28 Nov Using metaphors to add extra magic to your presentations

Are you looking for that extra magic to make your presentation engaging and memorable? Metaphors might be the answer for you.

What is a metaphor?

A metaphor is a figure of speech that asserts that a subject is similar in some way to an otherwise unrelated object or subject without using the word ‘like’ to join the two things.

In reality the two seemingly unrelated objects or subjects actually have something in common. A famous example of a metaphor is the saying, ‘All the world’s a stage’. Why is this a metaphor? Because the world is not a stage, and a stage is not the world. The world and the stage are unrelated at first thought. However, when you put them together they do share something in common and they help you to understand something extra about the qualities of both objects.

You can see in this example that metaphors most often link things we can sense with intangible thoughts or concepts. The world is an intangible concept but the stage has very tangible characteristics – we can see and feel it.

Why metaphors work

Metaphors work for a number of reasons:

  • They convey a picture, object or meaning quickly -with only a few words.
  • They help explain something that would take way too many words to explain clearly and simply (or is too intangible to describe).
  • We react more readily to the emotional and visual than the rational, and metaphors often have an emotive or visual component.
  • Metaphors create an association between two tangible things to better convey how something looks, sounds, smells, works or moves.

Using metaphors in your presentations

Here are some tips for making metaphors work in your presentations:

  • Be patient. Crafting powerful metaphors takes time, patience and deep consideration, even for really experienced presenters.
  • Work out your main message or theme.
  • Develop some metaphors that will convey your meaning.
  • Make them short and sweet.
  • Don’t use too many, and steer clear of annoying metaphors that you hear people overusing such as ‘at the risk of calling the kettle black’.
  • Stick to one theme – they should make your key message more vivid.
  • Steer away from clichés that make your audience cringe.
  • Develop some metaphors that will convey your meaning.
  • Place the metaphor in your icebreaker or opening, again in the body of your message, and again at, or near your close.

Example used in a business presentation:

The founder of REVLON, is reported to have said the following to help people understand the cosmetic company’s approach, ‘In the factory we make cosmetics. In the store we sell hope.’

How can you to make using metaphors ‘normal’ behavior when you talk?

My favourite way to make using metaphors part of your every day practice is to have a little note book that you carry around with yourself where you can note down ideas that come to you. The act of writing the metaphor down will help you remember it. In addition, practice using metaphors with people who will be kind to you if it comes out wrong, or if you explain it incorrectly. Good luck!

Happy presenting!