This morning, as I was watching the morning news, I heard about a new air carrier out of Dulles Airport, MaxAir (which I’ll probably blog about later because they appear to be doing a lot of things right). However, what bothered me, as I watched was how both executives (one from MaxAir and the other from British Airways) continued to talk in industry speak—even though they were both being interviewed on television (for the general public).
My favorite phrase that they both used was, "We believe we have the right price point". Hello! What customer wants to hear the phrase, "price point." What we want to hear is "We’ve worked diligently over the past year to reduce our costs so that we can provide the typical business passenger with a business class seat that costs 75% less than what they’d have to pay on a major carrier." Now, that I get—and so would everyone who heard that statement. But who cares about "price points"? Only insiders.
Unfortunately, business speak (or educational speak or religious speak etc.) is often ubiquitous in places where it shouldn’t be. For example, earlier today I read the following phrase from Time’s Interactive President, Ned Desmond, quoted in Business Week.
"Office Pirates’ "plan does not bank on the idea of becoming a serial creator of these outrageously serendipitous viral events."
Hello! Could you say that any simpler? Absolutely!
Years ago, William Zinsser wrote a wonderful book on writing entitled, "On Writing Well". Every CEO, President, leader and manager ought to read it—if only for the first few chapters—especially the one on simplicity. Zinsser correctly argues that writing (or speaking) should be simple and clear. Why? Because the goal of communicating isn’t to impress people, it’s to inform or to persuade or to change. Which means that if someone can’t understand (or be persuaded or changed by) what we just said, then real communication hasn’t taken place.
So what’s the easiest way to communicate in a remarkable way? The easiest was is to remember your audience and then speak in as simple, as clear and as concise a way as possible. The point is not to impress, but to change behavior—and that requires simple, clear and concise language. Anything else is irrelevant.
So, how has the vocabulary of your profession made your ability to communicate to others murky? If you want to be a more remarkable communicator, then I would encourage you to excise all "insider language" from any and all communications you have with "real" people (i.e. people outside your profession or position).