Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll
This popular poem full of nonsense phrases reminds me of many business presentations I’ve heard. The speaker apparently has some idea of what he is saying, but the audience is left scratching their collective head.
What we have here is a failure to communicate. Jabbering is not the same as getting our point across.
Have you ever seen eyes glaze over as you make a sales presentation, and you get the creeping sense that you’ve “lost” the audience? I think we all have.
Many opportunities are lost because we’re not connecting. And often, it’s because we’re in our own bubble. We become so used to our own jargon, our own acronyms, and our own technical concepts that when we try to communicate with other people, we sound like the Jabberwock.
Nobody buys what they don’t understand.
When our language is bubble-wrapped, no-one can see through it. Bubble wrap is way too common in sales presentations. And it’s rampant in marketing collateral and websites.
One of my all-time favorite websites, Blue Spoon Consulting, reaches the pinnacle of jargon-loaded speech that no normal human being can possibly understand. A small sample:
Health happens at a system level: not one thing, but many things simultaneously and interactively. Using new journey-mapping software, stakeholder mapping techniques, insights drawn from original desk-side and experiential research, social media analysis, as well as our own inspiration and intuition, we develop a coherent design point for strategic transformation.
Blue Spoon may well be the Mt. Everest of marketing in the bubble, but there are thousands of examples of companies who fall into the trap of assuming far too much contextual understanding on the part of their audiences.
UPS assumed too much when it put on the sides of its thousands of trucks, “Synchronizing the World of Commerce.” That’s a technical phrase that only a small percentage of its audience truly understands. But everyone understands what FedEx is saying on its trucks: “The World on Time.”
This problem is addressed by employing what I call “human-ready” language. We have to tailor our message with clarity so that people outside our specialized sphere can understand. And, at the same time, we need to address a critical avenue of communication – human emotions.
Go to Carol Roth’s website. What do you immediately see?
- A human face
- A simple, compelling tagline (Tough Love for Business)
- A clear target market (Entrepreneurs)
- A point of view, with attitude
- Plain, clear, memorable speech (including spinach in your teeth)
…plus, of course, simple calls to action. No bubble wrap. Just a clear message, some humanity, and straightforward invitations to engagement.
On countless occasions, I’ve had business leaders sit across from me over coffee and attempt to explain their business. More often than not, we have to engage in a translation process to boil down the main point into clear, memorable, human-ready words.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. -George Bernard Shaw
We spend so much time in our own heads that we often don’t realize how (or, if) we come across to others. And in a day of ever-shortening attention spans, we can’t afford to lose those first precious moments before we get tuned out with the rest of the background noise.
We manage to leave the bubble when we can explain – briefly and compellingly – what our value proposition is to someone who doesn’t occupy our little niche. Your audience of current clients, potential partners, and referrers are waiting for human-ready words to unlock their minds – and wallets.