The Art of Storytelling – Hans Rosling and the Joy of Stats

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Hans-Rosling-BBCIt’s nothing new to praise Hans Rosling for his amazing ability to craft an engaging story around [gasp] statistics. Garr Reynolds has repeatedly written about his talents, and a Google search for “Hans Rosling” brings up his TED profile before his Wikipedia profile, simply because of how popular his TED presentations have become.

Rosling has presented seven times at TED, nearly all using his Trendalyzer software tool that “sought to unveil the beauty of statistical time series by converting boring numbers into enjoyable, animated and interactive graphics.” The tool was so amazing that Google quickly gobbled it up in 2007 and hired the developers that worked on it too.

Just a few months ago Rossling, in conjunction with the BBC, created an amazing video (seen below) that allowed Rossling (through the magic of video production) to stand behind his data and interact with it as he told his story. What resulted was an incredible story of the health and wealth of our world over the last 200 years, including 120,000 numbers, in just four minutes. He draws the viewer in through is obvious passion for the data and, most importantly, the meaning behind it. He concludes the video beautifully by painting for us a new bliss – explaining the clear trend into the future with aid, trade, green technology and peace and his belief that we can all make it into the healthy wealthy corner (the U.S. and U.K. have been there for a while).

Rosling is truly the epitome of a storyteller. If anyone claims their content is simply too dry to be passionate about, to use engaging visuals for, or to craft a story around, I implore you to watch the video and rethink your perspective.

*I love the point he makes at the end by separating China into its least and most developed provinces. Really shows you how data can tell all kinds of stories.

Hat tip to Jason Keith at Social Fresh who first brought this to my attention on his Posterous page.

Image courtesy of the BBC and Hans Rosling

This post is part of a series of posts addressing the Art of Storytelling, which I’ll be presenting atHook: The Presentation Conference in March.

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