Every industry has its own language. If you’ve ever been a “plus one” at a corporate event it didn’t take long for everyone to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Wah wah wah. Your eyes glaze over, you smile at what you hope is the right moment and you begin to seek out other plus one’s so you can have a normal conversation about something that interests you. At that point discussing the quality of the rubber chicken dinner can be quite a relief.
I recently spoke to a group of people in the music industry about how they can develop a consistent communications strategy to promote themselves on and off line. When we got to the on-line portion of the discussion, and the buzzwords came out, I was immediately aware that I was going to lose their interest because the language was foreign and intimidating. Their eyes were glazing over and they were beginning to fidget. I adjusted my language immediately. Thank goodness, because the minute I translated all of my industry language to laymen’s terms I regained their attention, the lights went on in their eyes and I could see that these theories were something they could work with.
A well respected friend of mine has been lamenting the confusion of prospective clients about what he does. He seems to have difficulty communicating what he does in a manner that creates understanding and a desire for his skills that would surely take them to success. The fact is he is quite brilliant at his work, and has had many successes.
It’s really not a matter of dumbing things down for the client; rather it’s about knowing your audience, and understanding that we’re all just people. We cannot assume that even top executives get what we do. We are being considered because they do not know how to do what we do. The fear and hesitancy to proceed, comes from the fact that they need to be able to assess whether we are meeting their needs; and, if they can’t understand the language how will they know if they are getting value for their money.
Do a little research into their language so you can draw parallels. Pause in the discussion to see if they have questions before you barrel on in your enthusiasm. Acknowledge the gap and find a way to close the language barrier. We must factor this into our discussions and know that this may be the most important part of your presentation.
Babies have to learn the language so we keep it simple in the beginning. When there are multi-cultural people in the room you try to find a common language. The best example of how hard it is to bring someone into a conversation is the TV show “The Big Bang Theory.” Poor Penny the “actress” often finds herself left out of conversations with the geniuses. And goodness knows Sheldon makes no effort to work with her on that; rather he acts superior and frustrated and she usually leaves the room.
We work in communications so we have to learn to communicate, no? The next time you see someone losing interest in any of your conversations don’t panic. Ask yourself why, have a little empathy, and adjust your language to your target. That’s what marketing is after all. It’s about people connecting with people.