Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
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Metaphor Minute: Metaphors On Broadway

The METAPHOR MINUTE Newsletter by Anne Miller

June 10, 2014

Metaphors on Broadway

Everyone loves a Broadway play and if you saw the Tony awards this past Sunday evening, you know why. Whether you prefer musicals or dramas, as soon as the lights go down and the curtain goes up, our real world problems melt away and we are transported to the magic of make believe that lights up our story-loving right brain.

For sharp communicators, another reason to love Broadway are the reviews that follow a show’s opening. When critics review a play, they want to give you a feel for what they saw, so that you, the potential buyer, can decide whether or not to see the show. In a sense, they are selling you on their experience. Since metaphors and analogies make the unknown instantly known, it isn’t surprising that they frequently use this visual language to share that experience. The sharp Metaphorian (you), ever on the lookout for fresh images, saves and adapts these to appropriate business situations. Here are three examples.

Kinky Boots (2013 Tony Winner for Best Musical)
Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote, “Cindi Lauper knows how to work a crowd. Making her Broadway debut as a composer with Kinky Boots the new musical that opened on Thursday night at the Al Hirschfeld Theater, this storied singer has created a love-and heat-seeking score that performs like a pop star on Ecstasy.

Possible adaptation: Do you sell a service or product with superior performance in its market? Can you use this metaphor to describe its power? If the Ecstasy reference is inappropriate, can you use a different metaphor to conceptually communicate the same thought? E.g., This system performs like a race horse on steroids.

Bullets Over Broadway (2014 Nominee)
David Rooney of wrote, “There's a ton of talent onstage in Bullets Over Broadway, evident in the leggy chorines who ignite into explosive dance routines, the gifted cast, the sparkling design elements and the wraparound razzle-dazzle of director-choreographer Susan Stroman's lavish production. So why does this musical, adapted by Woody Allen from his irresistible 1994 screen comedy about the tortured path of the artist, wind up shooting blanks? Flat where it should be frothy, the show is a watered-down champagne cocktail that too seldom gets beyond its recycled jokes and second-hand characterizations to assert an exciting new identity

Possible Adaptation: Perhaps you lead a company or a department where sales, morale, or productivity is down and you want to introduce some change. You could say, “We have been very successful up to now and we are justifiably proud of that performance, but of late, our sales have been flat, like watered down champagne. We need to uncork a fresh bottle of champagne, i.e., change the way we are operating so that we can once again be ‘frothy’, the leader in our field. This is what I propose…” (And, you might have a bottle of champagne with you for everyone to drink at the end of your talk!)

Twelfth Night and Richard III (2014 Nominee)
Elisabeth Vincentelli, of The New York Post wrote, "The shows are presented in repertory by London's Shakespeare's Globe. They kick it ¬old-school: with an all-male cast in period 17th-century costumes - which they put on in full view of the audience in an entertaining pre-show ritual. The result, directed by Tim Carroll, is a feast for the senses...Samuel Barnett … is a winsome Viola, as eloquent as she is romantic. And the comic second bananas take advantage of every single opportunity to score laughs,...Twelfth Night is the better show, but seeing both productions lets you watch the actors slip into completely different roles. You're not just going to the theater - you're experiencing what makes it magic.

Possible Adaptation: Suppose you sell financial planning services, then, you know that it is devilishly difficult to differentiate yourself from competitors in a prospect’s mind. But you could play on Vincentelli’s phrase. You could say, “You are not just running the numbers on your investments and insurance. You are creating a lifetime of freedom and security for you and your family. (In fact, quite apart from this review, Steve Jobs did a variation of this technique when he introduced the ipod. He didn’t say, “You’re getting a new small gadget for listening to songs. He said, “You’re getting 1000 songs in your pocket!”)

Casa Valentina (2014 Nominee)
Dissatisfied that the play doesn’t actually come to a resolution at the end, David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter wrote “Like a soap opera, it suggests that the story continues, without actually resolving anything.

Possible Adaptation: Suppose you are tired of attending meetings that waste everyone’s time, you could borrow Rooney’s metaphor and say, “Look, our meetings are like soap operas that seem to move forward, but which in reality never resolve anything. I propose we put more discipline into them by doing the following…” The same metaphor could be used to support your recommendation to change sales presentations. “Our presentations are like soap operas. They seem to tell a story, but they never really result in a concrete close. I propose we do the following...

And the Tony Goes To…

John Fleming, who writes for the Huff Post UK, wrote, “If you are a performer, reviewers are like Americans. It is difficult to live with them, but it is difficult to live without them.

I would add that if you communicate for a living (and who doesn’t), then your next best argument clincher may be as near to you as the next theater or movie review that you read.

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.

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 "The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. © 2013. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2013, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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