Stories Vs. Data

Updated: Apr 30

There are times when communication is about persuasion. Managers face this when they have to persuade their team that a new direction is a good idea. Or if they want to persuade the executives to implement a new process that the team believes will increase efficiency.

Whenever I am faced with a persuasion issue, I find myself asking the same question - do I use data or do I use stories?

I know the best case answer is "both". Yet, there are many situations where both can't happen (for example, limited time). The second best case answer is "whatever works best for the audience", but again, that isn't always possible. If I have 5 minutes to present my case to the executive board where half of them like data and half respond to stories, which way to turn?

I admit, my default is data. Partially because data is more meaningful to me and partially because data is easier to visually represent. Sometimes the data isn't easy to get or understand, but I always feel better presenting that then a story.

Yet, stories can be so powerful. Maybe I'm not a great storyteller and could use this method more effectively if I improved in that area. Maybe I misunderstand how to use stories. There might even be ways to use stories and data together in a more succinct way.

Either way, it is a struggle that managers face all the time. One that I have yet to figure out myself.

Which do you use more often - stories or data? What advice would you give me?