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No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke and there could of course be many different responses to the question depending on what kind of day you are having.
But the answer, according to academics, is a few badly chosen words.
We are of course talking about jargon, or corporate speak as it is sometimes known.
Regular readers of this blog and people who have attended our media training and presentation training courses will know that we urge people to remove it from their media interviews and public speaking engagements.
The problem with jargon is that it often makes quotes and sound bites (to use some media jargon) unusable and, if does get into print or on the air, it can mean different things to different people – causing confusion and a lack of clarity.
And now, according to The Times, our campaign has been backed by experts.
The newspaper recently reported that a study by Oregon State and Texas Universities has suggested ‘bosses should swap gobbledygook for genuine human warmth’.
The findings focus on jargon in the workplace, stating that it can ‘alienate workers’ but also adds that it can cause customers to switch-off.
Importantly, it adds that ‘the key to inspiring those around you is choosing words that are not just evocative but also relate to objects that are easy to visualise’.
And that’s the key. It is vital that when you speak to the media or deliver a presentation that the audience is able to understand what you are saying.
Every industry and sector has its own terms, phrases and acronyms, which mean something to people working in those areas, but absolutely nothing to the wider public.
So, while you may get away with this sort of language while giving a presentation to your peers or talking to trade press, if you revert to it during a wider interview or while speaking at an event, your audience will switch off. Audience identification plays an important role, but we would still urge you to simplify your language as much as you can to ensure you make your overall message as engaging as possible.
The best way to remove this jargon is to forget about how you would tell the story to a colleague and think about how you would describe it to a family member or friend who is not connected to your industry – it’s unlikely you would talk about ‘stakeholders’, ‘traction’, ‘engagement’ or ‘solutions’, for example, in that scenario.
In fact, you want to keep the language simple enough for a 10-year-old to understand what you are saying.
What makes this simple language evocative is backing it up with relatable, human examples which support the points you are trying to make. People love stories about people. They do not share the same fascination for policies, initiatives, ‘output statistics’ and protocols. It’s humans that bring stories to life.
The academic study praises the effective language in Bill Gates’s ambition of putting ‘a computer on every desk and in every home’ – something which is simple, effective and memorable.
Make sure your media interviews and presentations are similarly memorable for the right reasons by adopting the same no nonsense approach to jargon.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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