Mind Your Language
No matter what our background, most of us can speak a foreign language. One that’s completely opaque to anyone who might be listening in. It’s the language of your industry.
Every industry creates jargon, acronyms and product-words that aren’t in any dictionary, and mean nothing to outsiders. And then individual companies have their own variations on the dialect.
Some industries don’t use any uncompressed nouns at all, like travel people:
“FYI we’ve got 250 VIP’s coming on QF from LAX, we did a deal with SCVB at IT&CMA to keep their ADR at $750.”
Speaking the jargon fluently is like a secret handshake that admits you to the club.
That’s why they hold association conferences – so people can cluster around the bar happily chatting in fluent industry-speak.
Because if you belong to, say, the Australian Asphalt Pavers Association (Official motto: ‘There’s a lot more to asphalt than meets the eye’), there’s nothing better than some quality time with others who share your black, sticky passion. They never tire of hearing about it, unlike your friends and family.
There are two important lessons in this for presenters.
Communicating with Civilians
If you spend a lot of time surrounded by industry people, you can start thinking everyone talks that way. If you’re planning a speech to a general audience, try to weed out as much jargon as possible. If you have time in advance, run your script past a ‘civilian’ and ask them to point out anything they don’t get.
If you’re an outsider talking to people from a specific industry, take the time to get to know their language.
Go and meet some of them in advance, pick up some terms, and put them in your presentation. It’s like visiting a foreign country – the locals appreciate that you’ve taken the effort to learn a few phrases, and they’ll be nice to you.
This approach works particularly well if your presentation is a new business pitch. The first time you meet the potential client, write down as many of their jargon words as you can, and use them when come back to make a presentation.
“Now you’re speaking my language,” they’ll think, because you literally are.