How to improve your storytelling with R

Written by Matt Dancho



Your success as a Data Scientist isn’t because of your coding skills. Your success is determined by how well you can persuade decision-makers to take action. And that’s a powerful skill that I’m going to help you with today: It’s called Storytelling.

Table of Contents

Today you’re going to become better at storytelling. Here’s what you’re learning today:

  • What storytelling is (and why it’s absolutely essential to your data science career)
  • How to use a sneaky-good R package to make funky-looking heat maps (that insantly improve your storytelling)
  • Bonus: Steal my brand NEW data visualization customization code (for the crazy cool heatmap we make today)

Storytelling with R


SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: ChatGPT for Data Scientists Workshop on March 6th

Inside the workshop I’ll share how I built a Machine Learning Powered Production Shiny App with ChatGPT (extends this data analysis to an insane production app):

ChatGPT for Data Scientists

What: ChatGPT for Data Scientists

When: Wednesday March 6th, 2pm EST

How It Will Help You: Whether you are new to data science or are an expert, ChatGPT is changing the game. There’s a ton of hype. But how can ChatGPT actually help you become a better data scientist and help you stand out in your career? I’ll show you inside my free chatgpt for data scientists workshop.

Price: Does Free sound good?

How To Join: 👉 Register Here


R-Tips Weekly

This article is part of R-Tips Weekly, a weekly video tutorial that shows you step-by-step how to do common R coding tasks. Pretty cool, right?

Here are the links to get set up. 👇

This Tutorial is Available in Video

I have a companion video tutorial that walks you through how to do the full analysis and storytelling plot. And, I’m finding that a lot of my students prefer the dialogue that goes along with video-based coding. So check out this video to see me running the R code in this tutorial. 👇

Storytelling: Your Data Science Career Depends On It

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my early years was misunderstanding the impact of persuasive story telling.

I spent 95% of my time on my code and writing up my findings.

But I stunk at putting a slide deck together that excited management.

And my results? Well, they weren’t that great in the beginning.

But I learned that simple tweaks, can make story telling better

One such mistake that I made initially was making things, well, confusing.

Here’s a case in point of something I would have done early on. And I caught a “big financial company” red handed… Let’s take a look at this table and why it’s confusing.

Fidelity Financial Table

A confusing financial table

The table above contains a list of Sector ETFs that people like you and me can invest in. But there’s a problem…

The problem is that the financial table is confusing

If I can’t tell in 2 seconds what this table is telling me. Then it’s not persuasive. It’s just confusing.

And that’s a BIG problem. Here’s why:

Confused decision-makers don’t make decisions

Ever been in a room full of executives and they are confused about something you’ve just presented.

And every “complicated explaination” you give them further digs you into a hole that you can’t get out of.

Well, that’s because they are confused. And the fact is, confused decision makers DON’T MAKE DECISIONS.

Instead, they complain, some yell, and they tell you to “redo your analysis”.

Instead, we need to make the answer obvious

Obvious answers virtually jump out of the page. And here’s an easy way to make something obvious… Make it bigger.

Don’t get it? Here’s the table reconfigured so you can see the size of boxes and circles, and bigger is better.

Heat Map Financial Table

An easier to understand financial table

Why does this weird version of the table work?

It’s takes exactly 2 seconds to see which Sectors had the best returns.

Imagine you had this on a slide deck. Everyone in the room can see that over 3 month, year to date, 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, and 10 year that Information Technology was where to put your money.

That’s story telling 101…

Make it obvious. And to help I’m going to give you a short tutorial using a new R package I just stumbled on.

It’s called funkyheatmap. It’s great for converting messy tables into story-telling allstars.

Free Gift: Cheat Sheet for my Top 100 R Packages (Special Data Analysis Topics Included)

Before we dive in…

You’re going to need R packages to complete the data analysis that helps your company. So why not speed up the process?

To help, I’m going to share my secret weapon…

Even I forget which R packages to use from time to time. And this cheat sheet saves me so much time. Instead of googling to filter through 20,000 R packages to find a needle in a haystack. I keep my cheat sheet handy so I know which to use and when to use them. Seriously. This cheat sheet is my bible.

Ultimate R Cheat Sheet

Once you download it, head over to page 3 and you’ll see several R packages I use frequently just for Data Analysis.

Cheat Sheet Page 3 Special Topics

Which is important when you want to work in these fields:

  • Machine Learning
  • Time Series
  • Financial Analysis
  • Geospatial Analysis
  • Text Analysis and NLP
  • Shiny Web App Development

So steal my cheat sheet. It will save you a ton of time.

Tutorial: How to turn complex tables into persuasive plots with funkyheatmap

I’m going to share exactly how to make this plot that we saw was much faster to draw conclusions from.

Heat Map Financial Table

An easier to understand financial table

Step 1: Get the Libraries and Data

First, load in tidyverse the data analysis library and funkyheatmap the heat map library.

Libraries and Data

Steal my code.

The data is stored in a CSV file. We’ll read it in. It looks like this:

Sector Performance CSV File

Sector Performance CSV File

Step 2: Convert the Table to a Funky Heatmap

Any table like this can be converted to a funkyheatmap. It’s super simple. Just run this code:

Basic Funky Heatmap Code

Steal my code.

And then watch as it makes a basic funky heatmap table.

Basic Funky Heatmap Table

Basic Funky Heatmap Table

It’s that easy. And already you can see some insights. Information Technology was the best.

BONUS: Get My Custom Heat Map Code

Did you like the basic funky heat map table? And, would you like to take it to the next level?

Then you’re in luck:

Custom Funky Heatmap Code

I have a special bonus for you: You can steal my custom heat map code (It’s OK). The code is in the 062_funkyheatmaps folder.

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