This is a guest post by Jeff Schott of the Communications Executive Council, MREB’s sister program for heads of PR and corporate communications.
Recently I stumbled across this post from Forbes about the Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon. It’s a fun read for anyone who has spent time in the corporate world, particularly those of us who work in corporate communications and are bombarded by jargon everyday.
Like it or not, corporate meetings and conference calls have become infested with buzzwords. We’ve all experienced it (probably even today!)—the annoying and detrimental rambles of a speaker who wants to appear to being saying something relevant, but in fact has zero meaning behind his statement, like a hack magician fumbling to pull a rabbit out of a seemingly empty hat. But just as any sensible person knows that there is a false bottom in the “magical” hat, we communicators—and I’d like to think most competent business professionals—can spot a cheap trick a mile away and properly view jargon for what it really is—sloppy, imprecise, and lazy.
There are a handful of words that made Forbes’ list that would definitely find their way onto my list of top offenders: “reach out”, “leverage”, “learnings”. I would have added a couple more which consistently strike a dissonant chord with me — “align” and “synergies” are two words that, at a previous job, I’d hear at least three or four times per meeting…often crammed into the same sentence. For example:
“Reach out to So-And-So to align on the initiative to spot potential synergies and leverage best practices.”
Do what?? I surely don’t know and, I bet, neither do you!
The article got me thinking about words/phrases like “best practice” where there’s a specific meaning intended, but due to inaccurate (over)use have become toxic to the ear. It’s kind of like that great new song that finds its way onto every annoying commercial on television. You hear it five times a day–every single day– so that, after awhile, it becomes so overplayed that you grow to despise it.
But it’s not the word’s fault, right? Should we blame the corporate jargon or the person saying it?
So for all you corporate jargon-heads, here’s a solution to help you change your evil ways. At CEC, we’ve done some work aimed at helping folks communicate more clearly and effectively. The key questions to ask: What words would our audience naturally use to talk about the topic? Is what we are saying relevant and emotionally engaging? Is it unique and memorable? Is it motivational (i.e. does it lead to specific action being taken)? Keeping these questions in mind is an easy way to reduce the buzzword quotient in your next meeting.
What about you? What words really vex you?
MREB members, learn how to effectively communicate so that you can drive engagement with knowledge.