Speaking – Rhetorical Devices: Metaphor

Last week we started looking at rhetorical devices, specifically what is know as simile. Today we will continue our discussion about rhetorical devices by looking at metaphors.

From Wiktionary we have the following definition of a Metaphor:

The use of a word or phrase to refer to something that it isn’t, invoking a direct similarity between the word or phrase used and the thing described, but in the case of English without the words like or as, which would imply a simile.

Metaphors are great for getting your message across. A very good example is from Isac Newton:

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Obviously Newton wasn’t literally standing on the shoulders of giants. The example clearly shows how powerful a metaphor can be for making a point. It conveys so much power, information and meaning and really gets the audience attention.

Some other examples are:

  • He was big. vs. He was a whale.
  • She looked so old. vs. She was a raisin.
  • That linebacker is massive. vs. That linebacker is a tank.

On the left side we just describe the person without using a metaphor and that works well. But when using a metaphor to say the same thing on the right side, we create images in the reader’s or listener’s mind that are much stronger and more vivid. Great imagery creates great stories. Using metaphors challenges the audience’s imagination and keeps their minds active and engaged.  Strong metaphors can really enhance a message and its memorability.

So think about how you can integrate metaphors into your speeches and presentations to really help get your message across.

Read more about metaphors here and here.

Before-After: Rule of Thirds

Power Points - Rule of ThirdsThe rule of thirds is composing your photos based on a simple grid of thirds. This is a trick used by movie producers, graphic designers and professional photographers. When used with slides it means to dived the slide into thirds both horizontally and vertically as can be seen on the image to the right. The points created at the intersections of the vertical and horizontal lines are actually called power points. The primary element is then positioned on one of these power points.

Using the rule of thirds leads to aesthetically pleasing and professional looking imagery. It helps to create a composition that is balanced, possesses energy , and creates more interest than simply centering the featured element.

When the primary element is so strong as to imbalance the composition, consider centering the element rather than using the rule of thirds, especially when the strength of the primary element is reinforced by the surrounding elements or space. If the surrounding elements of space do not reinforce the primary element, use the rule of thirds and add a secondary element to the opposing intersection of the primary element to bring the composition to balance.

Below is a Before and After showing the difference the rule of thirds can have when used on slides.


Before - no rule of thirds


After - rule of thirds

Image Credit: harper07

Sources: Universal Principles of Design, Slideology,


When placing elements on a slide it is important to think about what elements you want the audience to notice first, second and so on. One way to achieve this is to add contrast to the elements to really emphasize your message or you point so your audience can immediately get it.

Many times we create contrast unintentionally and according to the law of informative change, people expect changes in properties to carry information. This basically means that any stylistic difference between two elements carry some sort of information. So unintentional contrast can confuse or contradict the intended message. Any stylistic choice has the potential to suggest importance, urgency and value. So it is important to have a purpose for any and all stylistic changes/choices you make in your slides.

Below are several examples of how one can create contrast between elements on a slide. Choosing which one to use depends on your message and what you are trying to emphasize.

Contrast - No contrast
No Contrast

Contrast - Contrast in Size
Contrast in Size

Contrast - Contrast in Shape
Contrast in Shape

Contrast - Contrast in Proximity
Contrast in Proximity

Contrast - Contrast in Shade
Contrast in Shade (value)

Contrast - Contrast in Color
Contrast in Color

Contrast - Contrast in Orientation
Contrast in Orientation

Sources: Slideology, Presentation Zen Design

Speaking: Rhetorical Devices – Simile

Rhetorical devices are a collection of techniques that an author or speaker can use to convey to the listener or reader a meaning. From Dictionary.com we have the following definition:

Rhetorical Device: a use of language that creates a literary effect (but often without regard for literal significance)

Or from Wikipedia we have this explanation of what a rhetorical device is:

A rhetorical device is a technique that an author or speaker uses to convey to the listener or reader a meaning with the goal of persuading him or her towards considering a topic from a different perspective.

