Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
Presentation & Sales Specialist
Author | Speaker | Coach
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!


Metaphor Minute: Graduation Time Is Here

The METAPHOR MINUTE Newsletter by Anne Miller

JUNE 13, 2017

Graduation Time Is Here

Speakers at graduations have an awesome responsibility and challenge. Their words must inspire the lives of the next generation of leaders and citizens. But their challenge is to find memorable ways to state their messages when those messages tend to fall into very predictable categories:

  • Find your purpose and pursue your dreams
  • Expect, but don’t be defeated, by setbacks
  • Character, kindness, and love triumph over material wealth

With such lofty goals and serious, if expected, messages, it is no wonder that many of the best graduation speakers reach for metaphors and analogies to vividly drive home their points.

Whether you give graduation speeches, wedding toasts, speak in public forums, or just give routine business presentations, notice in these ten examples how--with a little thought-- routine messages can be made original and memorable.

1. Use a Story Analogy

“One of my favorite stories is when John F Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon”.

Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard, 2017

(Thanks to for the examples below.)

2. Tap into popular technology

“You can Google for an answer. You can Google for a mate. You can Google for a career. But you can’t Google to find out what’s in your heart—the passion that lifts you upward. “

Joe Plumeri, Vice Chairman of First Data Board of Directors,
former President of Citibank NA, William & Mary College 2011,

3. Set up an easy metaphorical comparison

“Cleverness is a gift. Kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy. Choices can be hard.”

Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon,
Princeton University, 2010

4. Use an extended analogy

Changes are like obstacles on a speed course. They demand your attention and require you to be present. They are coming…and then they are gone. It’s how life comes.”

Wynton Marsalis, Jazz legend,
 University of Vermont, 2013

5. Use sports, particularly ones familiar to your audience

“You’ll find that nothing comes easy is worth a dime. As a matter of fact, I never saw a football player make a touchdown with a smile on his face. Never.”

Woody Hayes, Ohio Championship Football Coach,
 Ohio College, 1986

6. Short & sweet works

“If your uniform isn’t dirty, then you haven’t been in the game.”

Ben Bernake, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Princeton University 2013.

7. Sports analogies work when they have a twist to them

“If you want to play a game, go to where it’s played and find a way to get in. Things happen when you get in the game.”

Chris Matthews, Television News Commentator
Fordham University 2006

8. The animal kingdom is a rich source of metaphors

“My favorite animal is the turtle. The reason is that in order for the turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out. There are going to be times in your life when you’re going to have to stick your neck out. There will be challenges and instead of hiding in a shell, you have to go out and meet them.”

Ruth Westheimer, “Dr. Ruth,” sex therapist,
Trinity College, 2004

9. Everyone understands weather analogies

“You can’t make a cloudy day a sunny day, but you can embrace it and decide that it’s going to be a good day after all. "

Jane Lynch, Actress, Comedian,
Smith College 2010

10. Historical quotes are great springboards for metaphors

“I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom: As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”

J.K. Rowling, Author,
Harvard University, 2008

Newscaster, sex therapist, financier, football coach, or you – everyone has access to the power of metaphors and analogies to add life, color, imagination and meaning to their messages.

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay! — with Metaphors.

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"The best arguments
dazzle with metaphor"

Gerry Spence,
Media Commentator & Lawyer

The Original “Metaphorically Selling” that spawned a movement, now with 25 New Stories.  Available in print, ebook & (new) audiobook formats.
Click here

7 Signs You Need A Metaphor (Visual Language)

  1. Your listener is not paying attention
  2. Your listener is stuck on an objection
  3. Your listener is confused
  4. Your listener sees no difference between you and your competition
  5. You want to drive home a point vividly and memorably
  6. You have to wiggle out of a difficult situation
  7. You want to wow or motivate a larger audience

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Metaphor Minute Archives

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Links I like

Great Resources:


Random Recommendation

Read another Joe Plumeri graduation speech given to NYU titled “Go Out and Play in Traffic.” It is one of the richest in the effective use of metaphors and also one of the most entertaining speeches you will hear..

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"Anne and I recently worked together on a speech I gave at a large conference. She helped me turn a series of somewhat interesting points into an expertly crafted, compelling and actionable story. Together, we built a storyline with attention-grabbing headlines. We worked and re-worked the language, making sure every word was important. Finally, Anne coached me on the delivery. The result was so exciting - I've never been so well received in a speech before. Thank you, Anne!" Kate Griffin, Vice President,

 "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. © 2017. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2017, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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