Just because jargon is prevalent in every industry, profession and function doesn't mean you should use acronyms, corporate speak and technical terms when you communicate.
In fact, using jargon doesn't make you seem smarter, says Mark Wiskup, author of The It Factor; it "puts you on the straight path to mediocrity." Nobody pays attention when communication is confusing. And audience members quickly forget what they don't understand.
How, then, to overcome your inclination to get geeky?
Start by remembering that you're a real person communicating with other people. The personality of communication is often called "voice." Every communication has a voice--from the bureaucratic tone of government reports to the fun, energetic style of Target ads. That's why the best way to engage your audience is to uncover your authentic voice and let your wonderful personality come through. By doing so, your audience will relate to you.
And then follow Wiskup's advice: Paint a picture with your words. "Make unimaginative industry references, acronyms and statistics come alive by creating dynamic word pictures. You build powerful connections when you use pictures to make jargon and acronyms come alive."
What's a word picture? Wiskup is happy to provide examples:
If you're promoting a construction company, instead of saying, "We're a fully integrated firm" (which doesn't mean anything), say:
"We're proud to say we are a fully integrated firm. That means we've got architects, construction professionals and development experts in the same office, working together as a team. When you hire us, you're saving time and money because the company that creates your design, builds your building, finds your land, and even helps with the bank financing is all part of the same team."
Instead of referring to a "matrix-driven organization, say this:
"We measure everything we do. Every sales person has to grade every single meeting to ensure that it's effective. We report those grades every Wednesday. That way we can keep track of our pipeline and what's working for us."
Instead of saying, "We partner with our clients," say this:
"We work hard to thoroughly get to know each client's business. We not only pore over industry sites and publications, but we go out and spend time, in person, with our clients' customers. We have coffee and bagels in their break rooms or grab a sandwich to find out how our clients are succeeding and what they can do better. All that research helps us find out things about our clients that they need to know."
Wiskup says that you don't need to draw a lengthy picture. "Just follow the protocol of the simple declarative sentence, some powerful action words and some easy-to-visualize concepts" like "in the same office," "report every Wednesday" and "coffee and bagels."
If you want to get people's attention and win them over, "the best way to do it is to show that you are willing to invest in the conversation," writes Wiskup. "Every time you paint a picture, you are demonstrating your commitment to the conversation. You are proving to listeners that you care about connecting to them."