In the original Greek language, “metaphor” meant “carry something across” or “transfer.”

Using a metaphor in communication helps you transfer a concept from your brain to your listener’s brain.

It’s like a Vulcan mind meld between a presenter and an audience.


Writers use metaphors to make ideas come alive for readers. Presenters can use the same technique to make their presentations more effective, engaging and interesting.

Use this technique in your next presentation, and you won’t have to worry about your audience falling asleep on you.

Paint a Picture for Your Audience

Explaining something can only take you so far. Metaphors paint pictures in your audience’s minds.

Metaphors can also trigger emotions in your audience. So choose your metaphors wisely.

A writer might say “her eyes were a pool of moonlight” to describe a character.

In a presentation, you might want something more powerful and less pretty, of course.

Think about the way you want your audience to feel.

  • Confident?
  • Urgent?
  • Calm?
  • Inspired?

If you want your audience to feel like their current situation isn’t bearable anymore, that they need to take action now – it’s urgent – you might use a metaphor like “Your office is a prison.”

To inspire your audience, you might use a metaphor like “This software is a rocket ship ready to fly you to success.”

Clarify a concept with a metaphor

If your presentation includes complex subject matter or uncommon concepts, metaphors are a great way to get your point across.

You might explain an app that makes your computer boot up faster as “coffee for your computer.”

You might explain your building supply company as “a solid foundation for your construction business.”

You might explain your marketing company as “a brand megaphone.”

You can use metaphors in your presentation visuals, too.

Look how Datasift uses the metaphor of a machine to explain its data tagging functionality.


Spice up your presentation

Finally, metaphors make your presentation more interesting.

A metaphor (and any other instrument of symbolism, really) stimulates the areas of a listener’s brain that have to do with the senses – touch, taste, sight, sound and smell.

Using a metaphor to present information is like adding spices to a bland dish: It enhances the experience and stimulates the senses.

Engaging more of your audience’s brain has the added benefit of drawing more attention to what you’re saying. For example, it’s easier to remember that your consulting firm offers premium, white glove service when you tell your audience you’re “the Platinum Card of the shipping industry.”

Metaphors bring presentations to life

Metaphors are a powerful tactic for making your presentation more engaging and memorable.

But don’t worry – you don’t have to be Hemingway to come up with a great metaphor for your next talk. Often the best metaphors are the simplest ones.

Here are some examples to help you get your head around what a metaphor is, and how you might use it in your next presentation. You can also use this list as a brain kick-starter when you’re trying to come up with more symbolic and sensory language to use.

  • The office is a melting pot.
  • His smile was a lie.
  • Her voice commanded armies.
  • Your PC is a dinosaur.
  • Sales and marketing are two peas in a pod.
  • He’s a walking billboard.
  • Trust is an egg – impossible to piece back together after it’s shattered.