Why I Hate Jargon in 69 Words

I couldn’t have said it better. So, I won’t.

“This matter of language is important. Professional jargon–on Wall Street, in humanities departments, in government offices-can be a fence raised to keep out the uninitiated and permit those within it to persist in the belief that what they do is too hard, too complex, to be questioned. Jargon acts not only to euphemize but to license, setting insiders against outsides and giving the flimsiest notions a scientific aura.”

Taken from Can You Keep a Secret by George Packer, The New Yorker, March 17, 2016

Here Comes the Jargon Police

PLEASE NOTE

In order to make the most out of reading this post, you’ll want to download  and print it. Why? I’ve included a fun exercise for you, so you’ll want to write down your answers.

Sometimes, I take on the role of a Jargon Police Officer. In this formidable position, I monitor my client’s and workshop participant’s use of jargon. Jargon includes all of the special words or expressions that are unique to a business, profession, or group and are difficult for others to understand. Jargon is “technical talk”.

I’m especially on guard when my marketing workshop participants use jargon:

  • On their website
  • On printed promotional or educational literature
  • When they give an elevator speech to a potential customer or referrer

When you use jargon, there is a chance that the person listening to you will not understand what you are saying. And chances are, that person is too polite to ask you, “What are you talking about?” This is not a good way to make a first, second or third impression.

However, there might be times when you want to use jargon. Whether you’re talking ‘shop’ with a colleague or giving a presentation to your peers, using jargon and technical terms makes sense. But, it’s still best to keep the use of jargon to a minimum, no matter what type of situation you’re in.

At a local networking event, I overheard (eavesdropped) a conversation between a psychotherapist and a lawyer. It seemed that the lawyer might have clients with emotional or relationship problems. Perfect match? Not quite. The therapist said to the lawyer, “I provide a solution-focused approach in counseling and therapy, drawing from a variety of tools such as hypnosis, NLP, EFT and EMDR”. The lawyer looked perplexed. He probably said to himself, “What the hell is this person talking about?” The jargon police would have had a field day with this therapist. I restrained myself and walked away.

Here’s the problem with jargon. We’ll use the psychotherapist talking to the lawyer as an example. As soon as the psychotherapist blurted out “…hypnosis, NLP, EFT, and EMDR”, the conversation shifted from talking about the needs of the lawyer…which turned the conversation into didactic teaching mode (the therapist would explain each of these therapeutic techniques), resulting in making the ‘conversation’ all about the therapist. This is not good.

When building a business relationship, it’s not all about you; it’s about making a connection with your customer by focusing on their needs. This therapist was too busy explaining what therapeutic methods she used and never made a personal connection with the lawyer.

As you move deeper into a conversation, and when the other person asks more probing questions, the chances of slipping into jargon mode are much greater.

Time to Test Your Use of Jargon

Here’s a chance to eliminate jargon from your vocabulary when talking to prospective or current customers.

Example of Jargon Used by a Management Consultant

 Read the example below of how to substitute common words or phrases for jargon. This example shows how easy it is to eliminate jargon from a management consultant’s vocabulary.

 

Here are 5 jargon words or phrases unique to a management consultant’s industry or business.

Substitute a non-technical, common word or phrase for each jargon word or phrase from the left column.

Brand equityName recognition that might result in increased sales
Out of the boxCreative thinking
Above boardTo be honest and open
Scope creepA project that expands beyond it’s original goal
Pain pointA critical consumer need

 Your Jargon Buster Exercise

List 5 jargon words or phrases unique to your business or industry

Take each word or phrase from the left column and substitute a non-technical, common word or phase

1. 
2 
3. 
4. 
5. 

 What You Learned

List three things you learned from the Jargon Buster Exercise:

  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________

Three Key Points To Know About Using Jargon

  1. There is a time and place to use jargon. When you’re talking ‘shop’ with a colleague or giving a presentation to your peers, using jargon and technical terms makes sense.
  2. A potential customer can’t get to know you if you’re conversation is riddled with jargon.
  3. Check your website, promotional literature for jargon and change the jargon to common words or phrases.

 

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Essential Elements of an Awesome Website

I encourage all of you who are promoting a service or product to keep current on the latest trends in building and transforming your website.

Let’s hear from Gabe Seiden at Connect4 Consulting about making sure you’re dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s when it comes to building your website.Your website is often the first interaction between you and your audience (customers, donors, readers, grantees, general public, etc.).  It is essential that your website impresses your target audience. Building an impressive website requires either a significant investment of time and effort or a significant investment of money.  Sometimes it requires all that and more.

You really shouldn’t settle for anything less than a totally impressive website.  In fact, your website should be awesome right from the get-go.  In this article, we’ll tell you the best things you can do to help you stand out from the competition.  Here, then, are the essential elements of an awesome website: It has to look good. If you want to capture and maintain attention, your website must look good and it must look good to your target audience. Knowing your audience is critical because there are a wide variety of awesome websites, but not all are appropriate for the same audiences. So you need to think about the following elements of visual design:

  • layout
  • color palette
  • fonts/typography
  • images
  • symmetry and balance
  • white space
  • supporting media/videos

It needs a clearly defined purpose.

Visitors should be able to determine what your site is about at a single glance.  If your site is about cars, that should be obvious.  If your site is about drones, I should be able to see that.  If your site is about Chuck Norris, you shouldn’t need to explain.  It should be perfectly clear what your site is about, without requiring any real thinking.

Yet you’ll see dozens of therapy and yoga websites with serene pictures of waterfalls or zen-like arrangements of pebbles. These may be beautiful and put people in a good mood, but it’s only a good approach if the purpose of the website is obvious. It is hard enough to get people to your website. Make sure that once they get there, they know what it is you want them to do.

It has to be easy to use.

An awesome website should be totally intuitive. That means someone visiting the website doesn’t have to think to figure out how to move around the site. The very best sites make people forget what they came to see – as long as they find what they were looking for in the first place.

User-friendly websites include:

  • clear and coherent navigation
  • links that give a good indication of what they lead to
  • something that makes users want to explore further
  • good accessibility features
  • seamless responsiveness

A well designed website is like a well-designed chair. People should want to sit in it. The feeling should be that it’s almost impossible to resist being drawn in. 

Put the most important things at the top of the page.

Always lead with whatever is most important. Don’t tuck those things away in the footer and make people have to hunt for them. When the visitor finds what they are looking for, make sure it works.

Make sure all users have an awesome experience.

The site should work on all devices. To do this your site needs to be responsive. It needs to have images that are optimized so they don’t use too much bandwidth to load.