Sometimes, as speakers, we need to make a point that is just too new, or strange, or huge or threatening for our audience to grasp. It can certainly be a challenge and I am so grateful for analogies and the way they can easily and simply and cleanly do the job that we need to do in sharing that information.
An analogy works by relating the element that we want the audience to understand to something that they do understand, something with which they are familiar. It works because we are not very good at remembering concepts that come as words or as numbers, but we retain and understand far better if something is left in our minds as a picture or an image, particularly if it is something we have already seen or experienced. And that’s what analogies can do, leave your audience with an image and an understanding that they will remember long after your presentation has finished.
Analogies are extended similes and metaphors, and because they link your new or difficult concept to something that is familiar and understood by your audience they create a very human aspect to your point – and, by extension, to you as the presenter. Martin Luther King, in his “I have a dream” speech, compared the needs for civil rights to cashing a cheque. He said,
“In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a cheque. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of colour are concerned…”
This is a metaphor, but it cannot stand on its own. King could have said “We have come to our nation’s capital to cash a cheque.” But to make it understood and easily grasped he extended it with an explanation and it became an analogy, a powerful analogy.
As speakers we can all do this – compare our concepts that might be difficult to understand and remember with something that is relevant to our audience, something that resonates with them, something they can picture. And because it is their right brains that process that picture, it will remain with them after we have finished the speech. We have used an analogy to create a connection that will guarantee success for the point we are making.
And finally, to make that connection more powerful, make it relevant, make it resonate. Choose something that will appeal to your audience, something they understand, something they relate to. Use your research into your audience to guide the choice.
When it comes to finding analogies, look to your own life. Keep the major points of your speeches in the front of your mind as you move around your day. Look to the things around you, the people, the stories, the events, particularly with those points in mind. You will find that there are analogies everywhere, once you start thinking about things in that way. And because they are your own comparisons, from your own thoughts and your own life, they will have a powerful authenticity to them.
It can be a lot of fun, finding those analogies, and in the process you have a very useful tool to use.
© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years’ experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. In just 6 months time, you could be well on the way to being admired, rehired as a speaker, confident and sucessful, with the 30 speaking tips. Click here for 30 speaking tips for FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com