The right metaphor

By Nancy Duarte via hbr.org   Article

Finding the Right Metaphor for Your Presentation

“Metaphors can help by tapping what learning theorists call prior knowledge to make a connection between what people already understand through experience and what they have yet to discover. We do this naturally in conversation — for instance, ‘The news hit her like a freight train.’ By comparing the situation to something people already know or can at least imagine, we convey its intensity and urgency. But when explaining our ideas in presentations, we’re sometimes reluctant to use verbal or visual metaphors to relate to audiences. I’ve heard people say that metaphors are ‘off topic,’ or worse, ‘cheap.’ Though using a cheesy one can elicit groans, more often than not, metaphors offer a shortcut to understanding.

But how do you pick the right one? By digging into your own prior knowledge for connections that make the idea brighter in your mind. The brighter that idea shines for you, the more likely it is to resonate with your audience.

To do that effectively, get back to basics. Many of us sit in front of a computer screen all day, but studies have shown that writing by hand activates a different part of the brain and may even improve idea composition and expression. So, while you’re searching for the perfect metaphor to access the full depth of someone’s prior knowledge, put your ideas down on paper — the old-fashioned way.”

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