You are here Imagery is Worth a Thousand Words

Anne Miller

You are here Imagery is Worth a Thousand Words

Which new company name arouses your curiosity most? ABC Marketing Inc., Integrated Marketing Resources, or Marketing Sherpa? Most likely, you chose the third option. It’s different. It’s visual.

It resonates (safety, success, reliability).These are the effects of visual language or metaphors. Visual language intrigues, attracts, and stands out – which is why metaphors belong in elevator pitches.

At networking events, people’s titles and jobs quickly blur together in a world of too many similar sounding descriptions. Overwhelmed (bored?), listeners tune out more than they tune in just to survive. Since we humans are wired for images, if you want to be heard, understood, remembered, or bought, use more images, not more information, in your elevator pitch.

Greg H. is a technology and systems support specialist for a bank headquartered in Connecticut. His firm provides technology platforms that provide all in one solutions that give users flexibility to communicate any way they need, whenever they need. That description is factually correct, but it is hardly memorable, particularly if the person he is talking to is likely to be meeting a number of other technology experts at an event.

However, Greg doesn’t stop there. He underscores what his firm does by adding, “Bottom-line, we eliminate communication gridlock and traffic jams for a company.” All his explanations snap together in an instant with that one image.

He could stop there and he would have successfully distinguished himself in the minds of his listeners. However, the beauty of a metaphor or analogy is that it usually arouses curiosity and invites responses like, “How do you do that?” or “Tell me more.”

Clearly making an impression, Greg will continue, “Our technology platform is like giving all users access to a high speed, multi-lane super highway. The super highway is designed to handle all of your current user traffic and even future traffic demands as they increase in the future. Unlike most highway systems, this platform, the new super highway, is capable of adding new lanes quickly, easily and inexpensively to support spikes, sudden increases in communication, in traffic during rush hour. What communication traffic jams do you see at your company?” Or, “For example, in companies like yours, we see a lot of frustrating and costly gridlock around X. To what extent is that true for you?”

Using a metaphor won’t necessarily get you immediate business, although that is always nice when it happens. But a metaphor in an elevator pitch contains an element of surprise which engages a person’s visual and emotional right brain, which creates an instant connection. That results in a real conversation that has the potential to lead to a mutually advantageous outcome for both parties, if not right away, then at some time in the future.

Einstein said, “If I can’t see It, I don’t understand It.” When cars were first invented they were not called automobiles. People would not have related to them. Instead they were called horseless carriages, images easily grasped at that time. Metaphors and analogies are the visual language of instant common understanding. They not only tap into what listeners already know, they are also memorable, which is why they need to be part of everyone’s elevator speech.

What was once considered the imaginary art of the poet is today a necessary tool for business people who lead, sell, and network. Communicating an elevator pitch without metaphors is like driving a Ferrari without gas. You may look good, but you won’t get far.

About the Author

Anne Miller is an internationally respected author, speaker and seminar leader. She teaches sales people how to increase their business; coaches CEOs and senior management to communicate clearly, creatively and persuasively to key constituencies; and enables technical people to transform complex information into simpler, meaningful messages. She is the author of “The Tall Lady With the Iceberg: the power of metaphor to sell, persuade, & explain anything to anyone.” Available on Amazon. Sign up for her free Metaphor Minute newsletter at