Everyone hates it. The presenter gets up and proceeds to vomit out a spray of industry-speak that nobody understands much less cares about. Cue the mass reach-for-phone or daydreaming about what’s for dinner.
Being able to describe complex topics without resorting to the crutch we all use – jargon – is the mark of a good communicator.
Jargon is the language specific to your trade or industry. You’ve probably been immersed in this language for so many years that it effortlessly rolls of the tongue, it’s your second language (and, let’s be honest it does plump your ego at least a little bit doesn’t it). You feel professional and knowledgeable when you use this language.
I’ll let you in on a secret – you’re not impressing anyone.
An impressive communicator (speaker, writer, whatever) is engaging and interesting before anything else. There’s no point attempting to communicate ideas if your audience is not engaged. And one of the top ways to lose your audience is by using language they don’t know.
Jargon alienates the audience, it makes them feel stupid and it’s BORING!
That’s all well and good but I’m not interested in dumbing down my work.
Yes, yes. You’re oh-so-clever and you could not possibly dumb-down your oh-so-important work. Groan.
This is not an exercise in dumbing-down. You are still talking about the same concepts, you are simply doing so in a language that your audience speaks.
If you are lucky enough to have a doctor who is a good communicator, you’ll find she or he is ditching the doctor-speak jargon to better communicate with you. Same thing goes for your lawyer, plumber, accountant, the list goes on.
It’s not that you can’t understand the concepts they’re discussing it’s that you don’t speak the language. Don’t be so arrogant to think that it’s beneath you to speak in standard language.
If you feel that your concepts can’t be explained without using the industry-speak, think again. There is always a way and you’ll be showcasing your abilities ten-fold when you are able to facilitate a lay-person’s understanding of your concept.
Alright I get it, ditch the jargon. Any tips?
HIGH FIVE! Let’s do it.
1. My TOP TIP is: Say it out loud. Instead of typing out what you want to say, trying saying it out loud and recording it, then you can transcribe it later. Or, at least, as you’re writing – stop and read back what you’ve written out loud. Your jargon-filter is more effective when speaking rather than writing.
2. Write or edit with someone you know in mind as your audience – a lay person, not from your field – a parent, sibling or friend. Think of them in the cafe, pub, lunge room and you’re talking to them directly. Really pull the language back to their level. You don’t want to bore your friends right? You want to tell them a great story, and this need to be done sans the jargon.
3. Use analogies, props, imagery and whatever it will take to assist your communication. What real-world idea or item could help you? Don’t restrict yourself to doing whatever everybody else does. Take a risk to get the job done and to be engaging.
When you think you’ve managed to ditch the jargon, run it by a good representative of your audience – be it a colleague, manager, student, potential client. Ask them to be brutally honest – what language are they unfamiliar with?
The key to being a great communicator is to be engaging and interesting and to nail this, you need to ditch the jargon and communicate in a language your audience speaks.