Need to Turn Data into a Story? Turn to Sports.

Struggling with making data exciting in your slide deck? Data can be dynamic. Statistics can tell superb stories.

Here’s The Formula:
Start with facts. Add feelings. And you’ve got a data story.

Let’s turn to the world of sports for a timely example.
Let’s build a short story with data we have from the Washington Nationals path to the World Series.
Here we go — stay with me to the end.
Because business owners can apply the above formula, too.

Data You Have Prior to Making it a Story (using MLB as example):
– Winning percentages
– Games played, wins and losses
– Names and ages of players; positions, personal statistics
– Division rankings
– Historical facts (e.g. date of last world series win)
– etc…

I couldn’t help but take in last night’s World Series win
and see a pretty amazing storyline.

We see this in sports all the time. And yet with clients, I find they are hard pressed to turn their data into compelling stories, even though the stories are most certainly there.

Turn Data Into a Story:

“After playing the first 50 games of the 2019 season, the Washington Nationals were 19-31.

Historically, no team has recovered from a worse 50-game start to win it all.

They had a shot at post-season ball in the Wild Card game.

They were playing the Brewers. Winner goes to the Division Series. A 20-year old, Juan Soto, smacked a double late in the game to give them a 4-3 lead. They stunned Brewers fans. They won and advanced.

In the NLDS they did something no one expected. They forced a Game 5 against the Dodgers. L.A. who won a jaw-dropping 107 games this year. They have been so close to the WS title in recent years they can practically taste it. They were favored by a lot.

Kendrick ripped a grand slam in the top of the TENTH to advance the Nats to the NLCS. They played AT the Dodgers. “Stunned” LA fans hardly works as a descriptor.

The Nats then SWEPT the St. Louis Cardinals – a team on fire this summer – to win the NL pennant. They won in 4 games.

The weirdest part of the World Series to me was that the home team never won. They never won at home. I’ve never seen or considered that before, ever.

It was home field “DIS”advantage. For 7 games, the visiting team – no matter what – won!

And so it was for game 7.

The Nationals. A start-with-nothing team with minimal steam gave one of the greatest post-seasons we’ve ever seen.

They went 7 games to win the WS for the first time ever. Bliss!”

Now pause and think about your data. Think about your company and the charts and graphs you want to show the audience.

Read this again and put your company as the Nationals, your competitors as the Brewers, the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Astros.

-How are you plowing through competitors?
-What numbers seemed like losses but led to wins?
-Who have you steamrolled in order to win, and who’s on your company’s team?

In Sum:
Statistics can tell superb stories. Start with facts. Add feelings. And you’ve got a great data story.

Cindy Skalicky provides expert public speaking coaching and brand consulting to entrepreneurs and small businesses who seek to master their message on stage, online and in publications. Her passion for crafting, analyzing and presenting messages developed through over 25 years in the corporate, academic and entrepreneurial worlds. 

Cindy coaches clients – 1-to-1 and in workshop format for teams – on pitch decks, TED talks, storytelling, presentation presence, brand messaging, PR strategy and more. Contact Cindy at or call 970-290-4684.

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Cindy was selected to present at the Career Thought Leader Conference in Denver. I attended her session and was impressed with her presentation and content marketing expertise. I have been a trainer for over 20 years and her presentation added specific impactful strategies that I will include in my next training. Cindy has a natural engaging style that is persuasive and professional. I would highly recommend working with her if you are looking to increase your business presentations.

Beth Kennedy, Executive Coach

“As a professional speaker, I know the value of getting feedback before giving an important speech. As I prepared my TEDx talk, Cindy was the perfect person to give me outside perspective. She did a beautiful job taking the many ideas I had floating around in my head and helping me select what to use, how to organize them, and how to tie it all together.

I love the way she coached, not trying to make her words my own, but instead, considering what I was trying to achieve and helping me stay true to my voice. If you have to stand and deliver a great talk, working with Cindy can help you ensure you’re at your best!”

Tanis Roeder, Elevate Your Communication

When you meet Cindy, you can’t help but feel engaged and pay attention. She clearly is an outstanding communications professional. The way she took the stage, conveyed her message and shared her approach to storytelling at the recent conference was mesmerizing.

Cindy made me rethink my approach to storytelling that I had used in my client work for many years. Cindy’s workshop alone made my trip to Denver worthwhile.

Ruth Winden, Executive Coach (UK)

Tim Ash, Agent at The Group Real Estate

“Cindy, I’m in your Career Thought Leaders Conference session right now and you’re absolutely delivering on what you promised when we first met! I’m so excited to keep making progress in developing my brand story.”

Mashaal Ahmed|DC Career Coach