Dale Ludwig - Oct 23, 2012

Focus on Context

If you’re a business presenter, you know that one of the challenges you face is context. Not only do you need to think about how your recommendations fit into the context of your listeners’ lives, but you also have to consider how each of your slides fits into the context of the presentation as a whole.

One way to do this is by talking about the preparation decisions you made during delivery. This might sound strange, but it makes sense. When you prepare your presentation, after all, what you’re doing is anticipating the moment of delivery. You create slides to make understanding easier. You think about what your audience will need or want to reach the decision you want them to reach.

During delivery, then, it’s useful to talk about how a particular slide found its way into the presentation. Why has this information been included? Where did it come from? What’s important about it? This information will not only make the presentation easier to follow, but it will also help you adapt to whatever digression may have taken place during the conversation.

Here are some examples.

What’s the purpose of the slide?

  • “This slide will give us some perspective on where we are with this project. As you can see, six months ago …”
  • “The information on this slide expands on the pricing information I mentioned earlier.”

When was the slide made?

  • “When I put this slide together, I didn’t have access to all the current data, but ...”
  • “This slide is from last quarter. Let’s look at it in comparison to where we are today.”

Who created the slide?

  • “This slide came from our marketing department. It’s typically used to compare trends over time with various customers. For our purposes today we’re going to look at just this small slice of data …”
  • “I got this slide from our friends in finance, it shows us …”

What does the slide mean to the audience?

  • “I included this slide because I knew William and Patrice were unfamiliar with the decisions we reached last month. So here’s an overview of that.”
  • "For the marketing people in the room, I know some of this will be confusing. Don’t worry. This is information for the folks in Customer Care."

What does the slide mean to you?

One way to help listeners understand data is to talk about what it means to you, especially when your function or perspective is different than theirs.

  • “From my marketing perspective, this is a trend we need to watch because …”
  • “From a financial point of view, these numbers are great, but I can’t speak about what the long-term effect of the price increase is on consumer behavior.”

The next time you’re delivering a presentation think about the process you went through when preparing it. Doing so will create context and make understanding much easier for your listeners.

Written by Dale Ludwig

Dale Ludwig has a Ph.D. in Communication and, prior to Turpin, taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He founded Turpin Communication in 1992 with the mission to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training possible. Since then he has worked to do just that. In addition to being one of Turpin’s lead instructors, he also serves as our Chief Learning Architect when tailoring learning engagements for our clients. Dale is a frequent blogger and the co-author of the book "The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined." He’s excited about his latest book, also co-authored with Greg Owen-Boger, "Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning."