I was recently invited to a seminar aimed at small businesses and the problems they face. After a good opening discussion, the second speaker of the day duly took his place and announced himself as CEO of a ‘cutting edge, transformational organisation’.
Within 2 minutes of his presentation starting, audible sighs could be heard from the small audience of around 30 business owners. A few minutes later three attendees slowly, and very deliberately, rose out of their seats and walked out shaking their heads. A quick glance around the room showed at least half the room had now resorted to checking e-mails. By the end of the presentation the audience had been completely lost, although the presenter strangely didn’t seem to notice. I began to wonder if this was something he had become accustomed to.
The problem certainly wasn’t the topic. After all, any presentation in which a company describes the challenges they faced during an organisational restructure is usually good value for money. The issue was with how the information was presented.
Put simply, the presenter had delivered a masterclass in buzzword abuse.
I spent many years working in a Blue Chip organisation, in which time I came across buzzwords on a daily basis. I’m ashamed to admit I was even brainwashed into using them on occasion.
For those wanting to be seen as ‘high flyers’ they were something to be used as often as possible, most noticeably when a Director or VP was in earshot. For the rest of us, the reaction of hearing them was usually a mixture of frustration, mild irritation but mostly amusement. We always knew which meetings would be good candidates for a game of buzzword bingo.
On a serious note, apart from the cringe-worthy nature of buzzwords, their usage can have a damaging effect on your business....
Let's face it, our job is all about communicating with people. If we want to build relationships with our customers we need to use the same terminology as they do. Buzzwords by their very nature exclude anyone who isn’t ‘in the know’. Conversations with customers should flow, throwing in a new buzzword means they will switch off in order to try to figure out what you just said. In doing so, they may just have missed the key moment in that conversation.
Customers tend to buy from people they like and trust. It is far harder to trust someone if they don’t understand a word you’re saying. Using buzzwords can often be seen as untrustworthy, because of the perception you’re using them in order to hide from giving them the facts. Sadly, just a cursory glance through the multitude of 'get rich quick' schemes proliferating on Social Media would suggest there is a lot of truth in that outlook.
They just make you look bad…really bad
Arrogant, smug, self-important, shallow, insincere and pretentious are some of the more polite terms I’ve heard used for buzzword devotees. Decency demands I can’t tell you some of the words used for that unfortunate CEO during the conversations over lunch, however one comment stayed with me...
“If he put as much effort into managing his business as he does managing his image, he wouldn’t have seen half the issues he talked about”.
Delta Blue was formed to provide support and advice to start ups and SME's.
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