The key to good speaking & writing
People often ask me, “what makes a good speaker?” My answer is simple: good speakers - and writers - talk in pictures. The language they use is full of images and metaphors. As they speak, the words they use conjure up pictures in the mind’s eye. Pictures that help listeners see and feel what they mean. Pictures that transform lifeless abstract ideas into concrete experiences. Pictures that bring what they say to life.
Unlike abstract language, which tends to be cool and remote, visual language is warm and concrete. So if you’ve got specialist knowledge you want to share with a wider, non-expert audience, talk in pictures.
Back in 2014, I heard a scientist on the radio talking about the Rosetta mission, which had just landed a spacecraft on a comet for the first ever time. The scientist brought the enormity of the achievement alive for listeners, like me, by saying the challenge was comparable to landing a fly on a speeding bullet. I heard later that some scientists questioned the accuracy of his analogy, but in doing so they surely missed the point. By choosing a vivid visual analogy he succeeded in capturing the public’s imagination and promoting the importance, understanding and value of science to the widest possible audience.