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Putting things in context

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to good communication is the absence of context.  Context is defined as a set of facts or circumstances that surround a particular event, situation or communication.  At best, that information can help the listener put things in the proper perspective.  It can also be a persuasive tool to influence with integrity.

I recently watched an early Ryan Gosling film called, “Half Nelson.”  In the film he plays an engaging and inventive teacher who also struggles with his dark side.  One of the ways he decides to get his students involved in history class is by giving them random dates in history.  Their job was to not only find out what happened on that day in time but to also provide context.  In one minute or less, they had to describe what happened, why it was significant, the impact it had and how it influenced the future.  It was amazing to listen to how the students so clearly defined and described a point in time.

This is a great exercise for all business presentations.  When you think of any of your key positioning statements  (“Our banking retail experience is solely focused on the customer…”).  Respond to why is this significant (no one else is doing what we are doing in XXX  XXX); what impact it has on the customer (in recent JD Power Surveys, our bank was rated XXX);  and how you will influence the future (“we predict this trend will continue and we will remain at the front end…”).  Asking yourself these questions is also helpful in determining the strength of your arguments and where you may need to fortify and/or explain.

If you are not influencing as powerfully as you’d like, consider context.  Give your audience the full picture so that they can let down their defenses, open their minds, engage in the conversation, feel confident in the information and be open to you as the speaker.