World of Business Ideas

Say It Simply

Published on November 18th, 2013

I’m tired of buzzwords. The business world relies on them. What’s worse is that buzzwords are like verbal Yahtzee: people use them as if they’re keeping score. The greater the number of buzzwords and the greater the frequency, the more points you get.

I’d argue the opposite is true.

The more buzzwords you use, the less you’ve mastered your subject. Einstein said it well: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” So, who are we trying to impress with all of our buzzwords?

Maybe it is young people trying to impress their bosses with all their industry jargon? Or, maybe it is older people trying to show they’re on top of modern trends with social media jargon? Regardless, in the end, what suffers is clarity and shared understanding.

We use buzzwords as filler. They sound nice. At first blush, we all know what they are and what they mean. We’ve started to use them almost like pronouns. The result is that we talk in abstract terms. The difference between “kind of understanding” what someone is trying to communicate vs. completely understanding is the difference between success and failure. Today’s business moves faster than ever, and clarity should be given more weight than use of buzzwords.

At least we’ve moved away from a world where the strength of your presentation is determined by its physical weight: more pages equals smarter presentation.

Mark Twain would be proud: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

We may have overcorrected — 140 characters doesn’t necessarily provide a complete thought. And text-messaging shorthand hasn’t helped, either. For those who aren’t “in the know” for your txt codes,http://transl8it.com/can help you out.

We’ve gone from overly written presentations to 140-character synopses written in code. The result is that we either bore people to death or we’ve confused them.  Either way, we fail to make an agreement and fail to persuade.

As Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get you thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Advertising doesn’t often receive praise. However, when it comes to telling a story, making a point and trying to persuade, it actually is one of the best examples.  No other area of business forces such reductionism. It focuses on one singular point. The best stories are told with focus and clarity.

Great stories are told in the hopes of being shared. Marketing and advertising are designed specifically for that purpose. They are also crafted to be widely understood. No buzzwords or codes. Instead, they are meant for mass consumption.

If more business presentations were written in the spirit of an advertising pitch, communication would be much clearer, faster and to the point.

That’s not to say advertising isn’t incredibly guilty of jargon and buzzwords. As David Ogilvy said, “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”

I’ll start the New Year’s resolutions early. I pledge to take more time to state my points simply and clearly.

Just like trying to correct a child’s behavior, I’m going to put a swear jar on my desk.  Every time I use a trendy buzzword, I’ll put in a dollar.

Since the content will be user generated, if I really lean in, the content could be a win-win for all stakeholders and we could take it to the next level. Oops, that was already $8.

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Marcus Fischer President
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