Data Storytelling: Shall I hear, read or see ? Response to a tweet

This blog is written as a response to a question I received in twitter. Thank you Stefan Norrvall for asking the question. The reason why I decided to blog instead of respond with a tweet was – I am not sure if I can get my point across in 140 characters.

So, here is a bit of context for anyone else who decides to read this blog.

I was researching Data Storytelling and came across a slide share that I found rather interesting.

Data Storytelling Singapore

 The image that you see on the left is of one of the slides in the Data Storytelling Slide Share. I found some sense in it. So, I decided to tweet it.

 The point that I wanted to convey with this tweet was  – We retain only 10% of the information we hear, 20% of what we read and 90% of what we see.

 And my tweet was reinforcing that stories are memorable no matter whether you listen, read or see because even when you go to the least successful medium of retention which is listening .. we see the story.


Lets try this, if I said, “I walked into the conference room that had 500 people in it, the stage was very large and the lights were bright and I felt that this conference was going to be good.

Can you see what I am describing?

Actually, you are reading what I am describing but irrespective of listening or reading you are watching it because I am describing a place and you have an idea of what it looks like and this ability to visualise words in written or audio format is an important element of a good story.

Vision trumps all other senses.

We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.

Dr John Medina, a molecular biologist talks about Vision trumps all other sense in his book rules Brain Rules
Pictures beat text as well, in part because reading is so inefficient for us. Our brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures, and we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them. That takes time.
Why is vision such a big deal to us? Perhaps because it’s how we’ve always apprehended major threats, food supplies and reproductive opportunity.

Now, the point I was trying to make was, even if you choose the least successful medium like oral delivery of story where you listen you can have the impact of the most successful medium, which is visual, as long as the form of communication is a story. Because, you see good stories and they are medium agnostic

Hope this clarifies. Once again thank you for asking Stefan. Its wonderful to have a tweet interaction.

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Why the QR Code? The answer is in the request below we received from a regular blog reader.

"I attended your story telling course some time back. And I've enjoyed keeping up my knowledge with your blog. You may not have realised however, that the Whole of Government is implementing Internet Seperation. Hence I'm not able to access the links to read your articles. Could I suggest including a QR code in your emails so that I can use my mobile to scan it and gain immediate access to the article? It would be most helpful"