There are several different kinds of rhetorical devices, and today we will be looking at one that is called simile.

Again we will turn to Wikipedia for an explanation of what a simile is:

A simile is a figure of speech comparing two unlike things, often introduced with the words “like”, “as”, or “than”.

A simile is very similar to a metaphor; both are forms of comparison. Metaphors compare two things without using “like” or “as,” while a simile allows the two ideas to remain distinct.   For example,  a simile could be “John was like a sun, warming up the room with his presence.”  While a metaphor would be, “John was a sun, warming up the room with his presence”.   In the simile John and Sun are separate ideas, while in the metaphor John is the Sun.

Now that we have a sense of what a simile is and how it is different from a metaphor, the question is:  how can we use it?

As any rhetorical device, it is used to convey your message and emphasize your point.  It is used to paint a picture for the audience to allow them to see things from a different perspective or really understand the point.  It can be used to create a powerful opening for your speech and really get the audience attention.

So think about how you can spice up your speech by adding a simile or two to create powerful imagery.  Use of simile in your speech can be like water, giving life to your message.

More resources and examples on similes can be found here.

Before-After: Create Depth

Slides are a flat, 2-dimensional surface, so how can we create depth in a slide? There are three ways to create a sense of depth in a slide:

  • Use layering techniques
  • Adjust the relative scale of objects
  • Use color and contrast

To use layering techniques means to place objects (shapes, images, text etc.) on top of each other in a layering fashion and perhaps add some shadows to some objects. This can create a sense of depth by making some objects appear to be on top of others.

Adjusting the relative scale of objects means that large elements or objects appear to be in the front of the slide, and smaller objects appear to be further back in the slide.

By adjusting the color and contrast of objects, it is possible to create a sense of depth on the slide. For example, on a light background, darker-colored objects appear to be in the front; meanwhile  lighter-colored  objects appear to be further into the background of the slide. The opposite is the case with a dark background:  lighter objects appear in the front, and darker objects appear in the back.

Below are a Before and After showing how to create depth by adjusting the relative scale of objects.


Before - No Scale, No Depth


After - Different Scale, Nice Depth

Image Credit: chesnutt

SlideRecipe has Moved

Dear Readers,

I decided that having my weekly adventure from the kitchen, SlideRecipe, as part of this blog would distract from its purpose and decided to move all my recipe slides to a new blog called SlideRecipe. So you will no longer see any recipe slideshows posted here on SlideBlog, those will all be posted on SlideRecipe.

Thanks and let me know if you have any comments or questions about this move.

Speaking: Walk with Confidence, Talk with Confidence

When does your speech or presentation start? The moment you start to talk? No, it actually starts much earlier. It probably starts before you even get to the stage. I would say that it starts when you get up from your chair. I can just hear you go “what are you talking about?!”.

The point here is that you need to be in speaking mode before you enter the stage.  You must have shaken off all signs of nervousness; you must have wiped your sweaty hands before people can see you. If people see you sigh or wipe your hands or exhibit other signs of nervousness, you will immediately lose credibility and respect. The audience will instantly notice your lack of confidence. You won’t be able to grab people’s attention. You won’t be able to draw the audience in to your speech or presentation, and it will be difficult for you to make your point and get your message across.

It is therefore extremely important to appear confident from the moment you get up to give your speech or presentation –  even if you are nervous or don’t feel particularly confident.  Or maybe I should say especially if you feel nervous.   So next time, walk straight; walk with confidence.  Enter the stage with authority and take control of the space.

Before-After: Add Stroke to Text

Sometimes when you have a full bleed image or a background that is kind of noisy it can be difficult to make your text legible. It might be hard to get the necessary contrast for all your text and that makes it hard to read. One way to make you text stand out more is to add a stroke or text outline. This creates a nice confinement of each letter and separates it from the noisy background. It can really make the text pop out.

Below is a Before and After showing an example of how much difference adding a stroke to your text can make.


Before - No Text Outline / No Stroke


After - Text Outline / Stroked Text

Image Credit:  straymuse