Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.
What is Context?
When a set designer prepares the stage for a performance, he thinks about how to he can best influence the audience's perceptions.
If the designer wants the audience to believe that it is a stormy evening, he might use dark colors, wind-swept curtains, flashing lights and crackling sounds to represent lightening and thunder.
When the audience experiences this, they are sure that it means a storm is brewing.
Well, context works sort of the same way in public speaking, especially in persuasive speeches.
You see, a speaker gives a speech with the intent of drawing the audience in, and gaining their favor. So, in order to do this, he must take the actual message and influence its meaning using context. This means, he surrounds the actual words with effect.
Here's an example. Suppose the head of production wants to introduce to the sales team a new high-powered pressure washer that is ready to go to the sales floor.
He may refer to the new product as 'our new baby'. To someone on the outside, this may seem confusing. There is no baby in the room. There's only a machine.
That's where context comes into play. On face value, it's weird that the production manager would mention a baby. But in the context of it being a new product and amongst the company staff, the meaning of the term baby could only refer to a new product.
Sounds confusing? It's really not.
Let's go back to the set designer. If the actors simply say, 'It's raining out tonight', the audience may not really get the full impact of the weather conditions.
By adding the effect of wind, lightening and thunder, the audience is sure that a storm is brewing.
This is how people come to conclusions about what is being said. But words are not enough. Timing of the speech also pays a role in how an audience is influenced by the words of a speaker.
Context and Timing
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, 'A day late and a dollar short'. Well, that's what context and timing is all about.
In our stormy scenario, had the lightening and thunder come too soon, the actor's lines may not have made sense.
Too late, and it may dilute the severity of the storm. In a speech, it works the same way.
The same applies to our high-powered pressure washer. If the machine had already been in stores everywhere, calling it a baby may not be appropriate.
So, context influences the way an audience things or perceives information, and it also influences the timing of the message.
To sum it all up, we know that the context influences the audience and timing by shaping the way they think or perceive the information.
Context is really only the words that surround the actual message that create the influence. It's meant to persuade thinking and perceptions.
Used with accurate timing, the message becomes relevant and influential.
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