Speakers Know That To Be Understand, You Need To Use Analogies

by drjim on May 1, 2012

An analogy is like a model – just a different way of talking about something

An analogy is like a model – just a different way of talking about something

I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in a situation in which I needed to share some information with my audience that was too big, or too strange for them to be able to grasp it. What’s a speaker to do? I knew that if I just told them the fact or statistic that I had, there was no way that they would remember what I had said. I needed a better way – isn’t there some collection of presentation tips that would help in this situation? It turns out that there is a better way – use an analogy.

What Is An Analogy?

Sure we’ve all heard about analogies, but what are they really? It turns out that an analogy is a process by which meaning is transferred from one subject to another subject. This might sound complicated, but good news – it’s not!

It turns out that the human mind is actually very good at both understanding and remembering things like pictures and symbols. However, at the same time, we’re not all that good at remembering words or numbers. Considering the importance of public speaking, we need to find a solution to this problem.

What this means for you as a speaker is that when you are giving a speech, all of those words that you are saying are more than likely not going to stick in your audience’s mind no matter how good their listening skills are. This problem becomes an even bigger deal when your speech contains new ideas that your audience has not encountered before or you introduce very large numbers that your audience will have difficulty grasping.

It should be pretty clear that we speakers can’t just throw our new ideas or big numbers out there and hope that our audience will write them down and remember them forever. Instead, since we now know that analogies are the way to go, it sure looks like we need to find a way to work analogies into our next speech.

How To Use Analogies To Make Your Point

Some of the best speakers out there use a lot of analogies when they give a speech. What happens when they do this is that their audiences “get” what they are saying and everyone leaves the speech with a head full of images that will stay with them long after the speech is over.

You need to start to use analogies when you give your next speech. By doing so you will be able to communicate your concepts in less time and create both a better understanding and a longer retention of what you said.

One of the classic areas that we see analogies being used all the time is when it comes to trying to communicate to an audience how large a computer storage system is. It turns out that the complete printed works of Shakespeare would occupy 5 megabytes and the entire printed collection of the U.S. Library of Congress would occupy 10 terabytes of computer storage.

If we needed to create analogies to show how large these analytical sizes are, then we could tell our audience that the complete printed works of Shakespeare could be stored in about 0.036 inches of shelf space. The 10 terabytes that the U.S. Library of Congress would require to store would take up 10,000 yards of shelf space.

What All Of This Means To You

The role of any speaker is to communicate new ideas and information to your audience. Often this requires us to share a fact or statistic that is so hard to imagine, our audience is not going to be able to grasp it.

It’s our job as public speakers to find a way to connect with our audience — this is one of the benefits of public speaking. This means that we need to make sure that they’ll remember what we say. In order to get complicated ideas to stick with our audience, we can use analogies that allow us to transform complex concepts into memorable pictures that our audience will be able to remember for a long time after we’re done speaking.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it’s possible to use too many analogies in a speech? How many should you limit yourself to in a 30 minute speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m sure that you’ve heard this before, but your audience is sizing you up once they lay eyes on you. Sure, we hope that they have good listening skills, but this may not matter. You’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of about 30 seconds or so to make a good first impression. It’s not just what you say, but even more importantly it’s what your body is saying to your audience that is going determine what they think about your speech. Sure seems like we should figure out what your body is telling them…

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