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Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic: “Storytelling with Data” | Talks at Google

It’s surprisingly easy to make a confusing graph. No one sets out with that purpose, but it happens frequently—across all industries and by all sorts of well-intending people. One way to avoid this challenge is to never simply show data, but rather to tell a story with it.

Former Googler Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic teaches people how to turn data into high impact visual stories that stick with their audiences. Join this engaging session, moderated by Tina Malm and Davey Nickels, where Cole features highlights from her new book, storytelling with data: a data visualization guide for business professionals. Hear about the powerful strategies that were honed through her work on the People Analytics team and the data visualization course that Cole created at Google and taught at offices throughout the US and Europe.


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  1. Great talk Cole! I very applicable information and points — I always learn something from hearing you talk. I'm glad this was recorded and shared.

    The book looks beautiful. I know we have a few copies around the office; I especially look forward to reading the storytelling chapter.

  2. Bought the Kindle book. Watched the video. I'm usually easily distracted while watching "educational" videos, even if they're about a subject dear to me. Not this time. It was also interesting to see that Googlers (Googlers?!) seem pretty much like the rest of us.

  3. Great talk! I benefit from the speech a lot ! This book is published in Taiwan too. I'm really glad I bought this book! 深入淺出,很多案例,讚一個!

  4. I really want to watch this video but her nervousness makes it hard to listen to. I know how nerve wracking it can be to speak in front of people. I hope she has gotten more comfortable with it since this presentation.

  5. The camera should have given more time for us to look at the slides while she talked about them, now I have to keep pausing the video. The talk was 100%, she is definitely good at this.

  6. I thought she did an excellent job. She was a bit nervous in the beginning but she got comfortable and delivered the two lessons well. I'll be buying her book to learn more 🙂

  7. Love this talk and took some notes on each of the key points I found…

    00:14 – Introduction
    01:35 – Cole's role in People Analyics at Google
    03:56 – Overview of workshops and the book
    04:31 – How to shift attention towards the story you want to tell
    05:04 – How to make sure your story doesn't get lost in the data
    05:53 – How to draw focus to important insights with data
    07:28 – The distrinction between exploratory and explanatory analysis
    08:25 – How focusing attention had an impact at Google
    09:29 – The eye/brain mechanics of vision and visual communication
    10:13 – Hands-on exercise: Preattentitve processing with iconic memory
    11:30 – List of preattentive attributes and when to use them
    13:16 – How to know if you are using preattentive attributes strategically
    16:06 – Before and after example of using color as a preattentive attribute
    18:30 – Converting facts into story with a fairy tale example
    22:28 – Three components to consider when crafting your narative with data
    23:25 – Real life example of crafting a story from survey data
    29:00 – Start of Q&A session
    29:48 – How life has changed for Cole after leaving Google
    30:45 – Cole's inspiration for writing "Storytelling with Data"
    31:16 – When to add interactivity to your data visualization (and when not to)
    33:00 – How dashboards differ drastically from explanatory data visualizations
    34:53 – Cole's recommended resources for storytelling with data
    36:32 – What to be aware of when designing for different cultures
    37:59 – Tips for creating a meaningful story from lots of different data
    40:59 – Cole's most difficult part of writing "Storytelling with Data"
    41:49 – The two most important things to take away from this talk
    42:48 – What was Cole's favorite chapter in "Storytelling with Data"
    43:41 – Why anyone that communicates with data needs "Storytelling with Data"
    44:30 – Competing opinions within the data visualization community
    49:00 – Why the fundamentals of data visualization probably won't change any time soon
    51:20 – How organizations can "level up" storytelling with data

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