There have been interesting conversations going on in John Adam Street for almost 250 years. The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) is an organisation committed to finding practical solutions to social challenges. I’ve been a fan for decades and proud to call myself a fellow for the past few years.
From 1-2pm on 7 June, I’m thrilled to say I’m going to be starting a conversation of my own at the RSA. On the recently refurbished Steps – a splendid, agora-type construction in the bowels of the RSA House – I’m going to argue that the fundamental equation underpinning success in the modern knowledge economy is “Analytics + Storytelling = Influence”. It’s my job to set out the blueprint for fusing the often fire and ice worlds of data and narrative to tell more powerful, purposeful, and impactful stories that move others to action.
It’s going to be an interactive session, too, and those in the audience will get the chance to put some simple principles to work on some real, live data – data that you’ve almost certainly never seen or worked with, but data that’s rich in storytelling potential. If you come along (or even if you just tune in online) you’ll see that storytelling with statistics is fundamentally an exercise in empathy – putting yourself into the shoes, the mind, the mindset of those you’re looking to influence, as you blend the rational and the emotional.
The world is today full of numbers: measurements, figures, statistics. All sorts of organisations are generating more and more data – business, charities, universities, and governments. And if you’re not careful, numbers can overwhelm you. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you know where to look – and what to look for – it’s perfectly possible to detect the signal from the noise. Harvested, sorted, and treated right, data and statistics can be the foundation stones of storytelling like never before.
The RSA generously makes its Friday Conversations open to members (we fellows) and non-members alike. So if you’re interested in fine-tuning your data storytelling chops, do register for a place at my Friday Conversation here. I hope to see you there. You’ll recognise me. I’ll be the one at the bottom of the Steps, nervously reflecting (humble brag) for the ten minutes before we start that I’m following in the footsteps of RSA fellows including David Attenborough, Tim Berners-Lee, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Hawking, William Hogarth, Nelson Mandela, Karl Marx, and Adam Smith. Nothing as profound as any of that illustrious crew, obvs. But if the long shadows don’t overawe me completely, you’ll definitely walk away with some practical ways of getting the upper hand on data and telling better data-driven stories. And maybe even the odd joke.
Sam Knowles is a master data storyteller and the Founder & MD of the consultancy Insight Agents. His purpose is to help organisations make smarter use of data, talk Human, and sound like people. An established and sought-after trainer, keynote speaker, and podcaster, he is the founder and host of Data Malarkey podcast and chair of I-COM’s Data Storytelling Council. He’s a Fellow of the Market Reserach Society, the RSA, and the Professional Speaking Association.
Sam is the author of the ‘Using Data Better’ trilogy of books, all published by Routledge. These include the 2018 best-seller Narrative by Numbers, 2020’s critically-acclaimed sequel, How To Be Insightful , and 2022’s eagerly-anticipated Asking Smarter Questions. In 2023, Insight Agents launched Using Data Smarter, a comprehensive, online training course based on all three books.
Find out more about Sam’s approach to data storytelling in this 15-minute video.