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Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is defined in a dictionary as the act or instance of placing two or more things side by side. Juxtaposition is usually used for the express reason of contrast or comparison. In my public speaking course I show you how to use juxtaposition in your presentation to add some fun and comic relief.

One time at the Washington National Airport I had a huge 450-pound man and a very short man (three feet eleven inches) dressed up as chauffeurs. This was indeed a funny juxtaposition because of the obvious contrast. They were waiting at the gate for a man arriving from Japan for his first visit to the United States. 

To take the juxtaposition even further, the short guy was holding a really huge sign with the Japanese man's name on it and the extra big guy was holding the same 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 taught in my public speaking training: pleonasm and oxymoron.

Pleonasm:
A pleonasm is two words said together that mean the same thing. Combinations like 'frozen ice,' 'sharp point,' 'killed dead,' 'sandy beach,' 'young child,' 'positive praise,' and 'angry rage' are pleonasms.

Here are some ways from my public speaking training, that you can use comical juxtaposition in a business presentation:

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 very tiny logos or company names of your competition. Use this as a greeting slide at 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.'

Oxymoron:
Warren S. Blumenfeld, Ph.D., wrote in his book Pretty Ugly says, "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 of oxymorons was called Jumbo Shrimp.

According to Dr. Blumenfeld, "An oxymoron is two concepts, usually in the form of two words, that do not go together, but are used together. It is a bringing together of contradictory expressions."

For example 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.

You can 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 else's 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 you could 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.) Audience participation, and juxtaposition, are used to heighten interest and taught in my public speaking training.

 

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