Enough With the Business Jargon! Here's How to Make Your Presentation Understandable
August 10, 2015
Business jargon. It plagues a majority of presentations today.
Think back to the last few sayings you have heard over the course of this year. You probably remember a few acronyms that you can’t exactly recite back at this request. If not acronyms, the presenter may have tried to woo you with their impressive vocabulary.
Either way, both are poor ways to share information and serve only as a hindrance to win the hearts and minds of an audience. If you want to avoid this trap, I suggest you put your next presentation through what I like to call a “Dinosaur Test.” It’s a term inspired by the works of leadership coach Granville Toogood.
What is it, exactly?
It’s a simple exercise where you examine if your word usage is current or a bit more Dinosaurian (old school). Rehearse your presentation and then examine your word usage. It’s that simple. You’ll just need to be on the lookout for dinosaur words like:
Notwithstanding our commitment.
In spite of our commitment.
Your everyday person typically does not use the dinosaur word “notwithstanding” in day-to-day conversations, yet presenters feel inclined to use it when speaking in front of a room. They may also throw in fellow dinosaur words like “Thus” or “Therefore” -- the list goes on and on.
Enough is enough. Stop.
Dinosaur words have no business being in a presentation.
If you want to avoid this pitfall moving forward, please keep the following in mind.
The Best Presentations Are Conversational
Two of my favorite presenters are Daniel Pink and the late Steve Jobs. Why? Both have an incredible conversational style and tone, which makes them relatable, personable, and more importantly... memorable. As an audience member, you never feel like there is a wall between you and them, which is a beautiful thing.
The Best Presentations Are Simple
The next time you give a talk, I want you to imagine that a 10-year-old is sitting in the back of the room. Now, if your language or main points are too abstract for them to remember then you need to reevaluate your message. A study was done years ago studying the speaking habits of Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Steve Jobs. Long story short, Steve Jobs had the best results when his word usage represented that of a 5th grade level.
You can learn more about that study here:
The Best Presentations Are Straightforward
On March 4, 1841, President William Henry Harrison gave his inaugural speech to the American public in the freezing cold. That talk could have been given in a few minutes but he stretched it out much longer than needed. The end result: He got sick and passed away around 30 days later while still in office. The lesson: Get to the point and eliminate the fluff. Don’t add words for the sake of adding words.
Dinosaur words. They’ll make you and your message look ancient. Avoid them.
Scott Schwertly is a 2x Ironman and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.