Want a Stronger Speech? Get the Analogy Advantage

Using an analogy at the University of Pittsburgh

Using an analogy at the University of Pittsburgh

Analogies can take your speeches to fantastic heights. One of the best ways to get someone to know something new is to relate the unknown to the known. In other words, relate the unknown to something he or she already knows. In textbook language this is referred to as activating prior knowledge.

 Analogies help tremendously in this area. Webster’s New World Dictionary’s definition of analogy is “similarity in some ways.”

Remember: Analogies help people relate what they do not know to what they know.

 See if you can pick up the analogy in this story that I began relaying to my audiences recently.


My Analogy

In the case of the story in the video, my analogy involved the similarity of lifting up someone’s life to riding up with them in an elevator. I could have easily taken that analogy further by turning it into a phrase such as “Elevate lives” or even a brand such as “The Lifter.” After all, in some countries, the elevator is referred to as the lift. However, even without extending the analogy too much, the elevator itself helps make the story stick.

Why is an analogy important?

 Analogies are so important because of the following scenario that occurs regularly with me. There’s an analogy I use about how when a crab tries to crawl out of the barrel, the other crabs claw at it and try to bring it back down. This analogy is as old as crabs themselves but I wrapped my own story around it. We relate the crabs in a barrel to negative people pulling us down.

Someone often approaches me and says, “Craig, I saw you speak about a year ago and you talked about the crabs in a barrel. I have not been able to get that speech out of my head. In fact, something happened to me recently and I remembered you said, ‘Stay away from the crabs in a barrel. You also said that you can never stay fired up when everyone around you is burned out.’ Man, it really helped me get through that situation.”

Note: By the way, the fire piece is an analogy too. Usually I try not to mix analogies but every now and then it’s effective.

The point here is that whether it is a year ago or two years ago, people remember your message more clearly if you provide an analogy. They can SEE the crabs in the barrel holding each other down and so that makes it more urgent for them to steer clear of those types of people.

Remember: Analogies help people remember your stories and points and gain a greater understanding of your message.

 Other examples of effective analogies

I’ve heard speakers relate…

  • Being hungry for food to being hungry for their dreams
  • A malignant growth to slavery
  • Not setting goals to drifting aimlessly on a raft
  • Refusing to change to being stuck in the mud
  • A symphony to racial harmony
  • Opening holiday presents to using your gifts
  • Living life like a track race that never goes beyond “Take your marks, get-set….
  • A telephone call to your life’s calling
  • A train coming to your purpose in life

 Using the appropriate analogies will help you connect on a deep level and empower your audience to grasp your content much quicker.

 How do you develop analogies for your point?

Simply keep asking yourself, “What is this similar to?” “What is that like?” Do this on a daily basis and in no time at all you will have a habit of finding analogies. You do not have to carry the analogy out too far but just far enough to see some similarities between two different entities.

Go back to Webster’s definition of “similarities in some ways” and understand that, through training your mind to see similarities, you will be able to find them. Again, keep asking, “What is that like?” “What is this similar to?”

Your Turn

What analogies do you currently use in your speeches? Do you wrap a story around the analogy?

Craig Valentine

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