Like most technology-oriented industries, ours is saturated with language and terminology that is pretty unintelligible to the outside world. The problem is that the outside world is what allows our world to exist, and they’re not terribly gungho on learning our language. That is why it is imperative that we get better at using words that our customers understand.
Unnecessary use of overly technical language is not only a bad business practice, but it can be perceived as downright rude.
Simply put, much of your success hinges on your ability to effectively communicate complex technical information to audiences that are unfamiliar with the topics at hand. This includes potential or existing customers, novice employees, business associates, and anyone else who is not fluent with the terminology of our trade. As an industry and as businesspeople, we need to build bridges to a wider scope of people, now more than ever. But we need to do so on their terms, not ours. This means learning how to filter jargon out of your vocabulary, and communicating with your audience in a language they can actually understand.
BREAKING THE JARGON HABIT
Most of us use jargon out of habit. We have been around the industry a long time, and we are accustomed to talking a certain way. In other cases, we may do so because we think it makes us sound more credible. In reality, unnecessary use of overly technical language is not only a bad business practice, but it can be perceived as downright rude, and can quickly alienate your audience.
The good news is that you don’t need to use complex jargon to demonstrate that you are an expert in your field. In fact, the opposite is often true; the ability to explain complex concepts in an easily understood manner can dramatically increase your credibility in the eyes of your clientele.
CLIENTS DON’T WANT TO LOOK STUPID
Most people won’t tell you that you are talking over their heads. It is bad enough that your potential customers, for instance, may feel stupid because they don’t understand you. They don’t want to compound their misery and look stupid by admitting their ignorance. Instead, they will smile and nod as you ramble on, thank you for all the great information, and ask for your card when your spiel is done. Then you will never hear from them again.
Dave Chace is president of Training Allies, a CE industry training firm based in Philadelphia, PA.
Breaking the jargon habit can be tough, but it is critical to your success. Fortunately there’s a simple method to help you do it, called The Fifth Grade Rule. Simply put, when discussing anything technical, explain it as you would for a fifth grader. Don’t worry about sounding condescending. You won’t. Instead, you will win over a legion of new admirers. And those who are, in fact, fluent with the technical language will typically provide clues to let you know that they understand at a higher level.
IT TAKES EMPATHY AND PRACTICE
Empathize with your clients by putting yourself in their shoes. Think of the last time you had a major car repair and the mechanic told you it was going to cost a small fortune to fix the problem. How did you feel as he attempted to explain the issue and reason for the huge bill?
Next, make a point to practice regularly. If you have young kids, then you have a perfect audience. Pay close attention to how to you explain things to them and how you simplify concepts for them to digest. Then use the same techniques on the job with your audience. You may change your delivery style a bit, but you need to use the same vocabulary.
Learning to simplify the complex is a skill that will endear you to customers and colleagues more than you realize. Best of all, their gratitude will be reflected in your bottomline.