Keep Your Jargon to Yourself
Have you ever wondered how your website is doing in the SERPs? What about your PPC? Are you getting a good CPA? What about the CPM? Are you tracking all of your KPIs?
Was that paragraph obnoxious or what? There’s a good chance I almost lost you. Maybe I did lose you, and you just skipped down to this paragraph in the hopes it would be better. I certainly couldn’t blame you if that were the case.
I spent many years as a digital marketer in the corporate world. I’ve led plenty of teams and projects centered on acquiring new customers online. Those acronyms I threw at you are part of the jargon digital marketers use every day. (In case it’s killing you to know, they stand for, in order, “search engine results pages,” “pay per click,” “cost per acquisition,” “cost per thousand,” and “key performance indicators.”)
Industry acronyms and jargon can be necessary and useful ways to communicate in certain situations — like when you’re working with a team of fellow marketers and you all share the same lingo. Other times, however, using jargon simply obscures your message. It can even be downright rude, depending on whom you’re speaking to. I’m sure you can relate: Who among us hasn’t felt talked down to by someone just tossing around their industry jargon with no regard for their listeners? It can feel like the person has something to prove.
If you can communicate your message to someone simply and without jargon, do it. Only use industry-specific terminology when there’s no way around it.
You need to be especially cognizant of your jargon when talking with colleagues or clients who work in other departments, industries, or companies. You should also be careful when interviewing. Nothing turns off a hiring manager — or a candidate — faster than a barrage of impenetrable words and phrases.
In any professional interaction, it is important to communicate respectfully. Speak to people in a manner that shows you believe you’re on the same level as they are. Assume they will understand the relevant concepts, but don’t assume they’ve been studying from the same dictionary.
One of the highest compliments I’ve ever received came after giving a presentation to a few hundred franchise owners on the topic of digital marketing. When the session was over, one of the owners approached me. He said nobody else had ever spoken to him about the internet in a way he understood so clearly. He appreciated that I took the time to deliver an important message in plain language.
This moment has never left me. It showed me how setting aside the jargon can allow the real message to come through. It taught me I can speak with people who are outside my field about important things in plain language — and they will understand what I am saying!
The next time you give a presentation, go on a job interview, or sit in a meeting, look for the most straightforward way to explain your point. Your message will get through to everyone, no matter their background. Best of all, you will gain respect and understanding from the people around you.
A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at Copeland Coaching.