June 19, 2017 fm

The Challenge Of Non-Cliché

IKIA is not the incorrectly spelt name of the Swedish furniture brand. IKIA is the acronym I use in my trainings to tackle boring content. Content is boring by definition when your audience thinks, I Know It Already! As a speaker, I cannot always reinvent the wheel, but, at least, I want to repaint it. Sharing generally known stuff lacks the excitement of the new, the unexpected, the surprise.

One of the members of the IKIA family is cliché, specifically, cliché messages. I’ve been following speech competitions at Toastmasters International since 2005. In my corporate trainings, I have experienced 7,468 speeches since July 2009. I have heard a bunch of speeches in my life.

Two conclusions. First, only a limited number of speeches have a clear message. Second, if they have a message, the vast majority of times, it is a cliché message:

  • We will add value to your business.
  • Never give up!
  • Believe in yourself.
  • You have to stand up one more time than you fall.
  • After each storm there comes sunshine.
  • No matter how dark it is, there will always be light again.
  • There’s light at the end of any tunnel.
  • Follow your dreams.
  • Love is the answer.
  • Always look on the bright side of life.
  • Life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you get.

Creating a non-cliché message is challenging, but it is not an option for you as a speaker. Those people in your audience receive tons of Whatsapp messages every day. You face a Chinese wall of Whatsapp messages. Cliché messages cannot make it through that wall. You need a drilling machine, a big drilling machine, a huge drilling machine. And that huge drilling machine is called originality!

Make your message original!

But – how to create an original message? Here are three ideas for you.

Metaphors are a fast track to originality. The other day, one of my training participants said something like,

I learned that, whatever weather conditions you face, whether it’s sunny or stormy, whether there’s hail or rain, you have to stay outside … You have to stay outside!

You have to stay outside – what an original metaphor for life!

Paradox is another path of originality. The benefit of paradox is simplification. Together with my presentation coachee Hugo, a brilliant data scientist from New Zealand, we forged his message for what seemed an eternity. Finally, there it was. We looked at the flipchart; we looked at each other; we smiled:


In another occasion, Michele from Italy, a business performance manager at a social games giant, faced the challenge of presenting at the biggest industry event in San Francisco. In his case we took a well-known expression and gave it a twist. By changing the order we created an original pun:


Whether it’s a original metaphor, an original paradox or an original pun, make sure, by all means, that you avoid cliché when it comes to your message.

Your message is the most important phrase of your speech. The last thing you want your audience to think is, IKIA!

Comment (1)

  1. IKIA – love it. I call it “Obviadades” – telling us what we already know… there are few things that most kill the interest of an audience than a series of obvious generalities…

    PS I can now comment on your blog without errors!!! this is big 😉

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