Content Is King, But Context Is Queen

In the game of chess, the king is the ultimate piece you should protect. The focus of the entire game is to take out the opponent’s king. Which make the king the most important piece of the game. The queen on the other hand is the most powerful offensive piece. It provides a myriad of offensive and defensive opportunities. If you lose the king, the game is over… but when you lose the queen the game will soon be over.

Professional speakers and trainers are too familiar with the old wisdom of ‘content is king’. This came from the era when people still relied on newspaper for information. Thus the role of professional speakers and trainers was to impart knowledge that would motivate people for action. Training in this fashion was possible due to the scarcity of knowledge thus a public speaker who delivered the 8 points to great customer service or the 6 habits of a successful leaders was still regarded as an important resource.


“If you lose the king, the game is over… but when you lose the queen the game will soon be over.”


Fast forward… we now live at a time where information is readily available through an array of media and streams. The social media is one powerful disruptor to the old ways of information flow. Print media have witnessed record level drop in circulation and many are struggling between shifting their business model and holding to traditions. The point is that the way we consume information has dramatically changed in the last ten years. The issue is not the lack of content, but the context as to how we access and derive meaning from it. What would this mean to professional speakers and trainers?

Recently I was at a leadership conference witnessing thought leaders sharing their wisdom and ideas on leadership. I was disappointed on the overall quality of the presentations. Nothing that they said could not have been found easily on the web or shared by a colleague on social media. Some tried to deliver their message through metaphors and stories and I must say a few succeeded in engaging and creating a refreshing perspective to the subject of leadership. Reflecting on the experience, I soon realized that it was not their content that was the problem, but the context of their delivery.

Many adopted the same strategy of numbered points coupled with examples and explanations. However there were some speakers who totally engaged the audience and their presentations created more ‘meaning’ for the attendees. I started to notice a pattern among the speakers that made a difference on that day. Speakers that made an impact were the ones who delivered their content through a kaleidoscope of context. Providing experiences that the audience could engage and play along. Among them were;


  • Pair and group discussions
  • Physically moving from their seats
  • Storytelling
  • Self administered questionnaire
  • Activities and games



“If content is king then the context of delivery is the queen.”


Traditionally, keynote speakers use one effective method called ‘storytelling’. This is still relevant and depending on the skill of the speaker, it can be a transformative learning journey. But the world has changed. Perhaps storytelling alone is not going to cut it. Perhaps it is time that keynote presentations transform into an audience centred event

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