How to hit your speech out of the park, metaphorically that is

As a communicator, I’ve spent my career helping organizations and their leaders better tell their story, so I’m always on the lookout for a good analogy or metaphor.

Speakers who are able to explain complex concepts with easy-to-understand examples from everyday life are always better received, more likely to be remembered and much more likely to be tweeted or quoted.

One of the easiest ways you can describe something new is to use a simile. Remember the difference between similes and metaphors from English class? A comparison using like or as is a simile. We use them all of the time without even thinking: “clear as day,” “high as a mountain,” “tastes like chicken.”

Anthony Shop

Anthony Shop of Social Driver had some good analogies and PowerPoint slides. Image from

Metaphors are implied comparisons in which a word or phrase ordinarily used for one thing is applied to another, as in “time is a thief” or “all the world’s a stage.” We hear a lot of business metaphors using sports terms: “the ball’s in your court” or “go out there and hit a home run.”

When I’m listening to speakers at events, I try to jot down the more memorable comparisons and analogies I hear.

Yesterday, I attended a PRSA-NCC workshop on social media featuring Anthony Shop of Social Driver and Christina Gordon of Change the Equation. I didn’t always catch the details of what they said, but I left with some good examples and illustrations.

Here are a few:

Social media is like the telephone (vs. television). Shop made the point that if you view social media as just another channel to push out content (like TV), you are completely missing the point. It’s more like the telephone, which is designed to facilitate a two-way conversation.

Social media is like a campfire (vs. a bullhorn). Gordon’s simile may actually be closer to the mark in describing what happens when social media is working well. Campfires are where you gather to share stories and bond. Social media is definitely a group activity. A bullhorn is like the TV set, just another way of pushing out a message.

Slinky lead-and-follow analogy. Shop used a Slinky to describe the relationship his company has with its clients. At first, he is leading clients with his knowledge of social media and strategy; but like a Slinky going down the steps, the back of the Slinky becomes the front on the next step. This is where the client leads with insights on its products, services and audiences. Then, like the Slinky, Shop’s firm leads again by pushing the client further and in new directions. This dynamic is at work throughout the relationship. Nice analogy!

Shop and Gordon had some good slides as well. And unlike many speakers, they used PowerPoint effectively—not too much information on a slide, with great visuals (instead of all text and too many bullets).

Whenever I do presentation training, I always make the point (all trainers do) that audiences retain very little of what they hear. In fact, it’s disturbingly low what the human brain actually retains. Some people remember as little as 10 percent after just a few days.

You can stretch your audience’s capacity to remember your key points if you use these five tools:

  • Stories
  • Analogies
  • Visuals
  • Examples
  • Repetition

What was that again?

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1 Response to How to hit your speech out of the park, metaphorically that is

  1. Pingback: Imagine Yourself Relaxing on a Beach Without a Care in the World « Presenting Yourself and more . . .Presenting Yourself and more . . .

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