How Can You Make an Abstract Concept Come Alive?

TRD097aThe challenge is to frame the concept in such a way that it becomes real and vivid for your listeners. Using a simple analogy is often the answer. Here's how energy auditors at a utility company in Ohio discovered the power of using analogies to communicate their findings with homeowners.

The auditors would go out to homes, conduct free energy audits, and then explain to homeowners what was needed to make their homes more energy efficient. What became puzzling was the fact that only 15 percent of homeowners signed up for improvements -- even though energy savings of 40 percent were common.

To understand why this was happening, the utility company sent a consultant out to talk with the homeowners. After interviewing them, the consultant discovered that most of them had a hard tine believing that small cracks under a door or around windows could result in such a large energy loss.

To change this perception, the consultant trained the auditors to compare their findings to something familiar and concrete. Now they say this to homeowners:

Look at all the cracks around your doors and windows. It may not seem like much, but if you were to add them all up, you'd have a hole equivalent to the size of a basketball. Suppose someone poked a hole the size of a basketball in your living room wall. Think about all the heat you'd lose.

After the auditors began using analogies, the number of homeowners signing up for energy improvements rose from 15 per cent to over 60 per cent.

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