Metaphor made easy


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Magnificent metaphors bring your presentations to life. Start simple

by Peter Watts

Metaphor and simile bring speaking to life by creating comparisons between objects and concepts.

In normal speech we all use them constantly, yet when we attempt to consciously develop them for presentation purposes, those pesky little metaphors just seem to run and hide beneath the rocks.

This morning I was struck by a way to make it easy. You might say I was hit by a lightning bolt of inspiration, just moments after a literal lightning bolt had almost hit me!

It all started when, with a thunder storm rumbling in the distance, I went to look for our cat, who is to be found most mornings snoring beneath the porch swing. As I stepped through the front door the neighbourhood lit up ice-white around me.

A lightning bolt had touched down so close to where I was standing that I heard it land.

It was a most peculiar combination of sound. There was the inevitable zap, but at the same time an unexpected slapping sound. It had an oddly wet quality as the lightning licked into the ground. Most startling of all, a hiss that I can only liken to a warning snake.

Believe me, you never want to be standing right next to a clap of thunder. It hurts, although possibly not as much as it would have hurt if I’d been standing a little further over towards where the lightning had struck!

There are few elements that bind us in quite the same way as the primordial elements of sun, storm, fire and ice. Weather and temperature are the launch pads for countless metaphors, similes, and descriptions.

  • We can summon fast and furious by mentioning storms, tempests, blizzards, and hurricanes
  • We can condemn something as lacking passion when we describe it as damp, wet, or foggy
  • We can uplift by using phrases that are sunny, breezy, or bright
  • We can repel and distance through language that is cold, frozen, icy, or bitter

So much of our language revolves around weather, and yes, much of it collapses into everyday cliche. For everyday use in presentations however, I see no problem with this. For many presenters in the stressful moments of speaking in public, it can be a challenge to shade any degree of verbal color into their speaking at all.

Sure, weather based metaphors are often over-used, but they are only over-used because they are universal, because they are easy, and because they work!

Next time you are about to make a presentation, and would like to find an easy way into using metaphor and simile, try taking inspiration from the weather.

You’ll find that even though genuine lightning might only strike once in the same spot (I hope), lightning bolts of inspiration can strike again and again.

Comments

  1. Fabulous post, Peter. A great hook to get people to continue to read, something we can personally relate to, a solution offered and written with humour too!

    • Hi Vanessa. Thank you for your generous comments. Blogging is tremendous fun and an addictive passion, but does, sometimes, feel just a little bit like yelling into a deep dark cave. Every so often though, a voice shouts back, and when it shouts something as positive as you, then it keeps those blogging fires-a-burning. Great to know you Vanessa

  2. Thanks for this. Excellent advice for using color in speech. You are so right that many people have trouble with ANY degree of color! Thanks for sharing a way to find some. On the other hand, I have to say that It reminds me of something my mom used to say when I was uncomfortable speaking with my elderly relatives. “If you don’t know what to say, talk about the weather.” It worked well, but now I think of all of them as people who simply loved to talk about the weather. I’m sure there was more to them than that!! lol

    • Was your Mom English by any chance Kate? There’s a wonderful book called “Watching the English” and it’s a sort of user’s manual to care and maintenance of the Brits. One of the first things it tells you is that the safest topic to ever discuss with a Brit is….. the weather!

      Glad you liked the blog post🙂

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