Mix up your metaphors. Like many Americans, I’m a bit obsessed with automobiles, and given to sayings like “in the fast lane” or “put it in gear.” However, after delivering a training workshop for agricultural scientists in East Africa, I received feedback from one participant saying, “Don’t use so many automotive metaphors – car ownership and car culture aren’t as pervasive outside the United States.”
While good metaphors can help people understand complex concepts, and quotes from famous people can lend weight to your ideas, unfamiliar references can be alienating. So, just because you’re a sports fan, don’t assume audiences will appreciate the wisdom of Vince Lombardi or Sir Alex Ferguson (and if any of my fellow Americans had to Google “Sir Alex Ferguson”, now you know how it feels).
LinkedIn/Facebook research can offer hints for what metaphors might resonate best with a given audience, and if that fails just ask your client: they’ll likely appreciate the consideration.