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8 Examples of Using Comparison Stories

Why do people pay attention to some presentations and check their phones during others?


People need to be interested in what you’re talking about. As the speaker in the room you need to connect with your audience. The best presenters in the world understand basic concepts that allow them to command the attention of everyone in the room.

One of the concepts necessary for giving a great presentation is the art of comparison.

Previously, we discussed how a presentation is a lot like a marriage.

Does that make you curious?

Right now you’re probably wondering how a marriage is like a presentation and that’s exactly how comparison works in presentations. When we compare things people are required to think and it gets them engaged.

There are multiple ways to use comparison in presentations. Here are 8 examples from some of the most captivating speeches ever. These examples will give you more insight into how you can use comparisons in your presentations to win over the crowd and effectively communicate your message.

Use History to Understand to the Present

Presentation skills - using history in comparisons

In the video – The Death of Link Building and the Rebirth of Link Earning – Whiteboard Friday – Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz uses a comparison story to provide understanding to the topic. In the video Rand discusses a change in SEO over the last year. His understanding is that SEO in the future will be like SEO of 1994 to 1997, 1998 where websites would earn links from various sites with the point being to get traffic.

Right there, Rand brought the topic of his presentation into context. The audience can think back to what it meant to earn a link in the mid 1990s and understand what that means today for their SEO strategies.

Use history to allow people to better understand your message today. People remember history and they have an understanding of it. Comparing history to today allows people to understand the point you are making and makes for a better presentation.

Talk About a Fictional Character

Presentation skills - Comparison - Fictional Character

Presentation skills - Comparison - Fictional Character

Tim Ferriss gave a talk entitled How to Feel Like The Incredible Hulk. The title of the talk is a comparison and the story within the talk is just as you would expect. There is nothing surprising in the talk because you already know what will be discussed.

What is interesting about the speech is that Ferriss uses the fictional character comparison to illustrate his point that fear is something that can be overcome. He uses a fictional character and applies it to a personal story and inspires the audience to overcome fear in all factions of life.

Using a fictional character in your presentations is a great way to bring something lighthearted to the discussion, but also give the audience a great context for the message you’re trying to get across. Most people understand what the Incredible Hulk is about. Use fictional characters to explain how something can be accomplished.

Compare People in Stories to Known Types of People

Presentation skills - Comparisons - Types of people

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers discussed how to email influential people in a video. In the video Derek describes how people make the mistake of asking for things in emails. He compares this to simple panhandling on the street.

When hearing this comparison you instantly understand the implications of making this mistake. Nobody likes panhandlers and in the case of asking for things in emails people might not even realize they are annoying the recipient. Derek puts things in perspective by using the comparison to a general type of person – the panhandler.

When telling stories in your presentations use comparisons to certain types of people. You give more understanding to your audience when they can put a label on the people in your stories. You can say that people are teachers, superheroes, eggheads or any other label. Your audience will instantly understand.

Tell People Something Unexpected

Presentation skill - Comparisons - unexpected

Seth Godin gave one of the most popular TED Talks ever with How To Get Your Ideas To Spread. In the video Seth says that every business, no matter what industry they operate in, is in the fashion business.

You can bet people in the audience immediately questioned the statement. How can we be in the fashion business? The statement, the comparison from Seth made people think about what it meant to be in the fashion business. Being in the fashion industry means being different. It means being remarkable in order to get an idea or a concept to spread.

By comparing a situation to something different and unexpected you get people to think deeper about your topic. When you challenge people’s paradigms you can reach them. Use this strategy to get people to question you and to gain a better understanding of your point.

Compare a Story to a Previous Story

Presentation skills - comparisons - previous stories

In another TED talk, Malcolm Gladwell discussed Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce. The video has become one of the most popular in the marketing world. Gladwell is an exceptional speaker and in this video he uses a comparison, but in a unique way.

The big story in this presentation saw Gladwell discuss a marketer and his idea that people don’t want the perfect spaghetti sauces. People want the perfect spaghetti sauces. This led to different choices.

Later in the presentation Gladwell makes a subtle, but important comparison. He says, “Mustard exists, just like tomato sauce…”

You see what Gladwell did was simply compare a new story to that of a story he had told just a few minutes ago. The audience had already understood the first story and now could easily connect the dots on the second story furthering the understanding of Gladwell’s point.

You don’t need to use a grand comparison in your presentations. Simply tell a story and then to further enhance the effect of a subsequent story you can compare the two stories. Your audience will understand and your message will become even clearer.

Go Too Far With a Comparison to Drive Home a Point

Presentation skills - comparisons - Go to far

Tom Hanks won his second Academy Award in 1995 for his role in Forrest Gump. Tom is always a memorable performer and his acceptance speech was one of those memorable moments from the award show.

In the speech Tom describes the way he feels as “…though I’m standing on magic legs in a special effects process shot that is too unbelievable to imagine and far too costly to make a reality.”

It’s a little crazy. It’s a little far out there, but people got it. The folks in the audience and those watching the broadcast live at home understood that Hanks felt like what was happening was not part of reality. He went a little too far with the comparison, but that drove home the point and people understood.

This is tricky because you put yourself out there. When we’re already worried about looking like an idiot in front of an audience it’s difficult to say something quirky. Get over that worry. The people in the audience want you to succeed. When you say something a little crazy it lets the people in the audience know that you’re human just like them. Use a comparison like Tom Hanks did and you’ll connect with your audience and give them an understanding of what you’re talking about.

Talk About Something That Impacts the Sense

Presentation skills - comparisons - impact the senses

Michael Jordan, in his Hall of Fame speech, talked about a competitive fire that burned throughout his entire life. He described how the fire started when he was growing up. He said there was always competition with his brothers and sisters. He said the fire always came from his parents and their work ethic and that fire continued to burn and have wooded added from every person in his life.

Does anyone really think there is a fire literally burning inside of Michael Jordan? No. That would be silly, but it’s that image that makes people understand the emotion of this competitive drive. This is what made Michael Jordan the best basketball player in the world.

When you talk about something that makes people feel, see, smell and hear. You can’t really taste fire – at least I hope not – but the fire comparison allowed Michael to get his point across. He wanted people to really understand how this competitive nature made him feel. You can do the same in your presentations by comparing your point to something that touches all the senses.

Compare Something To Life

Presentation skill - Comparisons - Compare to life


Everybody lives a life. There is no way around it. You can talk about something that happens in life and people in the audience will figure out how to relate your story to their own life. There is no real reason for it, but people will find something in your personal story to connect with and they’ll feel what you’re feeling.

In the movie, Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino gives a motivational speech to his team. The setting for the movie is American football, but it could be about any team sport played in the world. The message in the speech is that life is a game of inches. It’s about the things you see just inches in front of your face. It’s about the choices you make and how simple inches become the determining factor in everything you do. The sport is also a game of inches and the people that fight for those inches are the people that usually get what they want.

You can compare things to life. It’s a bit of a risk because life is a broad subject, but that’s the beauty of it. When you compare something to life you have a great chance of connecting with the people in the audience because even if your story is personal those people will think about their own lives. They’ll make the connection to themselves. That’s the power of discussing life with a group of people.


These presentations are all captivating. Not only do the speakers earn the attention of the people in the audience, they communicate a message. That is the power of a presentation. You don’t just want to entertain people. You want to communicate something to them so they understand what it is you want them to do and how it will benefit them and those around them.

In business, it’s the message that is most important. That is where many executives struggle because with understanding the message the people at the company will not be able to effectively work toward a future or a goal.

Comparisons are one way you can communicate your message.

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