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Public Speaking Skills: 

Simile

A simile is a comparison of two things that while they seem different in some respects, have other strong points in common. The words 'like' and 'as' will normally be used in your public speaking skills when making these types of comparisons.

You might say, 'Getting this contract signed is as impossible as trying to smuggle daybreak past a rooster.' Contracts and roosters don't have much in common (which is funny), but in this case, the presenter is telling you what they do have in common. Getting the contract signed and smuggling daybreak past a rooster are both impossible.

You could shorten the last simile by changing 'as impossible as' to 'like.'

"Getting this contract signed is like trying to smuggle daybreak past a rooster."

In this case, the audience must make the interpretation that both are impossible. It's good to make the audience think sometimes because it forces them to be involved, and having good public speaking skills includes getting your audience involved.

A recurring theme with me when using my public speaking skills is that humor surrounds you wherever you go, so look around and share it. I got a great simile out of a child's joke book I acquired (if something is valuable you acquire it) for 10 cents at a flea market. I now use this line in presentations all over the country. I do a seminar called Business Lite: Low Cost/No Cost Ways to Improve Productivity. In that seminar I talk about how employees feel at work. I say, 'Sometimes you go to work and you feel like a turtle with claustrophobia you've got to be there, but you feel closed in.'

I like to mix and match many types of humor in one concise chunk. Here's a simile that I just love.

"If you put his brain on a matchstick, it would be like rolling a BB down a four-lane highway."

For a lesson in public speaking skills, let's break this one-liner down to see how several different forms of humor were used. Putting a person's brain on a matchstick and rolling a BB down a four-lane highway are both ludicrous juxtapositions. (View this web site's 'Juxtaposition' article, for reference.) No one is going to put someone's brain on a matchstick, or roll a BB down a four-lane highway. This piece of humor is a simile because the two ludicrous juxtapositions are compared with the connective word "like".

The effect of the simile is to exaggerate how small this man's brain is. So, three different types of humor juxtaposition, simile and exaggeration were combined to make a great one-liner. These are the types of relationships you would explore if you were feeling adventurous and decided to write some of your own humor. Many of the one-liners you run across will be combinations like this. You don't have to be able to dissect them like I just did. All you have to be able to do is pick the ones that make your point (in this case similes), and use them where and when appropriate in your public speaking skills.


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