Part of my preparation for delivering keynote speeches to international audiences is to learn a few words in their language. But even more important than knowing some phrases in the predominant language of a country is knowing the words people use to communicate within their organizations.
For example, when I spoke to McKinsey executives in Dubai, it was critical that I understood some of the words they spoke internally. I learned that McKinsey sees itself as a professional "firm" and not a "business." I discovered that consultants at McKinsey are "members" of the firm and not "employees." And that these members make "proposals," not "pitches."
If I had used the words "business," "employees," and "pitches," I would have lost credibility with the audience.
You can apply the same approach when addressing your audiences, especially if you are trying to win their business. Take the time to research and learn their organizational language.
Here are five easy ways to become fluent in a company's language.
1. Visit LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a terrific resource for quickly learning common phrases used within a company. Visit the profile page of the person you'll be meeting or a person in the group, division, or company you're pitching.
Does the manager you're seeing work in "HR" or "People Operations?" Pay attention to titles and descriptions because they matter to the individuals who hold those positions.
2. Follow social media posts.
Most companies have Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram pages that anyone can access. Since social media posts are official (and often carefully vetted), they can teach you the words companies use to reinforce their values and communicate with the public.
For example, Google's Twitter feed showcases stories of employees ("Googlers") as well stories that reinforce the company's "mission." Knowing that an organization is a mission-driven company--and knowing the company's mission--is a starting point to learning its internal language.
3. Read articles.
Read articles about the organization written by insiders and not just outsiders who might not be familiar with the company's internal language. You can even start the search while on LinkedIn since many people who work for the company will write their own posts or share relevant articles.
Simple Google searches in its "news" section will also bring up the most recent articles, often from sources that you wouldn't usually read but that are hyper-focused on a particular industry.
4. Read books.
In many cases, you can find books about the company or the industry. Reading a book demonstrates a deeper dedication to learning about the company.
When I speak to executives at large companies, I'll usually read books written by the company's founders or former leaders. They words they used to form the company are often in place today.
5. Ask insiders.
You can learn a lot by asking questions. When I traveled to Seattle to work with senior leaders at Amazon Web Services, the company's giant cloud-computing division, I simply asked current employees about their terms they use internally.
My first question was, "Do you really call yourselves Amazonians?" Yes, they do.
"Do you call the division Amazon Web Services?" No. They use "AWS" for shorthand.
These tips sound simple because they are. But since few people take the time to study a company's language before making a pitch or presentation, these steps will set you apart.