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 imagine, visualise and understand the very essence of your message include analogy, simile and metaphor (also types of analogy). 

But what is in business vogue 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 large, incomprehensible number is 'translated' by the analogy to something more understandable, namely 6000 planes.

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

For example:

Social media is like a drug.

Immediately we think of things associated with drugs such as addiction, obsession - and danger!

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. When you really need to land a message, ordinary words just don't capture the intensity required.

In business vogue at the moment are:

To think like Google

To think like Google started out meaning to understand how Google's constantly changing algorithms worked to get your website higher up in search rankings. But then along came "googley" and "googliness". These terms have a broader meaning to do with that elusive, special something that it takes to be successful - like Google.

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 technologies 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...

We sometimes get off on the wrong foot...

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

Another analogy that we've been hearing a lot lately is:

The burning platform

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

An analogy, simile or metaphor will:

1. Capture attention

2. Simplify complex ideas

3. Create shortcuts to understanding

4. Make your point more memorable

5. Make your message more persuasive

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

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