Posted by: George E Burney | December 18, 2013

How to Develop Analogies

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According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, one definition of an analogy is, “Correspondence in some respects between things otherwise dissimilar.” Another is, “A form of logical inference based on the assumption that if two things are alike in some respects, they must be alike in some other aspect.”

What To Compare?

So, to frame an effective analogy, you must first find two things that are essentially dissimilar, but are nevertheless alike in some ways. The similarity you initially draw attention to must be obvious and irrefutable. Your audience must themselves see this similarity instantly, without much explanation from you, so that you merely have to mention it for them to accept it.

An Example

For example, suppose you wanted to emphasize to an audience of novice speakers that careful attention should be given to the introduction and to the close or conclusion of a speech.

Speaking to them, you could compare giving a speech to flying a plane, perhaps saying that in some ways, they are alike. The introduction is the takeoff, the body of the presentation is like the period spent at cruising altitude, and the conclusion is the landing.

Does It Fit?

That fits, right? Those two dissimilar activities correspond, don’t they? Yes, but do they correspond where it counts? Does that correspondence drive your point home? That’s the litmus test, so let’s see.

Your objective was to stress the critical importance of the introduction and conclusion in a speech. Te evaluate the effectiveness of this analogy, the question to ask yourself is: Are successfully taking off and landing critical to the success of a flight?

Since they are, the analogy is effective. After making the above comparison, you might ask your audience, “If an airline disclosed that the pilot for one of their scheduled flights was terrible at takeoffs and landings, but was reasonably proficient while the plane was aloft, how many of you would rush to buy a ticket? Would that change if they offered you a discount because of his deficiencies?”

You could then drive your point home by saying, “Likewise, your introduction and conclusion are critical. A poor introduction or conclusion can ruin a good speech, just like a botched takeoff or landing can ruin a good flight.”

The above is an excerpt from my new eBook, Creating and Using  Stories, Examples, and Illustrations in Public Speaking, available at For more information, click here:


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