Why build walls between you and your audience when you don’t have to? If you’re trying to explain something that is technical, complicated, or obscure, learn to love analogies. A well-crafted analogy can bring your subject matter to life and help you engage more deeply with those you’re trying to reach.
Successful Communication Is Hard Work
The great cruelty is that the smarter you get about something, the harder it is to share what you know. – Dan Heath, co-author, Made to Stick
If you’ve worked in the high tech sector for any length of time, you know how hard it can be to explain to the uninitiated what it is that you do.
It’s tempting to not even try. You’ve got enough on your plate just keeping up with all the technology advances, competitive intrigues, and shifting customer demands in your market. Who has time to figure out how to explain this stuff to people who don’t eat, breathe, and sleep it like you do?
Trouble is, those “people” could well be your prospects, clients, industry influencers – even some of your own colleagues.
Don’t Make Your Job Harder Than It Has To Be
If you don’t find a way to clearly communicate with your audience, you risk making them feel stupid. And that’s a surefire way to build a wall between you and the people you’re trying to influence – whether you’re writing a new content marketing piece, drafting a sales pitch to win over a prospect, or trying to convince your team to follow a strategy that you recommended. Once you build that wall, you’ve made your persuasive job exponentially harder.
Take Steps to Ensure You’re Communicating Clearly
So what should you do? Keep it simple and clear. When it comes to technical terminology, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you think there’s a chance that even one person in your audience is not going to understand a particular term or acronym, be sure to explain it – in clear, simple terms – the first time you use it.
And above all, learn to love and use analogies. These little gems draw a comparison between two things that otherwise might seem unrelated. When done well, analogies can breathe life into even the most complicated and obscure material.
4 Winning Analogies That Make the Complex, Clear
Here are four particularly effective analogies from the worlds of science, medicine, technology, and business to help spur your thinking about ways you could use this figure of speech to communicate better…
1. Technology - Google uses this analogy to explain to consumers why it’s not a good idea to use the same password across all their important Internet accounts, from email to online banking:
Choosing the same password for each of your online accounts is like using the same key to lock your home, car, and office – if a criminal gains access to one, all of them are compromised.
2. Science - A technologist used this analogy to describe what scientists had accomplished by finding and sequencing the 30,000 genes in the human genome:
It’s like obtaining a very detailed map of a city. Each of the genes is like a house and each one has an address. So when it’s all worked out, you have a complete map.
3. Business - Thomas Stemberg, co-founder and former CEO and Chairman of Staples, used this analogy to explain why a company’s management team often needs to change as it grows and evolves:
You don’t wear the same clothes your whole life – your body outgrows them. Similarly, companies need different kinds of talent and professional skills at every stage. Staples had four CFOs in 20 years and each was just right for his era.
4. Medicine - Dr. Albert Koong, a radiation oncologist with Stanford University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, used this striking analogy to convince one of his patients with esophageal cancer to be the first person to undergo a new type of radiation treatment. In selling the benefits of the new approach, which would allow the medical team to zero in on cancerous cells and deliver precise doses of radiation without harming surrounding tissue, the doctor told his patient:
For the first time in history, we can bomb the equivalent of an outhouse from 30,000 feet with no collateral damage.
Share Your Thoughts
What’s one analogy you could use to communicate better with your target audience? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social media.
About the photo: Photo of stone wall by Sarah Saunders. All rights reserved.
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