For Maximum Impact, Choose your Metaphors Wisely

“Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.”
- Richard Kadrey, Author of Kill the Dead

If memories could really kill or maim, the world wouldn’t need other weapons. But that’s not what this author is talking about. If you read the quote closely, you’ll realize that he is creating a connection between intensely sad memories and grievous injury.

If you’ve ever brooded over a loved one’s separation or betrayal, you get the picture.

The power of metaphors is that words or visual cues can describe an abstract concept or feeling and turn it into something that anyone can relate to or identify with.

The key to any successful presentation lies in the connection you build with your audience.

How do you create that connection? Emotions help. By utilizing your audience’s imaginations and memories, metaphors evoke the right emotions. They lead your audience exactly where you want them to go.


Choosing an effective metaphor is like being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Sound familiar? Your audience has heard terms like these far too often. The only emotions that clichés evoke are boredom or — even worse — annoyance.

Drop the clichés, and use your creativity to come up with new concepts. Avoid anything you’ve seen in ads or other presentations. Brainstorm ideas with your team or create your own quotes.

Reference old events, news stories, pop culture, science, people, books, movies, and everyday experiences to create a unique connection.


Use metaphors to describe your product or service. Let’s say you’re selling an investment product. You want to describe the best features of two schemes without boring the audience with technical details.

Metaphors paint a vivid image in their minds. They help them get a clear idea of what they should be doing or what they haven’t been doing.


Images succeed when words fail. Visual aids tap into an individual’s imagination and bring them closer to accepting your core message.

Use a unique image (i.e., not a stock photo) to create the required effect. Your image could represent an advantage of using your product or an impact of not using it. You can also use original animation. The key here is to use visuals that really accentuate your presentation.


Focus on the keywords that best describe your product. Leave technical details in your presentation for a later stage. Give the audience the most valuable benefit first.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, he didn’t immediately start off with details about design, speed, battery, or volume. Instead, he targeted the audience’s love for music and stated the user benefit: 1000 songs in your pocket.

Whatever you do, don’t mix up your metaphors. For maximum impact, stick to one or two relevant metaphors.

Do metaphors feature prominently in your presentations?

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