When you make a technical presentation to a non-technical audience, how do you assure that your points will come across in a juicy and engaging way?
Invite your listeners to the party with the use of stories, and the shorter, more compact cousin of the story: the analogy. An analogy compares two dissimilar things, to illustrate the common elements of both and highlight a specific point.
One of the most famous analogies in recent history was uttered by Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates ... you never know what you’re gonna get.”
The meaning is clear, an image is formed, an important message is conveyed ... and it’s remembered.
Using analogies can:
- Clarify new concepts
- Simplify overly technical information
- Help audiences relate to your information
- Enhance retention
If you’re not a philosopher, like Forrest Gump, how can you incorporate analogies into your talks?
Here is a 6-step process to create your own analogy:
- Identify the challenging concept or information you want to explain via analogy.
- Consider topics that are well-known to your audience, for instance: sports, popular TV shows, food, weather, etc.
- Brainstorm. What does this topic relate to in real life?
- Select your comparison topic.
- List the ways the two topics are alike.
- Experiment with the best way to describe the comparison.
Here are a couple more analogies that really got the point across:
Commenting on the decision by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer to abolish telecommuting, Kossek said, "Abolishing telework is like canceling the prom because some immature people spiked the punch bowl."
Wow! This analogy is impactful because it's visual, relevant and memorable! It's something that sticks in the mind, and is likely to be repeated.
"Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded." -- Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in a memo to then President Richard Nixon
This example takes two completely disparate items, and makes a relationship that enhances a listener’s understanding of the first item. We get the point, in a few, well-chosen and concise words and images.
Have you used analogies to get your point across? Share your examples!