You’re in front of what could be a lucrative client.
You’re one of six potential suppliers.
The decision is to be made in ten days time.
How can you be remembered in a churning sea of competing information?
Metaphor can be your anchor.
Metaphor is the substitution of one thing for another that illustrates the common characteristics of both. Images (including mental images) are processed 60,000 times more quickly than spoken facts, numbers or abstract information alone.
Or as Sheryl Sandberg said about being offered a job at Facebook: ‘If you’re offered a seat on a spaceship, don’t ask which seat.’
People recall less than 10% of orally delivered information after 72 hours. This rises to 65% when a picture accompanies it. So if speed and memorability are important to you when communicating, metaphors should be too.
The Metaphor Generator
1) Decide on your message.
What’s the core of your pitch?
What’s your point of difference?’
If your client could only recall one thing, what would you like it to be?
3) Choose your source.
Great metaphors can come from virtually anywhere. The difficulty if you randomly brainstorm is that you’re likely to get stuck. Popular sources include:
- The human body
If there’s one source that’s likely to work best for your audience or client stick to it exclusively for the next stage.
3) Make the bridge.
Brainstorm the different elements of the category that might serve you best. Make the bridge between the element and your central message.
Beware of quitting too soon. Early efforts are likely to be cliché’s as cliché’s often to spring to mind first. Watch out for pumping hearts, well-oiled engines, 20:20 vision, rocky roads etc…
The more unique your metaphor, the more likely it is to be remembered, which isn’t to say that it should be gratuitously weird!
For that reason, when you have a short list, go to the next stage….
4) Test it…
Parade your metaphors in front of as many people as possible who can give you a sense of which is likely to work best bearing in mind your audience and central message. It may mean dropping your personal favourite but the wisdom of crowds is often precisely that. Wisdom…
When should you use your metaphor?
Throughout the pitch.
Lay it down early and riff off it throughout the presentation. Human beings like re-incorporation and if you can make the metaphor your central theme then it lends a unifying effect to your overall message.
As a bookend device.
Opening with a metaphor and returning to it at your conclusion can lend a sense of completion. It’s a common story trope that works across all cultures.
Always at the end.
Whether it’s the first time, the second time, or the fifth time, you should always deploy the metaphor in your conclusion. It’s the last thing your audience will hear and therefore what they are most likely to remember.
On ancillary information.
Anything that you send post-pitch should incorporate your metaphor. Repetition assists memory, particularly when there’s a time lapse.