You’ve probably been there – in a business meeting or seminar that starts off well enough, but then you begin noticing that the presenter, the participants even, are dropping a strange mix of verbs and nouns that sound so important, so critical to you being “on the same page” in order to “take it to the next level” – but you can’t, for the life of you, work out what they mean: “Synergise the value add moving forward”… Huh? You find yourself tuning out, your eyes glazing over at all the gobbledygook. Erm… what did they say just now?
Business buzzwords are a real buzzkill!
From corporate-speak to “start-up” slang, they distract and distort, removing any real meaning from what’s being said.
Now, I’m all for clever turns of phrase, but overused (and therefore meaningless) business jargon? Nuh-uh!
Communication needs to be clear. It needs to be easily understood by your audience. And it needs to be authentic. Some people call it plain English, a movement that started from the need to simplify the alienating jargon in government and business communication.
There’s no use parroting empty buzzterms (especially without knowing what the phrases mean) in the hope you’ll come across as knowledgeable, switched on and authoritative. It can often have the opposite effect.
This year, Forbes.com ran its third annual Jargon Madness play-offs where readers vote for the most annoying business buzzwords of the year. It’s a hilarious read!
The point is, you’ll communicate more clearly – and garner more credibility – if you choose your own words to express your ideas rather than adopt often-meaningless jargon that some “thought leader” has spouted in a TED talk or at a conference.
So here are my business buzzword bugbears
Leverage: Technically, this is a noun, not a verb, but as jargon it’s really just a substitute for the verb “use” – especially to describe how something can be manipulated or controlled. I reckon it should be confined to physics, not “leveraged” for business and marketing.
Thought leader: Oh, don’t start me on this one! Is there any more pretentious, elitist term in the entrepreneurial field? It’s just a highfalutin way of saying “expert”. So use “expert”.
Pain point: I’d never heard this expression before 2014. It’s used a lot in sales and marketing seminars, and it hurts just hearing it. Forbes calls it, “something that needs fixing and is keeping an entrepreneur up at night. A sore spot for the company or its users” … that only your products and services can soothe, of course. Personally, my pain points are soothed by my chiropractor and massage therapist. Or the occasional gin and tonic.
Synergy: AKA “cooperation”. I’ve also heard it used to mean how businesses offering complementary services might work together. That, to me, is “collaboration”.
Gain traction: This one apparently means to increase market share or achieve some kind of result from an activity. Silly me, I always pictured someone with broken limbs all plastered up and lying in a hospital bed.
Take it to the next level: Put simply, this means to make something better. But where is this mystical, mythical next level, and how will you know if and when you’re there?
Any word or phrase with “hack” in it. It makes me think of an awful chesty cough. Or a third rate journalist.
One Forbes.com reader put it best with their take on some other commonly used jargon: “Forget ‘think outside the box’, just think.” Yes, think. Especially before you speak.
But if you must insist on using these trendy terms – puh-leeze! Talk to the hand, ‘cos the face ain’t listenin’!
For a bit of fun, try this business buzzwords generator and see how many preposterous terms you can come up with.
Are you a plain talker, or do you get a buzz from buzzwords? If not, what corporate jargon drives you nuts?