“Profitability problems are like icebergs”. “Personal emotions are like the tip of an iceberg”. “The corporate structure is an iceberg”. Potentially everything which is not displaying its true nature at first sight can be compared to an iceberg. Sadly enough, Captain Edward Smith didn’t think about that the night his Titanic bumped into a real iceberg.

As busy creator of presentations for corporate world and potential ventures, I’m always avid to find new metaphors to best visualise and match real situations. With some business school colleagues we came up with the following list, but please feel free to add more in your comments:

Roots – This is a very powerful image. On top of hiding the foundations of its strength, the tree is symbol of stability, resilience to time and storms. Its roots can extend beyond the open-air part of the tree and are as strong as breaking concrete structures and bending steel.

Turtle – Wisdom, prudence, resistance, longevity. Just behind the tiny head of a turtle, its huge and strong shell has traditionally been inspiration for science fiction novels and mythology.

Shark – Similar to the iceberg, but hiding bad surprises, you can use the fin of a shark for aggressive metaphors of potentially covered troubles. On the other hand, shark is also a perfect example for a perfectly streamlined organism, whose limbs all are designed to serve for a fatal hunt. Should you prefer a gentler image, you can always opt for a dolphin!

Microcosm – You deal with a complex structure, made of many elements, like a network immersed in an ecosystem, and by seeing only one element you can guess that there’s much more to be discovered. The microcosm is your example! Finding the right picture will be challenging though.

Lotus – Meditation, calm, dormant nature, inner light and colours. The lotus flowers are safely anchored to the bottom of the pond, its stem can be long and the roots have a potato’s shape with very peculiar section.

Anthill – What you see on the surface is just the beginning of an underground trip in the colony of the ants. The tunnels can form impressively contorted structures of several meters depth and kilometres length. I find the anthill the perfect alternative to icebergs.

Carrot – What we call “carrot”, in fact, is just the huge root of a tiny plant over the surface. This vegetable represents an ideal illustration of well rooted situations, but giving a more ordinate image than the anthill, for instance.

Volcano – Another powerful example is provided by the fire mountain. Its origin and power come straight from the centre of Earth. It looks harmless when dormant for years and it can suddenly explode into catastrophic consequences.

I hope this post gives you some inspiration for powerful presentations and original content. If you love icebergs, preserve them from abuse!

Daniele Calzolari has an MBA at IE Business School (Madrid, Spain), 10+ years experience in corporates and startups, lived in 4 countries, speaks 4 languages, and is 1 time father and husband. Read more