Making the Information-giving Speech Enjoyable 3 - Employing an Analogy

Think some of the audience won’t be able to follow you? Maybe you need an analogy.

Making the Information-giving Speech Enjoyable 3 - Employing an Analogy

The information-giving speech is a tough one to do well. And when the knowledge base of the audience is mixed, the difficulty factor is cranked up another notch.  

Who hasn’t been there? Whether you’re the speaker who’s addressing a glazed over audience which you know you lost within seconds, or a delegate who has fought to understand but couldn’t and is now mentally listing the groceries to pick up on the way home, the experience is painful. 

When you are giving an informative talk to a mixed-knowledge audience, a highly effective way to mitigate pain - to keeping the novice section ‘on board’ without boring the initiated - is to employ an interesting and current analogy. 

In September 2012 I took a call from an excited client. A few months earlier I’d trained her team of NHS accountants. A member of this team had given a talk to the Trust board and, contrary to expectation, it had been a huge hit. His job was to present the case for four potential finance systems that would need to perform three key tasks to executive and non-executive members, most of whom were not finance savvy. 

So a presentation challenge of the highest order; one that many would try to duck. Only the chap in question didn’t have that option. Indeed, he went a step further; he looked this speech beast in the eye and squared up. With the jubilation of the London Olympics still in the air, he compared his four finance systems and the three tasks they needed to perform with the triathlon. So the systems were the competitors and the tasks were the events. And of course, his recommendation was the Alistair Brownlee.

This device enabled the novice element of the audience to grasp the presenter’s points by seeing them in a more familiar way, while the finance-savvy enjoyed the analogy because it was fresh and unexpected.   

If you think using an analogy would be helpful, then look to popular TV, world events and big political stories. For the analogy to be successful, it needs to have registered with everyone; from graduates to grannies and hedge fund managers to hipsters.

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