Anecdotes are not data, but they help

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The plural of anecdote is not data. This is something you often hear from people with a scientific mindset or technical background. Too often, they warn us, we fall into the trap of overrating the importance of an event, especially if it happened to us. Because of that close connection, we tend to think it would be representative - that it's something that happens to others, too, and that we can draw conclusions from it.

In a way, this is the dark side of storytelling. We must not give in to it.

Anecdotes must be approached the other way around: Once you have something that holds up to scrutiny, you can use anecdotes, i.e. storytelling, to help your audience remember that information. It has long been established that we are hardwired for stories and that it's therefore a good idea to use storytelling for the good cause. Storytelling as such already works, but it works even better when there's a personal connection to the one telling the story. In other words, an anecdote.

Just make sure to do things in the right order: Data first, anecdotes later.

(Photo Credit: Come on then! by Christiaan Triebert, CC BY, from Flickr)

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Creative Commons Licence "Anecdotes are not data, but they help" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.