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Archive for January 2020

The Magnificent Magic of Metaphorical Speech

Metaphors and analogies are a powerful way for a public speaker or business presenter to communicate complex concepts to their audiences. Metaphorical language can increase understanding, make concepts more relatable, and cast concepts in a new or better light. But perhaps the most powerful aspect of metaphorical language is its ability to evoke strong emotions.

MLK was a Master of Metaphor

Martin Luter King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is an incredibly moving oration with many great examples of the magic of metaphors and analogies to create relatable emotions that capture exactly how his audience felt. One powerful example of metaphorical language he used in the speech is the following:

“In a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.”

Rather than carrying on a high-level discussion of Constitutional law, King nails it by using the simple concept of being on the receiving end of a bounced check. Everyone in the audience could relate to what a bad check is, but more importantly exactly how it feels to receive one. A flood of emotions happen when receiving a rubber check. You feel cheated, disrespected, belittled, hopeless, frustrated, disappointed, in disbelief, and downright angry. Think that captured the way African
Americans felt in 1963?

 

Relatable and Emotionally Engaging

But don’t think you have to be leading a major social justice movement to use metaphorical language in your speeches and presentations. Taking a cue from Dr. King, I once used such language to describe the importance for companies to have an up-to-date crisis communication plan. I wanted my audience to be able to relate to this concept in a personal way and I wanted them to feel the emotion of not having such a plan when they really needed it. Here’s what I came up with: “Not having an up-to-date crisis communication plan is like reaching for a flashlight when the lights go out and discovering that the batteries are dead.”

Think about the concepts you present frequently in your public speaking or business presentations. Is there a way to make them more relatable and more emotionally engaging for your audience? There just might be when you find the right metaphorical language. And when you do, you’ll have a more powerful presentation that turns heads, wins hearts and gets results.

 

 

 

 


RELATED POSTS

What MLK Taught Us About Change Communication

“I Have a Dream” Speech

“I Have a Dream Speech [text]

 

Correct Mispronounced Words

By Paul Barton

Throughout my career, I’ve occasionally encountered a business professional who had one particular word that they consistently mispronounced. These were intelligent people who otherwise were well-spoken. But one troublesome word that they consistently mispronounced was undermining their entire message. I could see the pained looks of disapproval on the faces of others around the conference table. It was sad to me to see the mispronunciation of a single word chip away at the credibility of everything else the speaker was saying.

Some of the cringe-worthy mispronunciations I heard included:

  • Physical instead of fiscal
  • Post or posed instead of supposed
  • Pacifically instead of specifically
  • Prolly or probly instead of probably

Maybe you’ve heard something similar. Maybe, you have a troublesome word of your own. It can happen to anyone. Barrack Obama consistently mispronounced the word “corpsman.” George W. Bush consistently mispronounced “nuclear.”

Kill the Word that is Killing Your Credibility

If you have a word that you consistently mispronounce, I challenge and encourage you to make 2020 the year you kill the word that is killing your credibility. Perhaps you learned to say the word incorrectly as a child and then it became a habit. Old habits are hard to break. But you can break them the same way you formed them — with repetition.

How to Practice

First, learn the correct way to pronounce the word. Start by writing out a phonetically correct pronunciation of the troublesome word (e.g., Fiscal – Fiss-Cal). Tape it on your bathroom mirror and say it correctly out loud several times every morning. Focus on getting the correct pronunciation. It is crucial that you practice out loud. Find other places and times to practice. Put a copy on the empty passenger seat in your car or in your lunch bag. Practice, practice, practice.

Audiences judge you, at least in part, on the words you use and how well you pronounce them. By practicing consistently, you can overcome bad speaking habits and become a better speaker. And with better pronunciation will come better credibility.

Here’s to new beginnings. Cheers!


If you live in Phoenix and want to conquer your fear of public speaking in 2020, check out this workshop.

Don’t live in Phoenix? Look for our new online fear-busting public speaking course coming later this month. Give us your name and email, and we’ll let you know as soon as it launches. You can even get in on some early-bird pricing.