Plain Speaking Works Best – Why You Should Say No To Jargon

“FYI, going forward, in the long run, we need to adopt a KISS approach, engaging our stakeholders by adding value and leveraging our brand equity”

What? Huh? Does that mean anything to you?

No?

Of course not! I didn’t think so.

There’s a good reason. It’s gobbledygook, mumbo-jumbo or jargon.

Too many speeches or presentations are littered with corporate ‘unspeak’

Why does this happen?

Here are some of the most common reasons speakers engage in this mortal sin:

  • They want to impress their audiences
    • Many presenters use jargon in an effort to be liked by or to ‘fit in’ with members of their audiences or peers – illustrating that they know and can use insider language, acronyms, terms of art or technical phrases.
  • They want to make what they say seem more important or believable
    • This is especially true in certain academic and professional circles – where simplistic explanation is shunned if there’s a way to make something sound more complex or sophisticated!
  • They’re short cut ways of saying certain things
    • While using the lazy man’s way of doing something isn’t much of an excuse; this offers some justification for using jargon – providing everyone uses similar words or phrases when describing or discussing the topic at hand.

Using Jargon is a One Way Ticket to Audience Disengagement

Far from impressing audiences, if you use jargon or acronyms:

#1. You will reduce the capacity of an audience to understand and retain your intended messages.

This is because audience members who are not familiar with this language will necessarily be excluded from extracting meaning from your words.

And even those who do ‘get’ specialist words will commonly zone out when confronted by clichés.

#2. You run the risk of seeming to be less trustworthy and/or irritating

According to a study by New York University and the University of Basel, the less concrete your language is – the less trustworthy you will seem.

Of course, that’s hardly surprising.

If you’re listening to someone who consistently uses language that seems to obscure meaning or makes you feel like you have to work to understand them – how do you feel?

Any chance you might think the speaker is trying to bamboozle you or find yourself getting cross that you’re not hearing anything new or of substance?

Of course!

And the moral of the story?

Try to steer clear of jargon or, if you must use it, do so sparingly.

Remember – simpler messages have greater resonance, are easier to remember, are easier to share and are more likely to be acted upon.

As a speaker, complexity is never your friend.

Over to You

Share some examples of jargon abuse you’ve been subjected to or your thoughts on how this communication scourge can be discouraged.

About Eamonn O'Brien

Public speaking master, Eamonn O'Brien is the founder of The Reluctant Speakers Club.

  • danno

    Thats essential for doing presentations. I did a presentation once and the when I said the title their first questions was “what the hell is that?” straightaway I looked up the simplest definition and an example that everyone could understand. It must have worked because I got excellent feedback.

  • thunder1266

    Well said!
    I attend meetings on a regular basis where people try to “impress” with jargon. I end up so irritated that I completely miss the message they’re attempting to convey!
    Same with literature or websites; jargon filled content is a complete turn off.
    Really enjoyed this. Thank you.
    Pat

    • Epobrien

      Thanks Pat – I can tell it really bugs you and I’m delighted you liked the article.

  • Great advice! If we need examples – now is the perfect time to find plenty. Just listen to all the political speeches. Jargon, followed by rhetoric laced with ego!

    • Epobrien

      You know it. Expect more to follow!

  • Admirableart

    Remember the audience. Plain folk, plain language, PHDs PHD talking, scientists, science talking, tolstoyians, talk tolstoy…..Brevity for all and all for wearing briefs.

  • Gavin Ryan

    I enjoyed this post Eamonn!
    In my opinion the best presentations are to the point, but fun! The best coaches,leaders C.E.0… I have come across, know the detail and complexities but their skill is choosing a few choice words,Which will be enough to make the changes, and deliver a total understanding and maximize the impact!
    Thank you,
    Gavin

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