In storytelling, this is generally called an exposition, a space where you share the lay of the land. In a world where everything moves in a breathtaking speed, it is not uncommon to skip the context and get RIGHT TO THE POINT. You might have been tempted to do it yourself time and again. Your justification would be that everyone is pressed on time and you are doing them a favor by getting right to the point.
Let me share a real-life example to illustrate the power of setting the right context: I was at the ICC Annual Banquet yesterday (thanks to Diana Rohini LaVigne) which turned out to be simply an awesome program. One of the trustees, Venky Ganesan (partner at Globespan Capital Partners) spoke about a few accomplishments from ICC in the last year.
One of those accomplishments was that ICC sent three table tennis players to the most recent Olympics in London.
That sounds good but Venky did not stop there. He followed on with the story (paraphrasing) below:
“Well, let me go back to all it started. It seems like a Bollywood story. It starts with a young professional who comes to US for his higher studies. To keep the lights on, the professional starts working the graveyard shift at a gas station. There he meets a serial entrepreneur from the Valley and as they start talking they both realize that they have one thing in common – table tennis. That young professional is Rajul Sheth, now the head table tennis coach at ICC (interview link) and the serial entrepreneur is Anil Godhwani (interview link) who is one of the founders of ICC. Soon they both decide to bring table tennis in a big way to the valley and rope in people like Steve Westley (former Controller of California)
In a short span of time, the center has a thriving table tennis community and three people from the center go to the London Olympics. Now, some more context – India, a country with more than a billion people sends two players to the Olympics – one male and one female. US and Canada together send three people to the Olympics and all three people happen to come from ICC.”
Can you see the difference between the first version and the second version?
That’s the power of setting the right context in action.
Have a great week ahead.