I was in the audience listening to a speaker who was making a point about the value of teamwork. He said, “If we want to perform at a higher level, we’ve got to be more like the New England Patriots. There’s a reason they’ve won six Super Bowls.”
As a longtime sports fan, especially American football, this made sense to me.
But then, behind me, I heard a woman whisper to the man sitting next to her. She said, “I’m so sick and tired of men using sports analogies.”
The man said, “Agreed. Not everyone of us follows sports like a religion.”
This was another reminder to me of a speaking fundamental:
Don’t get stuck in your own world when you share stories and metaphors.
The Curse of Knowledge: Sports Edition
As a coach and speaker, I focus on avoiding the curse of knowledge. This common phenomena occurs when we know our topic well, but we either fail to acknowledge or don’t understand when people don’t know it as well as we do.
As a result, we shortcut our communication. We make references and use terminology we assume they know. When they don’t, we tend to blame them for the lack of understanding.
When we do this, we risk losing the interest and attention of many people in our audience.
There are many areas where we can fall victim to this. None is more prevalent than sports metaphors, especially from male speakers.
As you read above, I’m a fan of many sports. For years, I used them as examples in my presentations.
I have no idea how many people I alienated or turned off because of my self-centered references.
One day, a friend pulled me aside and said, “Michael, do you realize how many sports metaphors you use?”
I said, “I haven’t really thought about it, Kay.”
She said, “You use them a lot. I like sports, too, but you can overuse them. Especially when there are women in your audience.”
That was an eye opener for me. But she wasn’t done.
“Why don’t you challenge yourself. Create some new comparisons, stories and metaphors. Find ones that will appeal to a broader audience.
That is some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
Two Keys To Deeper Connections
As a result, I discovered two keys to appeal to a larger range of audience members.
One, do audience research long before you speak. What will be the make up of the people you speak to:
– Age group
– Ethnic background
– Work experience
– Common challenges they face.
These don’t reveal every interest. But, they can help you uncover commonalities you could use to relate with them.
Two, look for metaphors, vignettes, or experiences that are more common to the group.
If I’m speaking to a group that is from big cities, what could I use?
– Traffic problems
– Noise pollution
– Overcrowded neighborhoods.
These are a small sample of issues facing city dwellers that could be a good source of material.
What if I’m talking with an organization in a regulated industry?
I could look for common frustrations or concerns that members face.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
This situation led to an interesting conversation in my head:
I thought, “You always tell your clients, ‘To be more influential and impactful, push yourself outside of your comfort zone.“ ’
“Yes, yes I do. It’s quite good advice.”
“Hmmm, perhaps you should follow it yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not following your own advice.”
After I long pause, I conclude…
“Well, there’s that…”
C’mon, don’t tell me you don’t have the same conversations in your head.
The end result of this self talk was this:
I started looking for new examples that would appeal to all audiences. As a bonus, they gave me a fresh approach and take on my topics.
Do you want to expand your influence to a broader range of people?
Do you want to connect at a deeper level?
Challenge yourself to look at new ways to get your point across. It’s time to ditch the tried and true, and use some new examples that will energize and engage your audience….
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