Yes, I want a word with you, in fact, I want to share a word with you – « METAPHOR »- defined by the Collins English Dictionary as « a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action (or idea)  that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance »  Examples: A sea of troubles – All the world’s a stage (Shakespeare) – we’re facing a patent cliff etc.

As my metaphor guru, Anne Miller (« The Tall Lady With the Iceberg ») puts it – a metaphor is « a shortcut to instant understanding ».

In everyday conversation we employ metaphors all the time, naturally – just take a step back and listen to people talking, you’ll notice them everywhere. But why is it, that when a lot of people  make business presentations, this natural ability flies out of the window? (See, there you go, a metaphor!)

I believe one of the reasons is because they get so caught up in their presentation content that they almost consciously put aside  any metaphors they could use, as if the subject were too serious for such « conversational » language. What they ignore is the more complex and/or data-full their message then the more they need to use metaphors to ensure their audience really understands it.

We can find lots of examples of metaphors in presentations and speeches, from Martin Luther King ‘s « I have a dream » speech where he talks about the American government giving a bad check, a check that comes back marked « insufficient funds », to Steve Jobs « One thousand songs in your pocket », and much closer to home, very recently one of my clients used this one to talk about her company’s vision  » to go from firefighting to environment shaping » – It says it all.

For an audience to understand, to be convinced they need to be able to relate to the arguments put forward and pertinent metaphors are one way of achieving this.

In one of my next blog posts, I’ll be going into the wonderful world of our decision-maker team, Mr Right Brain and Mr Left Brain, but in the meantime check out how Hans Rosling uses metaphors to explain expanding populations.


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