Examples have a singular goal: They help the reader understand a concept. But could the wrong example actually alienate an audience? And how would you know which kind of example would alienate you?
Let's look at a simple example of a ‘rocking chair.'
So if were to talk about a ‘rocking chair', for instance, you'd immediately see an image in your brain. I could then connect the concept of a ‘rocking chair' to the concept of ‘lots of motion, but going nowhere.'
But why choose a rocking chair?
You choose a rocking chair, because you've seen a rocking chair.
I've seen a rocking chair. Even in today's world, where rocking chairs are rarer, we know what a rocking chair looks like.
And how it rocks.
Baseball on the other hand, doesn't ‘rock.'
You may be a great fan of baseball, for instance. And so to illustrate a point, you may use an example of something that happens in baseball.
And immediately you've alienated a good chunk of your audience
No matter if you're speaking to group of people, writing an article, or writing a sales letter, you're sure to send a decent part of your audience into a tailspin.
This is because they probably don't watch baseball
They don't know the rules of baseball.
They come from a non-baseball playing country.
They live in a baseball-country and detest the darned thing.
On average, no one detests rocking chairs
What's more, every member of your audience can relate to the example, because it's so common.
What you're looking for is to keep your example as common as possible
The purpose of using an example is to simplify things. If you use examples that put up a wall in my brain, you're doing quite the opposite of simplification. You're causing my brain to rebel, To stutter. Or for the example to plainly bounce over my head.
Bounce ain't good
That's why, when I do a Brain Audit presentation for instance, I'll use simple examples such as:
1) Collecting your bags at the airport.
2) The news on TV.
3) Dog poo on the road
When I write articles, I'll write about:
1) Firemen putting out a fire.
2) The lawn mowing guy
3) The plane flying outside my window.
In salesletters, I've used the concepts of:
1) Getting into the wrong car.
2) Fly buzzing on the window.
3) Eating at a restaurant.
And other such examples which are every day occurrences.
This keeps my audience/readers focused on simple examples.
So make sure your examples have a singular goal because they help the reader understand a concept. That way you won't alienate your audience. Hey, you'll probably get a standing ovation.
P.S. Despite the need to be clever, also avoid any references to ‘mother-in-law jokes, ex-wife/husband' and other such issues that bring up strong emotions.
Every day objects and situations don't carry the baggage of emotion. So stick to every day objects and situations. It's simpler.
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Like the P.S. point. So true about not bringing up the wrong emotions with your audience. Love reading your posts!
Andrea J. Stenberg says
When I look at the analytics for my website I can see that I get visitors from all over the world. You’re point of making sure my examples can be understood by more of my visitors is a good one. However, if you are trying to target a specific audience, choosing examples that they are likely to know, regardless of whether others will understand them, can help you attract the right audience.
Thanks for the great ideas