Public Speaking:

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Juxtaposition is the placing, side by side, of two ideas or items usually for the purpose of comparison or contrast.

I staged an event at Washington National Airport where I had a huge 450-pound man and a very small man (three feet eleven inches) dressed as chauffeurs. They were waiting at the gate for a man from Japan arriving for his first visit to the United States.

To take the comical juxtaposition one step further, the small man was holding a gigantic sign with the Japanese man's name on it and the extra large man was holding a similar sign, except it was about the size of a business card. Believe me, we had the attention of everyone in the gate area. What a visual!

Now let's look at two specialized types of juxtaposition: oxymoron and pleonasm.

Warren S. Blumenfeld, Ph.D., in his book Pretty Ugly states, 'I {passively tried} to warn you oxymorons had {almost absolutely} no socially redeeming quality except that they make people {smile out loud} and are addictive.' His first book on the subject was called Jumbo Shrimp.

According to Dr. Blumenfeld, ;An oxymoron is two concepts {usually two words} that do not go together, but are used together. It is a bringing together of contradictory expressions.' Terms like 'old news,' 'extensive briefing,' 'direct circumvention' and 'random order' are oxymorons. Also concepts like 'an advanced state of decline' and 'expecting a surprise' are oxymorons.

Combinations like 'frozen ice,' 'sharp point,' 'killed dead,' 'sandy beach,' 'young child,' 'positive praise,' and 'angry rage' are pleonasms.

Here are some ways you can use comical juxtaposition in a business world public speaking engagement:

  • Use a large copy of your company logo or company name on a slide or overhead, or in a drawing on your flipchart. Next to it, place extremely small logos or company names of your competitors. Use this as a greeting slide to a meeting or let it pop up as a slide or overhead at a strategic point in your presentation. You could draw an outline of a large duck around your company logo and little duckling outlines around the competition. You could say: 'Our company was born to lead and the others were meant to follow.'
  • Use an oxymoron in conjunction with a simile to drive home the point that something is a little out of kilter. You could say, 'Acme Co. claims that its market share is increasing, yet their sales are down while everyone elses' are up. It's just like a Jumbo Shrimp. It just doesn't make sense.'
  • Invite a tall person and a short person on stage when you call for audience participation. If you are considerably shorter than the tall person say, 'I don't want you to talk down to me.' If you are considerably taller than the short person say, 'I don't want you to feel like I'm talking down to you.' (be careful that the person you get on stage is not overly sensitive about their height.)

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