Rather than focusing on numbers and statistics, data storytelling allows you to translate numbers into insights that are more easily understood and can be integrated into better decision-making.

I come from a long line of storytellers. Growing up, family gatherings were always full of a colorful cast of characters competing for attention. As a child, I listened intently and soaked up the lessons learned over a lifetime from the experiences of my elders.

Stories have always played an integral role in human history. Stories possess the power to influence, to create change as well as to teach and help others understand complex concepts.

Recently, researchers at the London School of Business found that people only retain 5 percent to 10 percent of the information when presented in a statistical manner. However, when presented in story form, individuals remembered 65 percent to 70 percent of what was communicated. Because stories help to create an emotional connection, they play a strong role in influencing the outcomes of our human interactions.

What is data storytelling?

Data storytelling is the process of creating a narrative from complex datasets to communicate a specific message more effectively. Rather than focusing on numbers and statistics, data storytelling allows the communicator to translate those numbers into insights that are more easily understood and can then be integrated into better decision-making.

Miro Kazakoff, an MIT Sloan lecturer who teaches communications and data storytelling as part of MIT’s Master of Business Analytics curriculum, says, “If you want people to make the right decisions with data, you have to get in their head in a way they understand. Throughout human history, the way to do that has been with stories.”

Telling good stories

As with all good stories, developing the plot or setting the stage is a primary essential element. Begin by developing a theory or posing a question. This typically begins with basic data analysis to identify an area where further investigation would be helpful. Having access to up-to-date and accurate data is helpful in posing the best questions, thereby resulting in the most accurate conclusions.

Data visualizations help to bring context to the numbers. By working with various types of visualizations, such as charts, maps and tables, users can more effectively explore the data, monitor changes and produce valuable explanations to trends or changes over time.

To illustrate this, just envision yourself working with multiple spreadsheets and attempting to extract meaning or insight from the thousands of numbers contained within those spreadsheets. It’s not very easy for most of us to sort through. Now, imagine that same data displayed in colorful, organized visualizations. Patterns, trends, and correlations begin to organically emerge. That’s the power of data visualization.

How can storytelling improve agent recruitment?

While there is no doubt that real estate is a people business, emerging technologies are being adopted at a rapid pace. Traditionally, firms could rely on soft skills such as empathy, problem-solving and good communication as a way of building and nurturing long-lasting relationships. While these skills are still relevant, the landscape is evolving, and agents are looking for more from their brokerages.

In an effort to stay competitive, many firms have started offering more aggressive commission splits, access to the latest tech solutions as well as various other incentives. While appreciated, agents are also expecting leaders to understand their business needs and to provide an environment where they can be coached and supported to the next level in their careers.

Approaching agent recruiting meetings equipped with production data is a good initial start. However, going beyond traditionally utilized metrics such as annual production and year-over-year changes helps to make interactions more meaningful and relevant. Consider the impact on your interaction with an agent when approaching them with a deep understanding of their struggles, challenges and areas of opportunity.

Anthony Lamacchia, broker-owner of Lamacchia Companies, Inc., said, “Creating data points and tracking key performance indicators is something we have been doing in our business for several years. We are great at doing that on a company level, but we recently began to do it even better on an agent-to-agent basis.” Letting agents know that you’ve done your homework and that you understand their needs helps them feel confident when considering a brokerage change.

While one does not need to earn a degree in data analytics to engage in productive data-based conversations, having a working knowledge of the various data visualization methods available as well as a basic understanding of data interpretation, will go a long way in building confidence and nurturing relationships for a long time to come.

Diana Zaya is the vice president of sales and marketing and one of the founding team members of Relitix, a data analytics company specializing in the use of data science applications such as machine learning, big data analytics, and data visualization for agent recruitment and retention. Connect with her on LinkedInTwitter and Instagram.

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