The Mighty Metaphor

Executive Voice and Communication Skills

The best communicators use words to paint a picture so that people can ‘see’ what they mean. Ways to help your audience to understand, visualise, and imagine include analogy, simile and metaphor. But what is in vogue in business at the moment?

First, a quick overview of the tools at our fingertips.

An analogy compares something unfamiliar with something familiar to facilitate understanding.

For example:

By 2030 the Chinese Aerospace market will be worth over USD 870bn. This is the equivalent of 6000 planes taking to the Chinese skies.

The simile compares two specific things, normally prefaced by ‘like’ or ‘just as’.

For example:

We need this company to function like an Olympic athlete – fit, strong and ready.

A metaphor gives the listener the analogy directly.

For example:

Why has the flood of recent enquiries produced only a trickle of sales?

The metaphor is the mightiest of these devices. In times of high excitement or crisis, ordinary words just don't capture the intensity required.

In business vogue at the moment is:

in the eye of the storm

This is defined as a region of mostly calm weather found at the centre of strong tropical cyclones. It's being used to describe the place that business needs to occupy to understand the effect of new technology and other business drivers.

An interesting observation is that this metaphor is to do with the body! We love body metaphors:

We are at the foot of the mountain...

We put an idea into someone's head...

We are touched by someone's actions...

In the face of danger we have to get up enough nerve to do something...

We sometimes get off on the wrong foot...

We don't see things as they are. We see things as WE are!


Another fashionable business phrase is:

the burning platform

This speaks for itself. It's being used to create a sense of urgency and the need to act - ironically to the change created by the tsunami of technology impacting business.

Burning platforms are seen as very powerful drivers of strategic change.

Words are also very powerful drivers of strategic change, and good business speakers harness this power when they use metaphors. 

The mighty metaphor in particular will:

1. Capture attention

2. Create shortcuts to understanding

3. Simplify complex ideas

4. Make your message memorable

Investing a little more time crafting the words of the message will pay great dividends!

To learn more about the language of leadership, please contact Professional Voice on:

+44 (0)208 579 6662