Airline-inspired Analogies

We talk a lot about building SHARPs into messages: Stories, Humor, Analogies, References (Quotes), and Pictures/Visuals. One of the first reactions to this is something like, “Yeah, I love when people use them, but I’m not very good at it. I’m just not creative enough.” We put far too much pressure on ourselves to come up with some brilliant story, tagline, or imagery.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to. SHARPs are all around. All you have to do is tune in, and notice what’s there. It’s kind of like right after you buy a silver Toyota Sienna (proud minivan owner here),and though you swear that you never really noticed them before, they seem to be right next to you at every stoplight.

In the midst of my travel this month, I tuned into some airline announcements that turned out to be great analogies in recent meetings.

The Exit Row. Everyone seated in an exit row is required to review the safety card and make an audible, verbal commitment that they will assist the crew in the event of an emergency. Go ahead and ask your team for an exit row response and make the commitment to your project or initiative. It’s verbal, it’s public, and it will get them moving! And if the answer is no, well, I’m sure you’d be happy to reseat them.

The Oxygen Mask. In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from above. Each passenger must secure their own mask first before helping others.  A client used this recently to talk about financial planning for the future: unless you address your own finances first, you can’t possibly help others.

Feel free to use these (guilt-free), and more importantly, be on the lookout for more. Whether it’s on an airplane, in a meeting, at preschool or on the baseball field, tune in to SHARPs. Write down the ones that stick with you and use them to help make your message memorable. And please share them!

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