free to put it down in the comments!

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See also The Economic Impact of Microsoft Power BI Helps Your Organization Achieve a New Level of ROI

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