Rely on metaphors for an effective presentation

Metaphors are a highly effective stylistic device for presenting facts in a more vivid way. In the mind of the audience, the metaphor creates a memorable image of your message that can be easily remembered. Your messages can be conveyed more effectively as a result. The word metaphor comes from the Greek and means transfer. Metaphors consist of a word or a group of words that conveys information in a figurative sense, i.e. pictorially.

We use metaphors in our everyday lives much more often than we realize. They are an integral part of our communication. The effect of metaphors has something to do with the way our brain works. We can better grasp and process information associated with an image. Both hemispheres of the brain are addressed by metaphors and thus ensure good anchoring in memory.

Examples of one-word metaphors:

Nut shell (small boat)

Raven parents (bad parents)

Desert ship (camel)

Queue (people waiting in a row)

Cadre training (training of elites)

Star moment (great moment)

Examples of metaphor word groups:

Seeing through rose-colored glasses (transfiguring reality)

The needle in haystack (hard to find)

Wall of silence (no information at all)

Falling out of all clouds (being completely surprised)

Bring the cow off ice (solve a problem)

Wink with the fence post (clear hint)

After more effective is the story metaphor. Here, figurative comparisons are wrapped up in a story. It usually consists of a lengthy description of the situation in advance, which is then followed by the metaphor. Typical phrases here are “that would be just as if you …”, “that is the same as if …”, “that would be nothing different than if …”.


– In 1969, the first astronauts landed on the moon. Never before had people traveled so far. During the flight and landing on the Earth’s satellite and the safe return to Earth, they were helped by a computer with 4 kilobytes of RAM and a 1,024 MHz processor. An incredibly brave undertaking to entrust one’s life to such a weak computer. Why did the astronauts get involved? That would be just like me saying to you, get on this moon rocket; I calculated the course with my cell phone. And cell phones today are generally more powerful than the NASA computer of 1969.

– Roman legionaries had to perform true physical feats during a campaign. The equipment they had to carry weighed about 30 kilograms. This meant they had to march 35 to 40 kilometers a day. In the evening they had to set up their camp, that is, dig a trench and build a protective wall with palisades. The next day, the legionaries had to march on or fight on the battlefield. This could go on for several weeks. Scientists have found out in the experiment how high the daily physical load was actually for the individual legionnaire. An incredible 8,000 to 10,000 calories were consumed by a soldier per day. That would be like having to run an Ironman. And every day.

When you use metaphors, facts become vivid. Images are created in the listener’s mind. In this way, their messages can be conveyed in a very memorable and plausible way. If you tell how many hectoliters of fresh water a wastewater treatment plant cleans per day, your audience may very well not be able to relate to the number. But if you say that’s xxx bathtubs or xx swimming pools every day, then the abstract number becomes more understandable. This is not strictly speaking a metaphor, but its symbol.

Create images in the minds of the audience that will provide better understanding. The metaphor also leads your audience to think more deeply about your topic. To stay with the two examples above, the audience put themselves more in the role of the astronauts or the legionnaires, if you can understand the performances correctly. When simply listing the bare facts, it is often more difficult to follow. The viewer moves away from passive listening to active witnessing, or at least thinking along. In your presentation, think carefully about how you can make your main arguments even stronger by using appropriate metaphors.

Presentation and PowerPoint expert Matthias GartenDipl.-Wirtsch.-Informatiker Matthias Garten as the expert for multimedia presentations and professional PowerPoint presentations knows about the art of professional slide design. He is an entrepreneur, speaker (TOP 100 Speaker), trainer (TOP 100 Excellence Trainer), multiple book author, presentation coach (presentation training), member of the GSA and Club 55, organizer of the Presentation Conference, Presentation Bootcamp and Presentation Rocket Day. In addition to PowerPoint and presentation training, he inspires and advises companies to present themselves even more effectively and thus stand out from competitors. He is the business owner of the presentation and PowerPoint agency smavicon Best Business Presentations and with his team has created over 15,000 professional PowerPoint presentations for over 150 industries since 1993.